'This Week' Transcript: Timothy Geithner

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You see the Republican leadership say, and you see the president of the United States say, and you've seen a bipartisan fiscal commission say, that we need to try to lock in reforms that will bring about -- about $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 to 12 years. When they all agree that we have to do it, they agree on the basic magnitude, the basic -- same basic timeframe, then we have a chance now to get Congress to lock in some concrete targets and concrete timelines. And then enforce them there, just to make sure it happens, and I think we can do that.

AMANPOUR: And yet, this week, when the president made his speech, certainly, many Republicans thought that they were sort of ambushed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Is this the right tone, do you think, that will encourage people like Speaker Boehner to actually come together and, as you hope, get this thing passed?

GEITHNER: Look, we recognize, the president recognizes, and Republicans recognize, this is something we have to do and we have to do it in a bipartisan basis. Neither side has the votes to do this on their own, and you have to come together to do it.

AMANPOUR: What can you give to the Republicans ahead of this vote?

GEITHNER: Well, let me step back for one sec.

You know, we, in the years before this crisis, we were piling on a lot of debt. As a country now, we borrow about 40 cents for every dollar we spend. We're on an unsustainable path. And that -- again, that's why it's so constructive and so encouraging you see Republicans now and Democrats all saying this is an important commitment, and laying out the same basic order of magnitude cuts that are going to be necessary.

Now, we have very big disagreements on what the right balance is, but there are things we agree on and we can lock in today. The things we're going to disagree on for some time, we can take more time to resolve.

But what we think we can do is lock in some targets for deficit reduction, specific timeframe, ways to make sure those happen, that there are credible enforcing mechanisms, and we can agree on that now and still give us some room to debate and to disagree and to negotiate on composition of tax reform.

AMANPOUR: Now that we're talking about budget cuts and that's the whole conversation in Washington, is that going to damage the recovery?

GEITHNER: No, I don't -- I think we can do this -- and that's a very good point, I'm glad you raised it.

One of the reasons why you want to do this in a way that's balanced and has a medium-term plan, you know, it locks in changes over several years, is because you need to do this gradually so that you protect the recovery, and I think we can do that.

But we can make these changes, if we do it carefully, without, I think, hurting the economy, without adding to the burden on the middle class, and without gutting or eroding investments in things we need to make sure we do in the future.

AMANPOUR: So the president, also in his speech, talked about revenue raising -- taxes, taxes on the wealthy. GEITHNER: Well, I think it's important for people to recognize that we cannot afford to extend these tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. We can't afford it and we have to do tax reforms.

AMANPOUR: So Speaker Boehner says that's a non-starter.

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