Note: Today was the first press briefing by new White House press secretary Jay Carney.
TAPPER: Jay, welcome.
JAY CARNEY: Thank you.
TAPPER: If I borrow money from you — to pay — to pay off the interest for -
CARNEY: You may owe me.
TAPPER: Ten-year rule. If I borrow money from you to pay off the interest for the debt I owe to Geoff, am I not adding to my debt?
CARNEY: Well, without dealing with hypotheticals, why don't you — why don't you –
TAPPER: The president seems to think that that borrowing money to pay the interest on the debt is not adding to the debt. I don't understand that math.
CARNEY: What the president made clear is that we need to get to a place — and his budget absolutely does this — where we are no longer spending more than we're taking in. And what the reality is, is that we have, like a lot of families — you know, like some families might have, debt on their credit card, with interest rates that have to be contended with. But the first important step to dealing with this issue is getting your regular spending and income in balance so that you are no longer adding to the problem.
The interest is something we have to deal with, and interest payments are a major portion of our long-term debt. It's a problem that we need to — that we need to address. But the — but it — look, it is not an inconsequential deal to propose a budget that cuts as substantially as it does in targeted areas so that the federal government lives within its means in order to be able to continue to invest in the future, because you have to have economic growth, you have to have job creation, if we're going to address this overall long-term problem.
TAPPER: I assume when the president calls for an adult conversation, he means that conversation should be forthright and politicians shouldn't be hiding behind cute language such as "We will not be adding more to the national debt," even if hundreds of billions of dollars are being added to the national debt in interest — paid on debt that President Obama helped, himself, create.
CARNEY: Well, the debt is — has been created over a number of years, as you know. And we came in here with an economic crisis, the likes of which, I daresay, I think nobody in this room has ever seen, and which threatened to head straight into a depression if we didn't act.
But I also remind you that we inherited, when this administration came into office, this president came into office, an enormous debt that had been piled up in the previous eight years. And that is part of the problem. And the interest that you're talking about is on that debt as well.
But, look, I think it's important to step back. The president is — put forward a budget that seriously addresses the need to reduce spending that also protects the key areas that he thinks need to be invested in so that we can remain competitive, grow the economy, create jobs. And he looks forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to, you know, deal with both the budget proposals and the long-term debt. And he thinks that we can — there is reason to believe that we can — we can get this done.
TAPPER: Just to button this, you think that, "We will not be adding more to the national debt," is a statement that stands to scrutiny?
CARNEY: Absolutely, absolutely. And Jake, we have explained precisely what that means in terms of new spending; you know, getting our spending and income — I mean, our income and spending into balance — that is an important step towards dealing with our deficit and our debt.