As the hours dwindle down to the election on Tuesday, the talk Sunday was still about the economy and the two-sided coin of tax cuts and the deficit. On This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, squared off about both.
Amanpour’s question to Menendez about whether this election would be “as bad as 1994” brought a resounding no. He stated that the Republican brand’s “image was much better [in 1994] than it is today,” and that Democrats are faring better than they did then. He added that the Democrats’ “goal is to have them understand and channel their anger on election day against the Republican Party that brought us to the verge of economic collapse in November of 2008, when financial institutions in this country were ready to collapse.”
Amanpour challenged him about that. “A recent Bloomberg poll found that most Americans think that taxes have gone up since President Obama took office;” she said, “that the economy has shrunk; that TARP, the corporate bailout, won't be mostly paid back. I mean, all of those are untrue. Why is the messaging so bad?”
Menendez replied that “I think the challenge is, when you're hurting economically—and we have gone from negative job growth to positive job growth, from negative GDP growth to positive GDP growth—but if you're still unemployed, none of that news makes that much difference to you.”
Cornyn agreed about the cause of voters’ reactions, but disagreed about the cause of the economic problems. Amanpour turned the conversation to the subject of taxes and asked him about Obama’s plan “to raise taxes on the wealthiest and preserve them for the middle class.” Cornyn replied, “I don't believe we ought to raise taxes on anyone during a fragile economic recovery. …”
When Amanpour asked if there was a bipartisan solution to the tax issue, Menendez said, “… we had an opportunity to preserve permanently … the middle class tax cuts that Democrats proposed, and ultimately Republicans held that hostage to giving the wealthiest in the country a tax cut.” He went on to say that the Republican position, making tax cuts permanent for the wealthiest in the country permanent, is not responsible because it will result in a $4 trillion deficit.
“That is not going to happen,” Menendez added, “because you can't say you want to be responsible on spending and then spend $4 trillion on tax cuts.” He did concede that there might be room for a bipartisan temporary extension of all cuts, but would not say how long that might be.
On Meet the Press, David Gregory hosted Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., and Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., for a discussion on the election. Gregory pressed Barbour on the Republicans’ post-election plan: “You have a Republican Party that's making pretty rash promises: a repeal of health care, a promise to cut $100 billion out of government spending without being specific in this contract with America, this promise to America, and a blueprint for how to govern that doesn't talk about Social Security or Medicare. How are they really going to lead?”
Barbour replied that Republican governors were going to cut their budgets, and that the federal government would do likewise, since it “is going to have to learn that you can spend less money and provide the services that the country needs.”
Gregory replied, “But we don’t have specifics,” and Barbour repeated that he as governor had cut his own state budget by 13.3%, “so it can be done.” He also repeated that “Republicans … [are] going to attack spending. Spending is the problem. We're not going to raise taxes when we're trying to recover from a recession. …”
Kaine took up the budget discussion willingly: “The president went to Congress last year in the State of the Union and said, ‘Join me in a bipartisan deficit commission to get control of federal spending.’ The Republicans in the Senate blocked that bill, they wouldn't vote for it. They voted against it even though they were sponsors.”
Kaine said that when a report from the deficit commission comes out soon, the Democrats were going to see if the Republicans will “actually get serious about spending and deficits.”