Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 8/7/2009

By Gorman Gorman

Aug 7, 2009 3:36pm

I included a question from CNN’s Ed Henry below because I asked a follow up. As always, for more information about what I’m referring to in my questions, check out the links.

TAPPER:  The group ProPublica earlier this week analyzed or published the results of a study and analysis of where stimulus funds were going.  And they concluded that there was no relationship between a county or area's unemployment rate or poverty rate and stimulus funds.  And, in fact, some areas with the exact same unemployment rate, there was a vast disparity in how much of the stimulus funds was going.   Is this a problem in terms of…

GIBBS:  Which stimulus funds?

TAPPER:  Which stimulus — I assume the job-creating, infrastructure funds, not the tax cuts.

GIBBS:  I'm not familiar with either the group or the report. I'm happy to take a look at it. Obviously, there are — different money goes to different places based on different formulas.  Again, as you heard the president say in the Rose Garden, a third of the money is largely for tax cuts that go to 95 percent of working individuals.

There are — I'd have to take a look at where some of that is. I would underscore again, without having looked at the report, I think the notion that — I think we're all a good example, right? We're in Washington, D.C.  I live in the city of Alexandria.  Some of you may live in the city of Arlington.  Some of you may live in Fairfax County.  Some of you may live in Prince George's County.  Some of you may live in Montgomery County.  Others may live in Baltimore. But — or in the District of Columbia.

To say that money is going to Alexandria — the city of Alexandria, but not helping anybody in the city or county of Arlington, is to somewhat assume that between each of these government subdivisions there's some economic wall that — that doesn't see money going from one to the other.

 I think it's entirely possible and very real that if you're building a bridge in Smith County, you could easily hire people from George County to go work in Smith County. I — I — I think there, you know, there's a lot of slicing and dicing that I think doesn't necessarily reflect where individual recovery money may or may not be going and its economic multiplier effect.  I will say that if you look at the statistics that we've seen just in the last two Fridays, I think it is clear and obvious that the recovery plan is cushioning the blow in terms of our economic output, it's helping to save and create jobs, and is working as we believe and intended it to work in order to get our economy back on track.

TAPPER:  And just one follow-up, to Ben’s*question about the town hall meetings. This week, there's just been an amplification in terms of the rhetoric.  Some of the protesters against the president's position on health care reform have used Nazi imagery.  A Democratic congressman said that the protesters were using brown shirt tactics.  A Democratic senator called protesters' behavior un-American, although she retracted it.  Rush Limbaugh went on a very long speech yesterday during his radio show in which he compared Democrats to Nazis, the president to Hitler. And I'm wondering if the president has seen any of this, has a take on it.  Obviously, the Nazi imagery has been condemned by Jewish groups, but I'm wondering if — if he feels anything about the language being used this way.

GIBBS:  Well, I think he's certainly seen news reports about this.  I don't — I don't know whether it's written or cable.  I'd make a couple of points. I'd build on what I said to Ben, which is regardless of where we are, regardless of the differences we have on even an issue as important as health care, I — I know the president believes strongly that we can discuss these issues without personally maligning the person that we're discussing this issue with; that we're doing so in a way that respects the dignity of each individual. I — I think — I think anytime you make references to what happened in Germany in the '30s and '40s, I think you're talking about an event that has no equivalent.  And I think anytime anyone ventures to compare anything to that, they're on thin ice and it's best not deployed… But again, the — I think the most important thing is we can have a discussion in our democracy about where we want to go and why or why not we want to take certain steps.  The president strongly believes we can do so without yelling at each other, without pushing each other, without degrading each other, and do so in a way I think that respects the difference in all of our opinions.

TAPPER:  The DNC put out a video earlier this week basically saying all of the protesters were birth certificate-denying, angry mob, hordes.  I mean, it wasn't exactly a video that described the protesters in accordance with the respect and dignity you just spoke of.

GIBBS:  Well, again, I think we've seen — as you mentioned, we've seen some stuff that I think is — I mentioned it a week ago, I think, or maybe it was earlier this week.  It all sort of blurs together.  You know, that we've all seen imagery that really just shocks and surprises us.  I think the best thing to do is to take that temperature down a bit.

ED HENRY, CNN: Robert, on health care, can you clear up whether or not the White House had some sort of behind-the-scenes deal with PhRMA?  I know — I think you were asked about it yesterday.  You know, there have been reports saying that the White House has told Democratic senators that there was no such deal, and yet…

GIBBS:  Well, we have — there — there is an agreement between PhRMA and the Senate Finance Committee that's supported by the White House to seek savings from the pharmaceutical industry to use to do — to both fill in the doughnut hole for Medicare Part D recipients that exhaust benefits and find themselves on their own, and to use part of the additional money for health insurance reform.

HENRY:  But PhRMA is saying on the record that the White House committed privately that you wouldn't seek anything beyond the I think it's $80 billion that's already been agreed to.  But others, like Speaker Pelosi, want to squeeze more savings out. And I think it was Wednesday night, Jim Messina sent an e-mail to the New York Times from the White House saying that, in fact, there was a deal with PhRMA and that you wouldn't squeeze it beyond $80 billion.

GIBBS: Well, we feel like $80 billion is — is an appropriate amount.  And I think the — I don't have the statistic in front of me, but I think the House bill has $85 billion in it, so I would argue that we're all in the same ball park.

HENRY:  But, so, there is a deal that y
ou won't squeeze any more?

GIBBS:  Well, I hate to blow our cover here, but we announced it publicly.

HENRY:  Right.  But there had been some reports saying you privately told Democratic senators that there is no such deal.

GIBBS:  I can't — I can't — I don't know where that's coming from.  I don't what that's being based on.  You know, I think it's — I think the press release is on the Finance Committee's Web site…

TAPPER:  Can I just ask a quick follow up?  In June you were asked about the deal and whether or not the deal with PhRMA implied that the White House signed off on no other legislation, such as allowing Medicare to renegotiate with PhRMA.  And you said you didn't know the answer to that. Was it because you personally didn't know or because the Senate Finance Committee hadn't informed the White House of that aspect of the deal?

GIBBS:  You're asking me to recall why I didn't remember something in June.  I — I — that I don't know the answer to. Obviously, the agreement that we have is — is in the confines of health insurance reform that's being worked on right now.

*Ben Feller of the Associated Press

-jpt

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