'This Week' Transcript: Economic Roundtable

So this -- only tax cuts, at a time when I think we have a deficiency in some areas that are important for the quality of our life is a big disagreement.

DEMINT: But, George, we -- we have programs. I mean, we're reauthorizing our highway bill this year.

FRANK: At too low a level.

DEMINT: And -- well -- well, let's talk about making it a higher level, but let's don't say it's a stimulus when it's a government spending plan. And all of these things, the needs in our society, education, these are things we debate every year.

FRANK: Spending can be stimulus. I don't understand what you think stimulus is.

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: But this is the largest spending bill in history, and we're trying to call it a stimulus when it's just doing the things that...

FRANK: Well, let me tell you what I think is the largest...

DEMINT: ... you wanted to do anyway.

FRANK: The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the war in Iraq. And one of the things, if we're going to talk about spending, I don't -- I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinarily expensive, damaging war in Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good, in my judgment.

And I don't understand why, from some of my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping somebody get health care, that's -- that's wasteful spending, but that war in Iraq, which is going to cost us over $1 trillion before we're through -- yes, I wish we hadn't have done that. We'd have been in a lot better shape fiscally.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a whole another show, so I'm going to...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK: That's the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say, "Oh, don't spend on highways. Don't spend on health care. But let's build Cold War weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don't need them. Let's have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check." Unless everything's on the table, then you're going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There is also about $1 trillion to be spent on the banks, maybe even more, coming up in the next several weeks. And one of the hot-button issues there -- and you talk about this populist anger -- has been over whether the bankers are benefiting at the expense of the taxpayers.

And Senator Claire McCaskill took to the floor of the Senate this week. She wants -- she has a new proposal. She's heard about these $18 billion in bonuses on Wall Street last week and says, if any bank is going to get federal money, they should make sure that no banker gets paid more than the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCASKILL: They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses. Should these people be making more than the president of the United States? Not really, should they?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Smith, you actually took a pay cut in December. You announced a 20 percent pay cut because of the performance of FedEx over the last year, because of the tough economic times.

And I wonder, number one, what do you think of the bonus structure now on Wall Street? And, number two, does Senator McCaskill have a point?

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