TAPPER: The president, when he spoke to NOVA students and faculty earlier today acknowledged that the numbers and the budget were so big, they were difficult to talk about. And to break them down, it would be along the lines of a family that makes $29,000 a year spending $38,000 a year, so taking on new debt — $9,000 in new debt, with a $153,000 credit card bill that they were not able to pay down. That would be a way for — like the average American to afford – to understand it. Does that seem responsible?
CARNEY: I appreciate the analogy. I think what you know and everyone in this room knows and what every American knows based on what I’ve seen is that this economy was in freefall in January 2009. It had — the government in the previous 8 years had racked up an enormous amount of debt, although it had started the century with surpluses. And because of the freefall we were in, urgent measures needed to be taken to reverse the direction of the economy and to reverse the direction of employment in this country. Those actions were taken. Hard choices were made. And thanks to those tough choices, made by the president, working with Congress, the economy has now grown for a number of consecutive quarters. It has created private sector jobs for 23 straight months, well over 3.7 million new jobs. And we are headed in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. And what the president made clear – and the chief of staff made clear yesterday – is that we need to make sure we get it right as we move forward so that we invest where we need to, we extend the payroll tax cut for example because we need to economically, and then for the medium and long term we do the things we need to do to reduce our deficit and debt so we get our fiscal house in order. And that’s what the president’s budget does.
As you know from the debate we had last fall, his vision encapsulated in this budget document, reduced the deficit – cuts spending by $4 trillion over 10 years – again in a balanced way that includes the $1 trillion in discretionary cuts agreed to in the Budget Control Act, it includes revenues as well as reductions in entitlement spending as well as reductions in defense spending. And that’s the approach that the American people expect us to take.
TAPPER: Theoretically, if he had a Republican partner in Congress who was willing to take on some of the sacred things in his party, the president is willing to go farther than this budget document. This is a budget document according to what he’s willing to do on his own, it’s not as far as he would go, right?
CARNEY: Well I don’t want to negotiate the line items of a global grand bargain if you will. The president demonstrated last summer his willingness to take on the sacred cows in his own party and his willingness to do things and lead his party in a direction that would be very difficult for them because he knew and the leaders of the Democratic Party in the congress agreed that it was the right thing to do for the economy.
TAPPER: This budget doesn’t reflect that -
CARNEY: It does. It doesn’t reflect every item of the potential grand bargain that the speaker of the house walked away from, but it does reflect the proposal the president put forward in the fall that achieves more than $4 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 years and does it with a combination of entitlement reductions and reforms, revenue increases, asking those who have done exceptionally well over the last 10 years, the wealthiest Americans, pay a little extra, pay their fair share, and it does it through sensible, wise reductions in defense spending and discretionary spending.
TAPPER: So to put it in your words and President Obama’s own words, it is not as bold as he would be willing to be if he had a Republican partner in Congress -
CARNEY: It is a very bold proposal. And it is absolutely designed on the framework laid out by bipartisan commissions like Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson chaired, similar to the Domenici-Rivlin commission, in that it encapsulates this balanced approach. Now unfortunately we haven’t had a willingness to travel the bipartisan, balanced road on the Republican side. You have an asymmetrical situation here, where the president has been willing to make tough choices – things that are hard for Democrats to do – but we haven’t seen the concurrent willingness on the Republican side unfortunately to even embrace – even be open to the idea that Americans overwhelmingly support that we need to do something about revenues so that we can reduce our deficit and deal with our long term debt in a responsible way. Because the alternative is the so-called Ryan Plan, which basically ends welfare as we know it – Medicare, sorry – which asks average Seniors to pay up to $6,000 a year extra for deficit reduction but also so that millionaires get $100,000 extra in tax breaks. I just think that is a tough message to explain to an average American out there who is struggling to make ends meet who sees hope in the economy but still knows that we have a long way to go. And the answer on one side of the aisle is to seriously affect the livelihoods of senior citizens so that we can give more tax breaks to the folks who have gotten the most tax breaks in the previous ten years. And that’s just not a debate that we believe the other side is likely to win. The sensible approach is the bipartisan approach is the balanced approach that says we have to do this in a way that deals with all the drivers of our long term deficit including revenues, including defense, including discretionary spending.
TAPPER: Back to my family metaphor: one of the spouses isn’t willing to make the tough choices, but the president is?
CARNEY: Look, I think the president has demonstrated – he took a lot of heat this summer from his party and advocates on the Democratic side of the political spectrum because of his willingness to make some tough choices and he remains willing to do that and he would welcome a willingness by Republicans to approach deficit reduction in a balanced way. There’s a lot of talk about Simpson-Bowles, a commission that only exists because the president created it and the outlines of which drove the president’s own broad deficit and debt reduction plan. What people forget about Simpson-Bowles is that it asks for twice has many revenues as the president’s own proposal. People forget that it asks for substantially more deficit cuts than the president believes are responsible. And what we forget about Simpson-Bowles is not a single House Republican endorsed it or supported it, even on the commission, and I think that reflects part of the problem we have in Washington right now.