Romney at Bain, Americans Not Doing Better Off - Today's Q's for O's WH - 5/22/2012

TAPPER: To follow on Tommy's question, why would you conclude, or why would the White House or the president conclude that because Mitt Romney ran his private equity firm a certain way that he would run the country the same way? He's - Mr. Romney has talked about experience that he has from that. That doesn't mean that he would then start taking the same actions as president, right? The president took his experience; it didn't mean he started running the country like the community organizer or like a state senator. He just had experience.  

CARNEY: Well, no, but the experience he had as a community organizer and state senator and then as a United States senator were the experience he believes helped qualify him for the presidency. He'd made the case and - that that record -  

TAPPER: But he didn't do it as the community organizer; he did it as a president. And my only - my question is why are you - why are you saying that he would run things as-  

CARNEY: Well, because the governor himself - the former governor himself as said as much. He's not running, that I can tell, on his record - or that you can, because he hasn't - on his record in Massachusetts. He's running as a businessman who can do for America what he did in private equity. And that, I think - I think Americans would expect that that credential deserves some scrutiny.  

That's all that's happening here.  

And I think it's also important then to put it in the context of different ideas about how we move the country forward economically; what the president's vision is, both what his record is so far in - since the end of the recession, since his policies have kicked in - the creation of more than 4 million private-sector jobs, 11 straight quarters of economic growth; and then compare that to - and that - and what he would do to continue to invest in education and infrastructure and innovation to ensure that our economy grows; his balanced approach to deficit reduction and dealing with our long-term debt challenges.  

And compare that to what Republicans, in general, across the board -Republicans who support the Ryan Republican budget, including the presumptive nominee and - of the Republican Party and the president's opponent - what they would do. And what they have - what they say they would do is revert to the same policies that were in place in the run-up to the financial and economic collapse, the worst recession any of us that - I - most of us - Lester, sorry - have seen in our lifetimes. But the - (laughter) - maybe I'm - maybe I'm wrong about that.  

But the - (laughter) - what the Republicans haven't put forward is an alternative that is any different from the very policies that helped bring about this. So policies that maximize benefits for the wealthiest Americans and hope that those benefits trickle down to -  

TAPPER: You've changed the subject.  

CARNEY: - no, I'll - I will entertain another question - but trickle down to middle-class Americans are not - are not policies that this president agrees with. He has a different vision.  

They are also not policies that we need to theorize about because we've seen them tried, and we saw what happened.  

We saw middle-class incomes stagnate or decline, we saw the very - the most fortunate and wealthiest Americans see their incomes increase dramatically, and then we saw the whole economy collapse. Not really what you would expect somebody who wants to be president to say he wants to repeat, but there you have it.  

TAPPER: OK. So there's a new ABC News-Washington Post poll in which twice as many people say they are worse off now under President Obama than say they're better off. For most people, it's about the same. But I think it's 30 percent say they're worse off now; 16 percent say they're better off. Under this, you know, tried and true standard of "are you better off than you were four years ago," does this not give President Obama pause?  

CARNEY: Well, I think that a finding like that needs to be viewed in context, and I'll - and I'll explain why.  

TAPPER: You're going to "step back"?  

CARNEY: Well, no, not that far. The fact is four years ago today we were just in the early stages of economic free fall. Unemployment had not yet skyrocketed to the point that it would under - as a result of the recession. We had not quite gotten to the period where the economy would contract by 9 percent, nearly 9 percent, as it did at the end of 2008, where four years ago would be the middle of 2008. So it is a fact that the worst recession since the Great Depression had not fully blossomed four years ago.  

But if you look at the same data, most Americans, I think, agree with the idea that that recession was caused - its causes predated President Obama taking office. There is no question that most Americans recognize that. It's a simple fact. And it is also a fact that if you ask most Americans, do they want to go back to the policies that helped lead to that situation, the answer would be no.  

And it's a fact that since President Obama's policies have taken effect, we've seen a reverse of all those trends. We've seen economic growth steadily, not enough, but steady economic growth. We've seen a situation that went from hemorrhaging of 800,000 jobs a month to a situation where we've created private-sector jobs every month for over two years. We still have further to travel on this road to recovery, but there is no question that the circumstance we're in now economically and the trajectory that we're on economically is better than the trajectory that this country was on four years ago today.  

TAPPER: OK. One last quick one. The Romney campaign has put out a Web video about Delphi in which workers from that company who are non- union workers, who feel like they got shafted in the deal that the Obama administration helped put together during that bailout, talk about how they feel like they were victims and how the Obama administration picked winners and losers and opted to give union personnel a better deal than non-union personnel. Do you have a response to that?  

CARNEY: I haven't seen the ad, but I think the president's very proud of the record that he has, and those who worked with him on it, to help save the automobile industry. I think if that's a debate that Republicans want to have in the summer and fall, I personally look forward to it.

The fact is, is that every one of those workers at companies like that one and many others across the country would have lost their jobs if General Motors and Chrysler had been allowed to fail and eventually liquidate, which was the only alternative to the actions the president took. I mean, it is simply a fact that had that action not been taken, against a lot of the sage advice, both economic and political, of a lot of people, those jobs would have been lost and we would no longer have the number-one automaker in the world.

We would no longer -  

TAPPER: That's not really -  

CARNEY: - be in a situation where we are creating manufacturing jobs at a rapid pace for the first time in this country in a long time.  

TAPPER: The nonunion workers have -  

MR. CARNEY: Again, I haven't seen the specific ad, but the -  

TAPPER: - the details of that particular company's bailout?

CARNEY: I don't. But just, again, listening to what you say, I don't know the details of that particular company's situation. What I would say is that the alternative to the actions the president took is the loss of all those jobs, everybody's job in that industry. The president wasn't prepared to let that happen. He insisted that companies that received taxpayer support only received it if they took steps to reform themselves and improve the kinds of products that they were producing. That has happened. Again, and for that reason, GM, Chrysler, as well as Ford, are stronger now than they've been in years.  

-Jake Tapper