Today’s Q for O’s WH – 2/26/2009

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 26, 2009 6:00pm

TAPPER:  Two questions.  One, does the president believe that raising taxes hinders economic growth.  I understand that he believes in — in fairness in the tax system and he needs to — they need to reduce the deficit and pay for some of these programs.  But is he concerned at all that raising taxes could hinder economic growth?

GIBBS:  Well, the tax changes that I’d mentioned a second ago take place for 2011.  The president, I think, he is reasonably concerned about our economic growth in general and getting our economy back on track, and believes — but believes that the changes that this budget would require in the tax code are good for the American people. He doesn’t believe that the changes that are being made would hinder economic growth. I would point, could point many of these rates for people that make above — families that make above $250,000 a year revert to the rates that we saw throughout the ’90s when this economy enjoyed fairly robust economic growth.

TAPPER:  OK.  And second question, Paul Volcker today said about the staffing at the Treasury Department, "There’s an area that I think is shameful, the secretary of the treasury sitting there without a deputy, without any undersecretaries, without any, as far as I know, assistant secretaries responsive in substantive areas.  At a time of very stark crisis, you shouldn’t be sitting there alone." He said, "Now, various things have contributed to this, I guess, include vetting procedures, but it’s really an unfortunate situation." And he said that we can’t have a "weak" Treasury at a moment like this. Does the president agree with Mr. Volcker that this is a problem, his Treasury staff?

GIBBS:  Well, this president is committed — (clears throat) excuse me — to ensuring that we have as many people and as quickly as possible that we can get into this government. I think I would say a little — I wouldn’t quite agree with everything that our friend Mr. Volcker.  I don’t — I don’t think that the secretary is alone at the Treasury Department.  I think there are many able people assisting him. And I asked somewhat of this question yesterday, and I asked that they pull some numbers for me.  So, to figure out exactly the breakdown of this includes political appointees and Schedule C appointees, that by the end of February there were 279 that were staffed up in the first Bush administration, 286 in the Clinton administration, 200 and — this is for the whole government — 288 for the second Bush, and as of today, 483 in the Obama administration.

TAPPER:  In the Treasury Department?

GIBBS:  This is for — this is government wide.  I will find out.  I don’t have specific Treasury figures in front of me, but I’ll pull those.

TAPPER:  Because that was the point that he was making.

GIBBS:  These are — this is in relation partly to some questions that I got yesterday about that.  But no, I think the Treasury Department, I think what what we’ve asked the Treasury Department to do is certainly a lot, and I think what they’ve produced through a recovery and reinvestment plan, both working with a financial stability package, dealing with individual banks, insuring that we have a way forward that protects our manufacturing base in autos — we’ve asked a lot of Treasury and they’re doing a lot of great work.

- jpt

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