The Pending $8 Trillion Trainwreck - Today's Q's for O's WH - 5/16/2012

TAPPER:  Just a point of clarification, the $4 trillion in deficit reduction.  About 2 trillion dollars in that is from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? 

CARNEY:  No, that's - 

TAPPER:  Separate?

CARNEY:  That's - that figure is too high.  The - as the original Ryan budget does, it includes OCO, which is the acronym, which stands for something that means what you're talking about.

And it demonstrates the savings from policy decisions that this president made to end the war in Iraq and to end - to put us on a path of ending the war in Afghanistan, policy decisions that are hugely significant not just as foreign policy and national security matters and not just for the men and women who are sent overseas to fight on our behalf, but for budgetary reasons, which, by the way, leaders - at least some of the leaders in the other party, reject, those who say we should still have American soldiers in Iraq, those who say that we should not have a timetable for ending the war in Afghanistan. 

You can't have it both ways.  You can't say you'd rather reverse those policies, continue to have troops in Iraq, prolong our stay in Afghanistan, which of course requires that - money to pay for them, and then - and then say, but you can't count that savings that are a result of concrete policy decisions. 

TAPPER:  So what are - 

CARNEY:  Paul Ryan thought they were legitimate in his first budget proposal. 

TAPPER:  Well, not really.  But - 

CARNEY:  He did.  They were in - go look at the Ryan budget. 

TAPPER:  I did. 

CARNEY:  And it's in there. 

TAPPER:  There's one way of scoring in which it's in there, and then the way - the scoring that they presented, it was not.  But that's not really what I want to talk about.  So - 

CARNEY:  These are concrete savings from a - the - from a budget - from a - policy decisions that the president of the United States put in place that others, were they in the Oval Office, would not have put in place, with all the resulting costs. 

TAPPER:  In six and a half months we're facing this potential debacle, right, this $8 trillion.  How much energy does the president intend to devote to trying to solve this problem before it reaches a crisis in December? 

CARNEY:  The president has put forward a budget proposal that solves - I mean, if you're talking about - 

TAPPER:  I'm talking about negotiating with congressional leaders. 

CARNEY:  - dealing with the sequester, which - by the way, the Congress voted for the Budget Control Act.  The Congress assigned itself the task of - 

TAPPER:  And they --

CARNEY:  - coming up with a balanced solution - coming up with a solution - the only successful one has to be balanced if it's going to be bipartisan - in order to avoid the sequester, which no party wants to see enacted. 

TAPPER:  Right.  Absolutely.  Congress - 

CARNEY:  Congress continues to have that opportunity.  But - 

TAPPER:  I'm with you.  We have this problem six and a half months from now. 

CARNEY:  But, look, we - as - it is a part of the American ethic that when you get knocked down, you get up and you keep - you keep trying, and that's what Congress ought to do.  They ought to come together, work out a balanced approach.  The president has put forward, concretely and specifically, the ideas that he thinks should guide that approach.  

You know, the policy choices here are pretty clear.  There's been a lot of debate and discussion and serious-minded negotiation on these subjects… So there - there's an opportunity that remains, as the president made clear in the meeting and as I made clear in my readout of the meeting - that remains for the kinds of bipartisan compromise around a balanced approach that the budget the president put forward represents.  

TAPPER:  So, just to clarify, the answer is none.  The president - 

CARNEY:  That's not - that's not true at all.  I mean, they talked about it today.  The key stumbling block here - 

TAPPER:  Is that the Republicans in the House refuse to raise any taxes. 

CARNEY:  Refuse to acknowledge that the only way to do this, the only way to come together and get this done is to adopt the balanced approach that not just the president, but just about everyone else who's looked at this has deemed the right way to do it.  So - and as I said on a number of issues, the president accepts the fact that just because he says he believes it's the right thing to do, Republicans may not then do it.  But there - they have constituents they need to answer to.  

And one of the more remarkable things about the apparent desire to recreate the debacle of last summer, that was precipitated by the same approach that the speaker of the House suggested we adopt again, is that the American people thought it was a terrible thing.  And I don't think they would reward leaders who suggest that the right way to fulfill their responsibility as leaders is to risk tanking the American economy.  

That's just terrible.  That's not leadership.  That's a failure of leadership.  And the right way to get something done is to agree that you're not going to get everything you want and look at what so many people have put forward as the necessary path for bipartisan compromise. 

TAPPER:  The 1.2 trillion dollars - I think it's $1.2 trillion in cuts that are the sequester cuts that automatically kick in, if the Bush tax cuts, $4 trillion worth, expire, would that eliminate the need to sequester $1.2 trillion in cuts?

CARNEY:  Well, mathematically it might be so.  I haven't done the analysis myself.  But the president, as you know, believes we should extend tax cuts for the middle class and we absolutely should end unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. 

TAPPER:  Right, I know.  But you also feel that not everybody's going to get everything they want.  So I was just wondering if it'd be possible - 

CARNEY:  Well, that wouldn't represent everything we want. We - 

TAPPER:  Is there a mechanism in there - so, I'm just - it's a technical question.  If the $4 trillion in tax cuts expire, does that negate the need for 1.2 trillion dollars in - 

CARNEY:  I think you're talking about apples and oranges here.  And I think there are a lot of things that people have talked about that - 

TAPPER:  Not really. 

CARNEY:  - you know, rise to - you know, that will - that will be dealt with, if they haven't been by then, by the end of the year. 

TAPPER:  It's $4 trillion in revenue. 

CARNEY:  Right, but there are a number of issues that - there's the Bush tax cuts, there's sequester and there are other - you know, the - I'm not going to negotiate how that plays out now. 

TAPPER:  What I'm asking is - I'm not asking you to negotiate.  The question is - 

CARNEY:  As a technical thing, if you're asking me does 4 trillion dollars account for 1.2 trillion dollars, I - 

TAPPER:  - would that - would it negate it? 

CARNEY:  It doesn't negate it.  These are policy decisions that policymakers have to make about where they think this country ought to go in terms of - in terms of the policies we ought to adopt that will help grow the economy and deal with our fiscal challenges. And there are - you know, there are a lot of decisions to be made. 

What is helpful in this case is that the universe of options has been pretty thoroughly explored over the last several years as we've had commissions and negotiations and budget proposals put forward. 

And the consensus, the broad consensus that has emerged from this prolonged debate, is that we need to take a balanced approach to this. We need to deal with these challenges by cutting nondefense discretionary spending significantly, which the president has already agreed to do and signed into law.  We need to introduce reforms into our entitlement system that strengthen those programs and produce savings in health care.  And we need to increase revenues, so that we don't have to deal with our deficit and debt in a way that puts all the burden on the middle class and senior citizens, because that's just not the right thing to do.  And it would be bad for our economy. It would be bad to adopt a proposal that, lacking any other detail

provided in it, would, at the - would potentially cut investments in education and border security and all sorts of other programs, innovation, by something on the order of 19 percent. 

TAPPER:  These commission recommendations you keep talking about, this consensus about - President Obama has not endorsed any of them, right? 

CARNEY:  The president has, through his actions and his proposals, endorsed the balanced approach that is represented by the Simpson-Bowles commission, by the Domenici-Rivlin commission. 

TAPPER:  But he didn't - those are two - 

CARNEY:  The numbers are not exactly the same, and in fact what is off - 

TAPPER:  But he doesn't support their recommendations. 

CARNEY:  Not all of them in their specifics, but in - you know, they have far greater defense cuts.  Does Paul Ryan support that?  They have far greater tax revenues.  You know, these are just two areas where it - you know, you guys should be calling out folks who say, well, you know, we should be supporting this commission, when in fact it includes proposals that they wouldn't come near to with a 10-foot pole. 

The president's proposals actually proposed in his budget fewer defense cuts and fewer - and less revenues than Simpson-Bowles, another example of his willingness to compromise.  This is - you know, so the outline of what needs to be done is clear.  It has been clear for a long time.  It is supported broadly by the American people.  It is supported by Democrats, independents and Republicans, bipartisan commissions, gray beards, young academics, all sorts of experts.

- Jake Tapper

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