RAMOS: But the debate, I think -- the debate is right there. I mean, do we -- do we really need the government right now just more intervention, more stimulus, or are we going to go just to -- to cut the deficit? I think we -- we need both, but at this point, in order to just to have a recovery summer, as Vice President Biden promised, we need -- we need -- we need more government intervention.
KRUGMAN: The economics is really clear. You need to commit to doing something about the deficit once the economy has recovered. But cutting right now is -- doesn't even do very much for your budget position, because it makes the economy weaker, it means less revenues. It's really going to hurt. The -- the arithmetic of budget cuts now is just terrible.
And, you know, you have to have some sense of scale here, right? We're looking at a -- a U.S. government that 10 years from now will probably owe something like $20 trillion. Whether we borrow another $500 billion now is not going to make a big difference in that position. It's really trivial. But it can make a huge difference to the fate of the -- you know, the 15 million people who are unemployed in the United States right now.
The idea -- people using these long-run budget concerns as a way to argue against helping unemployed, when the average duration of unemployment now is about 35 weeks, that is -- that -- I don't think -- I don't think -- for most of the people making this argument, I don't think it's sincere. They're just using the occasion.
TAPPER: Al, walk us -- walk us through the politics here. Why can't they pass unemployment extensions or this emergency spending on Capitol Hill, if Democrats control both the House and the Senate?
HUNT: Well, because they need 60 votes in the Senate, and they don't have 60 votes. I think they will pass that ultimately. They'll do little things. They won't do the sort of stimulus that Paul is talking about.
I think the fundamental problem here, Jake, and -- and, Dan, I think what you're talking about is 5, 7, 10 years out, not right now. We can't walk and -- and chew gum at the same time. We ought to be dealing with long-term deficits in the long term and short-term stimulus, which this incredibly sluggish economy needs right now.
The politics just are lousy, though, Jake. The -- I don't know if it's the Republicans, if it's conservative Democrats, but the -- but the side that talks about the need to rein in the federal government, this is -- this is not very rational -- has really -- is winning that debate.
And when you talk to people about the stimulus, Paul may be right. There should have been a bigger stimulus. Barack Obama thinks there should have been a bigger stimulus. The reason there wasn't, because you couldn't get it through, even -- even a year ago. I mean, you know, meet Ben Nelson. But -- but -- but...
TAPPER: Or Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe or Arlen Specter.
HUNT: But -- but -- but right now, that -- that -- that argument that we have to rein in -- because the stimulus didn't work, well, I think most economists would say the stimulus did work...
(UNKNOWN): It did work.
HUNT: ... in the sense it would have been a lot worse if there hadn't been one. But when people talk about the stimulus, they associate it with bank bailouts and auto bailouts, which had nothing to do with the stimulus.