'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, September 8th, 2011
video 'podcast': hour 1, hour 2
ShowPlug1: Our live coverage of President Obama's Jobs Address to Joint Session of Congress begins at 7 PM Eastern on @Current TV
ShowPlug2: POTUS emails supporters saying it's "up to you" to pass what he'll propose tonight. Mentions Congressional resistance, not GOP's
ShowPlug3: Eliot Spitzer and economist JeffMadrick of @RooseveltInst join me before, after speech.Also after: @RyanGrim + @Markos Moulitsas
ShowPlugLast: Reaction from @SenatorSanders and Rep. @KeithEllison and @RepRaulGrijalva - Live, 7-9 ET, repeating 10-12 ET.
watch whole playlist
# Prelude, with Eliot Spitzer and Jeff Madrick
# Presidential Address
YouTube: part 1, part 2, part 3
# Post-address analysis, with Eliot Spitzer and Jeff Madrick
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# ...with Rep. Raul Grijalva
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# ...with Markos Moulitsas
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# ...with Sen. Bernie Sanders
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# ...with Ryan Grim
# ...with Rep. Keith Ellison
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Wrap-up with Eliot Spitzer and Jeff Madrick
printable PDF transcript
KEITH OLBERMANN: Good Evening from New York.
In a matter of minutes, the President of the United States will address the joint session of Congress. The topic -- what President Obama will call the American Jobs Act. The subtext is how, by creating jobs, the President might keep his. There was a seeming break in the Republican ice last night. Eric Cantor acknowledged that his party has been focused on cut when intended to focus on cut and grow. Whether that is an opening for the president to shoot for the moon in terms of a panoramic jobs plan tonight, some huge proposal from which he might bargain down, remains to be seen. But Mr. Obama did e-mail his supporters two hours ago and said in part, "I'm about to head to the Capitol to ask Congress to act on my plan to put Americans back to work. Before I do, I wanted to write you directly to remind you that the fight to create jobs and provide the kind of economic security for middle-class families that's been slipping away over the last decade won't begin or end with the speech I give tonight. What happens will be up to you. In the coming days and weeks, it will be up to you to pressure Congress to act or hold them accountable if they do not."
The words Republican and obstructionism are not found in that email. Logistically, as you saw, this will look something like a State of the Union Address. Take the picture again, please. The president announced by either The Majority Floor Services Chief, or the House Sergeant at Arms, or both. He will then handshake his way to the lectern, as the members of the Cabinet are as we speak. I will be joined here by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, and by economist Jeff Madrick.
After the president's remarks, and there will not be a formal Republican response, we will be on until 9 p.m. eastern. And we will be joined by Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, Ryan Grim, the Washington Bureau Chief of The Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the Co-Chairs of Congressional Progressive Caucus, of course. The guidance on the introduction was 7:01 and 30 seconds eastern time. But if the Secretary of Homeland Security is not yet seated, we are well behind the plan. The president will be, as I said, glad-handing his way forward. And as we prepare for this, and it does look awfully like the State of the Union address, Eliot Spitzer, why do it this way? The optics are the least important thing about this. But why do it? Show the picture. Why do it this way?
ELIOT SPITZER: I think this is intended to be an emotional reset for the president. He's putting the start over button, he's pushing it hard saying, "you know what? I am beginning anew and beginning fresh." It's not going to work unless he says something fundamentally more dramatic than he's been willing to say so far. But you're right. The State of the Union, two-thirds of the way into the way of the year, one year before the presidency is at stake. So it seems to me he is trying to reframe his whole presidency before our eyes.
OLBERMANN: But this is a grave crisis.
OLBERMANN: And certainly, if it's not appreciated inside that chamber that it's a grave crisis, everybody watching knows it is a grave crisis. And, again, the F.D.R. analogy is a poor one because he would not have done the walk for other reasons. But any other president in time of war, and many people view this as life and death. It is life and death for most of the people watching this. Why wouldn't you just say, "look, we are serious now. This isn't a time for smiles and photo ops and people standing in the aisles waiting to get a picture with the president. This is a time to get to work, and we're already two minutes behind."
SPITZER: I agree with you. This is the wrong image. It is celebratory, it is happy. There are too many smiling, happy faces. These are the plutocrats who are failing the nation. The inside the beltway guys who don't get it. Look at this, everybody -- they're all employed. The public is saying, "I don't have what you guys have." He should be sitting -- well, Jeff.
OLBERMANN: Jeff Madrick.
JEFF MADRICK: I don't think it's so much celebrity as his trying to make major, dramatic event out of this and impress upon the public this is very important. I agree this is probably not the right way to do that. That's what he is trying to do. But as we all know, if the advertising is stronger than the product, the product doesn't sell. So we've got to see what the product is. And I am a little dubious about it, as of now.
OLBERMANN: There is a new figure attached to the product. We were hearing $200 to $300 billion last night in terms of tax cuts, Federal Spending, stimuli of various kinds, incentives, inducements. Then the figure came out about an hour ago that it's closer to $450 billion. Did they add something, or did we just get a rejiggering of the number to make it look better?
MADRICK: Yeah, This really worries me. I don't know who did the later computations. If the president's economists came up with the figure way off, this will not be the first time that's happened. But that's worrisome to me. That means they are not prepared.
SPITZER: It's also an opening bid. Let's understand, this is the politics, this is his bid. The Republicans are gonna respond with something half that size and where we end up. So in terms of impact, it's gonna be small.
OLBERMANN: And to that end, the thing that I mention in there about Eric Cantor's comments last night, which didn't get a lot of attention. I don't think I saw it anywhere but "The Hill." But he said, "we've been about cut and grow," meaning the Republicans. "That fact is that for the last eight months, we've been about cuts. That's why it's imperative that all of us join together" -- and I think we're about to get the introduction with photographers streaming through. "We'll work with the president and see how we can grow this economy." Let's see we are going to get the announcement.
MAN: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.
OLBERMANN: You see the First Lady's entourage there, made of mostly of entrepreneurs. You'll also see Richard Trumka up there and Steve Case, the former AOL founder, and about a dozen entrepreneurs and others. As I was saying, as we watch the president come in with, again, perhaps the wrong optics, with Nancy Pelosi, and there's majority leader Cantor right behind. Cantor's quotes from last night seemed to be some sort of recognition they are not getting -- that the word of the moment is jobs and Republicans have a 0 on jobs. Even if the president has a 4 out of 100, the Republicans have a 0. It seems like they are trying to glom onto it, and maybe they can do what Jeff is saying. He shoots way high, and then negotiates down to something small.
SPITZER: Here's where a large part for the forum really comes in. And that is the continuation of the cut in payroll Package. The Republicans know they cannot support increasing those taxes right now. It'd be contrary to everything they pretend to stand for. So they have to go with the President on that. That will be probably $100, $150 billion of the total. That is merely the status quo extended forward. It hasn't been working terribly well. So it's not going to be a real stimulus.
MADRICK: I agree completely with that. I think he is trying to trap the Republicans into supporting this tax cut, and then claiming credit for it.
MADRICK: They are trying to get ahead on that. I'm disturbed that most of this package will be tax cuts. We will get a chance to talk about this a little later.
OLBERMANN: In great depth. There's one thing that has come out here that is just jaw-dropping. This is from The Huffington Post. "In here tonight, the president is supposed to encourage states to adopt a program that was used in Georgia called Bridge to Work. Programs that let businesses essentially audition people who are on federal unemployment, as workers, without paying them." Now, I've got a politician and I have got an economist in front of me. I am just an ex-intern. It sounds to me like these are internships, and not even paid internships. Is there anything to this? Governor, we were talking about this. And it didn't fly?
SPITZER: Look, I read the same article you did on Huff-Po, and having read that article, I said, "wow, this was a failure. Not only are you saying to people work without pay, but then the real question is, did it generate the jobs that they're after?" The answer was no. And that's why, apparently, this program has been scorned and harshly criticized. Maybe I'm missing something, but this is not something to emulate.
MADRICK: I sometimes reside in academia. It's the adjunct professor trick.
SPITZER: I'm an adjunct. Now it's close to home.
OLBERMANN: The president has reached the podium, handing the copy of tonight's speech, which has been sent to the media so the media gets it ahead of Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner, which may or may not be appropriate. As we said, we will be back after the president speaks for a full coverage through 9. He should be going for about 50 minutes in this September State of the Union Address on the subject of jobs. The advance copies are out. The applause continues. There are, of course, as you know, many Republicans who are not in attendance. But obviously, given the nature of how crowded the chamber is tonight, there are many more who are. They are not yet seated. Now as we are settling down, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Everyone, please, have a seat. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress and fellow Americans, tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless and a political crisis that's made things worse. This past week, reporters have been asking, "what will this speech mean for the president? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls in the next election?"
But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don't care about politics. They have real life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by, giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage, postponing retirement to send a kid to college. These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share. Where if you stepped up, did your job and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits, maybe a raise once in a while. If you did the right thing, you could make it. Anybody could make it in America. And for decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the decks too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington has not always put their interest first. The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities.
The question tonight is whether we'll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. The question -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning. Those of us here tonight can't solve all our nation's woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people's lives.
I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It's called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple -- to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans and more jobs for long-term unemployed. It will provide -- it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away. Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven't.
So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for job creators, this plan's for you. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers' wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012. It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. 50 house Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that is in this plan. You should pass it right away. Pass this jobs bill and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It's an outrage. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower, and now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads at a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There's a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovated. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school, and we can give it to them if we act now.
The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now, fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high speed internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jump start thousands of transportation projects all across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent, we're building on reforms we've already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We're cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we'll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria -- how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it will do for the economy. This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America's largest business organization and America's largest labor organization. It's the kind of proposal that's been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.
Pass this jobs Bill and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they're adding teachers in places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves. It's unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours, and it has to stop. Pass this bill and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong. Pass this jobs bill and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America's veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home. Pass this bill and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents -- their parents, low income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty. Pass this jobs bill and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work.
This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. If the millions of unemployed Americans stop getting this insurance and stop using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past, and in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again, right away.
Pass this jobs Bill and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year. $1,500. What would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we allow that tax cut to expire, if we refuse to act, middle class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We can't let that happen. I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away. This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners and tax cuts for the middle class. And here's the other thing I want the American people to know.
The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here's how. The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about a trillion dollars over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan. A plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run. This approach is basically the one I've been advocating for months.
In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I've already signed into law, it's a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations to pay their fair share. What's more, the spending cuts wouldn't happen so abruptly that they'd be a drag on our economy or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle class families get back on their feet right away. I realize there's some in my party who don't think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here's the truth. Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don't gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be there when feature retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it. I am also -- I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it.
But here's what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share. And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order. I'll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington.
By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America. So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, what's the best way to grow the economy and create jobs? Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can't afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?
Right now, we can't afford to do both. This isn't political grandstanding. This isn't class warfare. This is simple math. This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we've got to make. And I'm pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It's not even close. And it's time for us to do what's right for our future.
Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can't stop there. As I've argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future, an economy that creates good, middle class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth. This task of making America more competitive for the long haul, that's a job for all of us. For government and for private companies. For states and for local communities and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.
My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you're a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we're going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now. We're also planning to cut away the red tape that prevent too many rapidly growing startup companies from raising capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent. That's a step -- I know you guys must be for this because that's a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.
So some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require Congressional action.
Today, you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process so that entrepreneurs can turn an idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That's the kind of action we need. Now it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea, while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words "Made in America." That's what we need to get done. And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America's businesses. That's why I brought together a jobs council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs. Already we've mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. We're going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here in the United States of America. If we provide the right incentives, the right support, and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules, we can be the ones to build everything from fuel efficient cars to advanced bio-fuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That's how America can be number one again. And that's how America will be number one again.
Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations. And -- well, I agree that we can't afford wasteful spending. And I'll work with you, with Congress, to root it out. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. That's why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we've identified over 500 reforms which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that commonsense test. But what we can't do, what I will not do, is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says, for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury or laws that prevent the health insurance company from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race.
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government and refund everybody's money and let everyone write their own rules and tell everyone they're own their own? That's not who we are. It's not the story of America. Yes, we are rugged individuals. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world. But there has always been another thread running throughout our history. A believe that we're all connected and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future. A Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad, launched the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set. Ask yourselves, where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools? Or research universities? Or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. bill.
Where we would be if they hadn't had that chance? How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result? No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been and always will be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. A nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.
Every proposal I've laid out tonight is the kind that's been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I've laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities. I know there's been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan or any jobs plan. Already we're seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already the media's proclaimed that it's impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box. But know this: the next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here, the people who hired us to work for them, they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.
I don't pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose. What's guided us from the start of this crisis hasn't been the search for a silver bullet. It's been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it. Regardless of the arguments we've had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.
And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice. Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.
President Kennedy once said, "Our problems are manmade. Therefore, they can be solved by man." And man can be as big as he wants. These are difficult years for our country, but we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work. And let's show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you very much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
OLBERMANN: The President of the United States with his jobs bill speech to a joint session of Congress, proposing the American Jobs Act. And the key takeaway may have been a combination of two phrases -- "pass this jobs bill" and "you should pass this bill right away." He said those two things a total of 16 times.
Whether or not there is enough substance and, in fact, enough cash in what he is proposing and what he may propose in the days and weeks to come remains for analysis and for time to tell. But in terms of the efficacy of the speech and the situation he put his opponents in by giving a speech that highlighted such things as rebuilding schools, 35,000 of them, cutting the taxes of small businesses by 50 percent immediately -- and you see him with Senator Coburn there in an embrace. They are friends from their days in the Senate together. A reference to improved job prospects for veterans of military service, improved qualifications for jobs for the middle class, the chanting, almost, of the phrase, "made in America," these are all, if not necessarily conservative catch-phrases, they certainly are ones that required both sides of the House and Senate to rise as one in there. So as a speech, as we begin an analysis that will continue for the next hour and 15 minutes, I am joined by economist Jeff Madrick and by the former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. Governor, I will start with you on the politics of this. I wasn't necessarily expecting a strong and strident speech, but I think we got one from this president. Did we not?
SPITZER: We had a good campaign speech, as you point out. This was a speech that could have been delivered in front of 10,000 union members. It could have been delivered in the stadium after he accepted the nomination in Denver, back when he was nominated in '08. It was a very effective speech. The politics, however, will depend almost entirely, in the long run, on the unemployment rate. And so tonight's measure and the buoyant feeling within that chamber will dissipate quickly next -- I think it's October 7, the next unemployment number if there's not an uptick. And this is going to be, "what have you got? Prove to us that this matters." And I think there's less than meets the eye once you peel back the rhetoric.
OLBERMANN: Right. And the problem has been that in times of economic crisis -- and two previous occasions, once this year at George Washington University, and once at the end of 2009 in his speech at the Brookings Institution, which was filled with small business tax breaks and incentives, a hiring tax credit, infrastructure programs, many things that, if were not identical to what we heard tonight, very similar to them, certainly in terms of theme. There was no follow-up. Has he -- has he sort of increased the chances of a follow-up by repeating this mantra of, "you should pass this bill right away" 16 times? Has he kind of put the spur even to himself?
SPITZER: I think it's very difficult for the Republicans not to do something, and the something they will embrace is the agenda of tax cuts and tax cut extensions. 'Cause a lot of it is extending out the trend, what has already been done. I think the Republicans will do that. But the problem is, it may not matter. And at this point, the president's going to be measured based upon his success to create jobs, not on the beauty of his rhetoric. And he's always delivered a great speech. That's what got him into the oval office. Now they're saying, as you just said, Keith, "now what? Prove to us it works."
OLBERMANN: Jeff Madrick, can it work? Did you hear anything in there that was new, novel or sufficient?
MADRICK: It wasn't enough for me. I do want to give the president some credit for the speech. He showed anger. And it's necessary to show anger now. He hasn't shown anger a lot in recent economic speeches. He may -- he may win over some public approval. He may start to motivate some people to turn against Republicans and get Republicans a little bit afraid. Does he have a plan, however? I was a little surprised by the extent of some of the tax breaks. I think some of them are good. Good credit incentives for job hiring. I myself believe we have to spend our way out of this. Tax breaks, tax credits don't go directly, dollar-for-dollar, into the economy. And that's what we need. But there is one important area he deferred talking about. He said he's going to be able to pay for this, and he has a plan, and he didn't talk about that plan tonight. And that, to me, was very deliberate. That enabled him to do a one -- a narrow, focused, angry speech, all upbeat. He didn't talk about how we are going to pay for it and when we are going to pay for it. Because we have got to stimulate this economy now. We can't start paying for this now.
SPITZER: And Jeff, am I correct -- you are the economist -- but it seems to me if the president in his budget proposal says we are going to pay for it by cutting in zones A, B, and C to have additional expenditures over here, he takes away the very stimulus he's trying to get. In other words, unless he is willing to have short-term increases in deficits, there is no stimulative effect from a pure Keynesian perspective. Of course, Governor Perry told us the other day Keynes doesn't matter. So we'll have to see whether the president agrees with him or not.
MADRICK: He is implying paying for this will be delayed. He hasn't given us any details about that. And that's where the big battle is going to occur.
OLBERMANN: But politically, to people at home -- obviously, this is the crux of the Republican argument, is we can never pay for anything unless we have the cash in the pocket, which is -- we can talk about that economically, the economics that you figure out in the third grade and cease to be applicable in about the ninth grade. But to say that to the public, "we are going to pay for this," in a time when cliches and oversimplifications of the economy are the flavor of the year, is that not enough? If you go to the public and say, "we will pay for this, here is where it's coming from" and only define it in broad terms, is that not enough to fire people up and get this thing passed?
SPITZER: Look, I hope so, and only time will tell. But I wish he had said, "you know what? we have been too focused on the deficit. We have a demand crisis." I wish I had heard that sentence quite clearly. There is insufficient demand. We need to spur this economy. We own -- we know how to do this. And I want to just put a contrast out there. We found out a couple weeks ago the Federal Reserve bank, the federal government lent to the banks $1.2 trillion, with a T. When they said, "gee, we got a little problem here," started printing money, delivering it in 18-wheelers to the banks. Now being parsimonious with the middle class. The lines in there about helping homeowners, you don't solve this problem unless you deal with the housing crisis. There's some vague stuff in there about helping agencies maybe refinance. It hasn't worked so far. There was no dedication of big money. If this whole thing is 400 billion, the number we heard before the speech when it was cost out, the number they were circulating, of which about half is these tax cuts that only affect things at the margins, this isn't going to do it. And that's what worries me.
MADRICK: Clearly he avoided the most important issue, which is we need a big deficit now, and we will take care of the balancing the budget down the road, and maybe even way down the road. As I have said before, we need a smart deficit now.
MADRICK: We are going to get a dumb deficit. We are going to get a dumb deficit through tax cuts that are not focused on job creation, not focused on public investment and won't get into the economy quickly enough. We could have a smart deficit. And he avoided that subject, and he tends to avoid trying to educate the people about basic economics. He does not want to go there.
SPITZER: Yeah, he -- can I just pick up on -- you just said something so important. This president has had the opportunity to explain economics to the public, and instead, by deferring, he has let the Republicans with their simplistic mantras that are gibberish. But their simplistic mantras have taken hold and taken root, and we're playing defense, not offense. And that has been a critical political mistake.
OLBERMANN: And the simplest explanation of the economy, which was said to me many years ago for trying to dumb it down for somebody who once froze as a senior in high school when the math got too complicated and started to look at the board sideways to see if it made more sense that way is this. There are three units in an economy that can spend money and keep pushing the money through the machine that we are both served by and protected by and trapped by called this economy. The three units are the government can spend, people, the consumers can spend, or the businesses can spend. If the businesses are not spending and the people don't have the money to spend, by process of elimination, it requires the government to spend. That oversimplification -- would that be enough for him to have said, simply that?
MADRICK: That is not oversimplification. That is precisely true. People cannot spend because they are so indebted. Businesses aren't spending because people aren't buying products. We hear all this talk that business isn't spending because of uncertainty about regulations and what the government -- The uncertainty is, is the economy coming back? They don't want to spend and hire until they get a little -- a sense of confidence about that. If they don't spend and the government doesn't make up that gap, we really go down the chute. And when I hear all the complaints about the Obama stimulus and how it didn't create jobs, where is the president talking about? The Obama stimulus did create jobs and prevent our unemployment rate from going to 12 percent perhaps. We need more. We need him to be able to talk more. And the flaw in the speech is that. And I think Eliot hit it on the nose. He does not want to tell the American people about this deficit. And I think he has refused to try to become the education president in these terms.
SPITZER: Keith, I wish he had educated the public. You just got it exactly right. "C" plus "I" plus "G" equals GDP. There is a little thing. Exports minus imports. Consumers, investment, government. If one of the three of them is not spending, GDP goes down. Business is not investing. Consumers don't have any money left because we are in debt, our houses aren't going up in value, we are not being paid more, there are too many unemployed, and we have too much on our credit cards. Government is the only place that can do it. We have got to do it. Can I do a simple piece of math?
SPITZER: $100 billion.
SPITZER: We're spending $400. If he had have taken $100 billion, divide that by 20,000. How much do you want to pay people, 20,000 bucks, give 'em a good job. Not a great job, but give them something. You could create 5 million jobs. If he took $100 billion and said, "We are going to hire 5 million people, Jeff Immelt, you figure out where to send them so they are doing something productive. Don't put them inside a bureaucracy. Give them to G.E., to General Motors, the best -- to Apple, to Microsoft. I don't care. Get them to work. Don't do it with this parsimonious, little bit of dribbling it out here and there. Make it real, make it big, and then he would have been like F.D.R.
OLBERMANN: The argument being, I suppose, to not do that, is that the more details you put out in this speech, the more individual things you give the Republicans to attack as, "Look, he is spending $100 billion." Is that why you would hold back? Or what is it? Because certainly -- we are agreed on this -- the tone of this speech was, to the point, excellent and had the sufficient amount of anger and urgency with the sense of conveyance of urgency and the passing forward of that urgency to the Republicans, saying, "You damn well better do something about this, and do it now," as he said it 16 times. Why would you hold back on details like that?
SPITZER: Because there has been a divide with this president since the beginning between the power of the rhetoric and the underlying substance. The rhetoric is great, but if you think about it, he says -- there is a line in here, "we don't need to pull back on environmental standards and expose our kids to toxins and mercury," the whole bit. Just three days ago, we did just that. In other words, the disconnect between his beautiful rhetoric and the substance of what he does is what, at the end of the day, is causing people to get upset.
MADRICK: Let me just say this -- that "deficit" word is a trigger word in his mind.
MADRICK: It's a trigger word in the nation, and it has been a trigger word historically. In many respects, we are fighting exactly the same battles today that we fought in the early 1930s. But he is not fully fighting them. Despite the anger and rhetorical, really excellence of the speech in many respects.
OLBERMANN: Do we need to repackage that word in some way and make it called "future money" or "investment"?
SPITZER: Look, there is not a business -- you know, here is the great irony. All of the private equity firms, the Steve Schwarzmans. You know, you go to G.E.'s balance sheet --
OLBERMANN: All the people who were in Michelle Obama's area there.
SPITZER: That's right. See how much debt they carry on their balance sheet. They're leveraged. Somehow, when they borrow, it's an investment for the future, and they get to take the rewards and then go with the bankruptcy and we bail them out. It's crazy.
MADRICK: One of the European leaders -- and they are as bad or worse than we are in the current circumstance -- one of them said, "you can't reduce your debt by adding more debt." Every company borrows more to invest to make themselves a bigger company, to make themselves a more profitable company. We can do that in America. And you know what? Our interest rates are remarkably low. It's almost impossible for us to make a good rate of return on an infrastructure investment when you're paying 1 percent or 2 percent a year on your money. What an opportunity.
OLBERMANN: As anybody with any small amount, up to $10,000 in cash, is told, when, you know, when there are low interest rates, take that money and go get yourself more money based on that money, because you are paying less than the cost of increase of the economy.
SPITZER: The federal government should be borrowing as much as it can at these rates to invest. There is the litany. And the president referred to it briefly in the speech, the sequence of investments that government has made. I read an article earlier today -- the railroads, the universities, agriculture, aircraft, the Internet. All these things that are the backbone of our economy these days, the government really did pay for them, lead to them. We should be borrowing now to do that, not just repairing the schools. There was not grandeur to what he set out as our objective, and that is, ultimately, the problem.
MADRICK: But he did -- you know, there were a set of paragraphs here that were very nice, talking about how government builds America.
OLBERMANN: Right. The transcontinental railroad, for instance.
MADRICK: All of that. And lots of stuff that's forgotten. The primary education system. In 1850, we had the best primary -- in 1850 -- the best primary education system in the world. On and on. The sanitation systems that made New York City possible. But he did start talking about that. He did start saying, "you know, I know a lot of you just want to do away with government, we'll all be fine. It's not going to work." He has to come through, though, on the details, and he has to be willing to fight the fight.
OLBERMANN: Let me play one clip for our friends in the truck. It's number two of the sequence, about what he wants to do with small businesses, and see if you can interpret what this actually, practically means. Here is the president.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise worker's wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees, if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012. It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. 50 house Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that's in this plan. You should pass this right away.
OLBERMANN: All right, those are the highlights of the speech also included in this idea about small business, the 50 percent payroll tax cut on small businesses. Jeff Madrick, what does it -- deconstruct it. What does it mean?
MADRICK: It's a little hard for me to deconstruct some of those details, because they seem new. This idea that you get a tax credit if you raise wages, I would love to see the actual details of that. That may be a little bit where this jump in the estimate from $300 billion to $450 billion comes from. They may have added some of that recently. I think some of that will help. We have to keep in mind, though, that corporate profits are way up. Profits -- this is for smaller business, but nevertheless, profits are pretty good. It's spending by consumers, demand for those goods and services that are not up. And that's what we've got to move. And we learned that in the Great Depression, and we are willingly and willfully unlearning that again in this period.
SPITZER: I think Jeff got it exactly right. This is a good thing for your small business owner. It means your profits are going to go up by that delta, 50,000, 80,000, whatever it is. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to use it to hire somebody or not? Are you going to put it in the bank? Because unless there is demand for the widget that you're building -- a shirt, a house, or whatever else it may be -- you're not going to invest. It's a demand crisis.
OLBERMANN: One area in which we all agree the economy is exceptionally strong -- perhaps as it has never been -- is cash on hand in corporations.
SPITZER: 2.5 trillion bucks now.
OLBERMANN: It's all sitting there. This would allow more of it to sit there unless you put that spur into it. You can keep that money rather than paying it to us, but it's got to go somewhere into the economy. And that wasn't included in this.
SPITZER: Which is why $100 billion to create 5 million jobs at $20,000 per person, maybe that creates the demand for food, for shirts, for X, whatever it may be.
OLBERMANN: $40,000, cut it to 2.5 million, 2.5 million jobs. I am going to interrupt you, gentlemen, because as we promised before the speech, we would be joined by representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the co-chair of the Congressional progressive caucus, and he is in the Capitol with us now. Congressman, thank you for your time tonight.
RAUL GRIJALVA: Thank you, Keith. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Give me your initial read on that speech. Obviously, it was a fiery one and reminiscent of the president during the campaign. What did you think in terms of the substance, the urgency, the tone?
GRIJALVA: The tone, I believe, was excellent. He made the case for government reengaging with the American people, the federal government reengaging and becoming a partner in getting us through this crisis. The American people have felt abandoned. They have felt that their needs and the crisis that they are going through was of no concern here. And the case for the government to reengage, I think, is an important one. So that, to me, the tone was good. The urgency is something that many people have been preaching, that this crisis is not something that's going to disappear, that it must be dealt with, and so the tone of urgency, I think, was very important and very necessary.
The specifics to it, you know, there is concern that this doesn't go far enough. And progressive caucus will be rolling out pieces of legislation to enhance and increase the role of the government in the creation of jobs. It will -- it will continue to roll out protections for Medicare and Medicaid. We are concerned that it's being put back on the table. But I think overall, overall, the role of government to be engaged and part of the problem-solving process for the American people was an important tone. We will debate the specifics. We will get into those details, but it's about time we took it to the American people, let them weigh in on this issue, and I think that is a good first step. It could be stronger, but it is a first step that, hopefully, Congress will help strengthen and, certainly, our effort will be to strengthen that first step.
OLBERMANN: The president 16 times, Congressman, said, either "pass this jobs bill and" fill in the blank, or "you should pass this bill right away." The American Jobs Act had a lot in it that was, as the president said, originating from Republican proposals, conservative proposals, a lot of tax breaks, a lot of things for small businesses in particular. Do you think there is a chance that this gets past Republican obstructionism, which has been, of course, the bane to all economic improvement in this country, certainly since the first stimulus?
GRIJALVA: Like I said, our effort on our side of the aisle will be to strengthen this first step that the president has taken. There is enough sugar in there for the Republicans to -- many of their proposals are incorporated to the distress of some of us. So the excuses for not acting, the excuses for not trying to reach a middle ground are going to be pretty weak. The ball is in their court. I think the president is going to take it out to the country. We intend to do the same in the strengthening process for this. So I don't know where the Republicans are going to go. They could continue to be obstructionists, but the American people who have been asking us, get engaged in this fight. Now that we are engaged, the president is in the White House, it leaves -- the Republicans cannot sit on the sidelines, and they can't be the obstructionists that they've been. I don't think it will be tolerated.
OLBERMANN: There were four particular areas that the president was fairly specific about in terms of, at least in terms of goals and figures and what needed to be done. He talked about improved job prospects for veterans. He talked about improves prospects for the middle class, especially the unemployed, people who are still clinging somehow into their positions in the middle class. He talked about small businesses, and he talked about infrastructure, particularly as it relates to improving schools and the idea that we should not be behind, say, South Korea in terms of investment, both in the infrastructure of schools and also teachers and such. Is there a way to use those four components, since they were the specifics of this speech, and box the Republicans in, in terms of debate? Is there a way to say, "you are either for this -- if you are not for this, you are against schools, the middle class and veterans"?
GRIJALVA: Absolutely. The proposals that are in front of you, those are the cornerstone proposals the president talked about -- re-employing teachers, rebuilding our infrastructure. All of those are critical. And the American people have talked about that over and over again. So now, if you cannot support an effort to put Americans back to work, to fix our infrastructure, to better our schools, then you're on the wrong side of the angels. And I think, politically, that's where we need to go. We need to push them and corner them on those issues, because they are the cornerstone -- of any recovery plan, those are going to be the cornerstones.
OLBERMANN: We already know, Congressman, that there is no formal Republican response tonight. Speaker Boehner said nobody wants to hear another response about this because there is a football game on. Michele Bachmann is holding a news conference, perhaps the worst-timed one in American history, at 8:30 tonight. And even the Republicans have savaged her for doing that on the premise of "we need another speech about this?" Is there -- what happens next in this processes? Do you think there will be a push by progressives and by Democrats in general to take up the American Jobs Act tomorrow? Is it going to go into committee tomorrow? Are the Republicans going to fight against it tomorrow? What happens tomorrow?
GRIJALVA: I think the urgency plea from the president, we heard it. I think our leadership is prepared to be urgent and to demand of the chairs of the respective committees that they hear this and move forward with it. And it's like I said earlier to you, Keith, the ball is in their hands. Obstructionism, delays, not being able to respond to this challenge by the president says a lot.
OLBERMANN: So for your part in this -- and after which we will let you go with our great thanks, Congressman -- yesterday, there was --
GRIJALVA: You are welcome.
OLBERMANN: There was a little friction, it seemed like there was between the White House and your caucus, because you wanted to, I think, with appropriate desire, to meet with the president to discuss the caucus's point of view going into this speech. The meeting didn't happen. The argument was, well, he is not going meet with the Republicans. He is not going to meet with the progressives. He is just going to go out there, and for a complete change in his status and the way he normally handles these things, he's going to propose first and then you guys can talk to him about it. Are you now satisfied that there was not a meeting before this speech?
GRIJALVA: No, and I think as we go forward -- and as he said, "I am going to take it to every corner of the country" -- progressives in Congress who have been taking this, the black caucus has been taking this to every corner of the country. We can be very effective partners and very effective allies. We want to strengthen this plan. That is going to continue to be our plea. And we can talk to the base, we can rally the base, and we hope that the White House joins us as partners and includes us in the process. Because I think we can be valuable, valuable allies as we go forward.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As always, sir, great thanks for your time. Always a pleasure.
GRIJALVA: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: I'm going to get some reaction now from "Countdown" contributor Markos Moulitsas, who is in San Francisco for us. Of course, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos. Good evening, Markos.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What did you think?
MOULITSAS: Well, obviously, I would have liked him to come out with a much stronger, bigger proposal.
MOULITSAS: I wasn't crazy about the fact that he is validating Republican arguments that less regulation and less taxation somehow leads to more -- to a better economy. I mean, I don't think businesses are not hiring because they are angling for the $4,000 tax credit. They are not hiring because there is no consumer demand. And if you look at the list of proposals, there is very little there, I think, that would increase consumer demand -- very little that addresses the housing problem, which is one of the major factors, and very little that is new. I mean, we're talking about extension of the unemployment benefits. We are talking about trying to keep teachers employed. That's great. We need to do that. But those things sort of -- they keep the status quo. They don't prevent -- they don't create the economy, they don't create new jobs, and ultimately, you know, you start in the middle, right? Again, he doesn't negotiate from a position of strength. He negotiates from what he thinks is reasonable, assuming that Republicans are going to be reasonable.
OLBERMANN: Do you think, though, that reasonability -- if that's even a word. I think I just made that one up. If the reasonableness can -- it was to some degree forced upon Republicans by the way the president constructed this speech? As I just said to Congressman Grijalva, the four principals seem to be benefits for small businesses, veterans, schools and the middle class. It's -- even for Republicans, and you can see John Boehner, who looked behind the president as if the corporations that bankroll him were holding his family hostage during this speech. You can see his level of discomfort. And other Republicans throughout the house chamber, they seemed very uncomfortable about this, but how, if you're a Republican, even the neanderthal Republicans of 2011, how do you fight back against these admittedly modest proposals, maybe just slight improvements on status quo, but certainly movements in the right direction, however small, when they are centered on small businesses, vets, schools and the middle class?
MOULITSAS: Yeah, the White House strategy appears to be to either force Republicans to agree to a "job creation" plan, or to make them pay a political price. Either way, I think the White House actually wins leading into 2012. So, it's a political gambit. It's not actually a bad one, as one that actually increases the economy, that's -- you know, I think that's less of a success there. And ultimately, from my perspective as a Democratic activist, as a progressive activist, I'm now concerned about that deficit reduction committee even more than I was before, because now, it's tasked, quoting the president, with finding even more things to slash and cut in this era of austerity.
OLBERMANN: We haven't talked about what Eric Cantor said last night and what kind of option that might have presented at full length when he suggested that the Republicans had intended to be, for this year, about cut and grow. And yet, they'd focused only for eight months on cut and now, suddenly, they're interested in growing. We mentioned that briefly discussing this last night. I'm just wondering, do you think the president took enough of an opportunity that that provided him in terms of how -- did they -- in other words, when we heard that number go up from $200 billion -- this is worth $250, maybe it's $300 billion, last night, it was "Oh, it might be, might be $400 billion." And the final number from the Associated Press and CNBC, and CNN, and all of the other news organizations was $450 billion. Did somebody at the White House say, "Oh, we can raise this up a little bit more to maybe a quarter of what we need"?
MOULITSAS: Yeah. That could be happening. I just got a text from one of my writers saying that Boehner just said that Obama's proposals "merit consideration." So, it sounds like Republicans are more in a mood. And, part of it, I suspect, they went home, they got an earful from constituents. They're realizing that the polling looks terrible for them, not just for the republicans in general -- all incumbents. I mean, right now, the public wants to kick out their incumbents at a level that has never seen before -- 50%. So, they are feeling the heat, they are feeling that -- they're realizing that the "no, no, no" strategy was fantastic when they were in the minority. It's a little difficult to keep that up when you are supposed to actually do things in a majority.
OLBERMANN: There was -- giving reaction, Mr. Boehner's reaction, I don't -- you know I don't like to quote Bill O'Reilly or anybody like that. Bill O'Reilly called this pretty much a charade where upon Lou Dobbs, in the same broadcast, said it was the best speech of Obama's presidency. So, there's your -- the one thing I would say, I don't know that everybody is picking up on, I again, I don't know how if you are a Republican you come out and slam this speech, which is after all, the president's -- the Republicans' modus operandi for the last two years is to make the president look like he has no business being there and no reason, and he just shouldn't even get an I.D. to get in the White House.
MOULITSAS: Yeah, but the problem is that the White House has continuously and repeatedly used Republican ideas in that sort of fruitless hope for republican acceptance and approval and cooperation. I mean, the individual mandate on -- it was a Heritage Foundation major idea. The second that Obama adopted it, they scrubbed their website, because the second Obama adopts any idea that is a Republican idea, suddenly it is no longer good. So I'm not sure how that's going change. I suspect Republicans, now, if they're going to negotiate, it's not going to be because they suddenly feel a realization their ideas are being implemented by a Democratic president. It is because they're feeling some electoral heat, and that's probably more motivation than anything else that we can throw at them.
OLBERMANN: All right, let me give you one last question, and then we'll let you go with our thanks for tonight. The politics of this -- and much has been made obviously in the last 6, 8, 12 months about the president's position within the progressive movement within his own base. What did he do to that tonight? Did he move it a little forward bit forward, status quo? Where does it stand after tonight?
MOULITSAS: You know, I guess that remains to be seen. I have a hard time talking for other people, because -- but I can speak for myself .
OLBERMANN: Yeah, all right. You have a pretty good finger on the pulse, as they say.
MOULITSAS: There's going to be a lot of trepidation about that Super Congress coming up. Because what Obama basically said is, you know, to keep this essentially status quo piece of legislation that'll fix, you know, broken down schools and keep teachers employed and whatnot, we're going to have to squeeze out even more cuts out of that super committee. You know, already, we were worried about that super committee. We know Republicans are gunning for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, other Democratic priorities. So, now that they're tasked with cutting even maybe a trillion more dollars, at least half a trillion more dollars, that just increases the pressure on that committee to find things to cut. And right now, as, you know, your other guests have noted, this is not a time to be cutting, this is a time to be actually investing in the future just like any other company does when they borrow money. So, that's what we should be focusing on. Instead we are talking about more cuts. So I'm a little worried, as opposed to being elated or relieved or anything else. So it's not exactly a very positive reaction unfortunately.
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, if you give something to a future committee in Washington, you may never hear from the committee or the city ever again.
MOULITSAS: All right, let's hope so.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, let's hope so. Markos Moulitsas, of Daily Kos and "Countdown." As always, great thanks, sir.
MOULITSAS: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Eliot Spitzer's ears perked up at one point in that interview. You wanted to say something about that one point in there.
SPITZER: I did, because I have a slightly more cynical take on the politics of this. I think the Republicans are saying, "Let's give the president the tax cuts. It's not going to work. You know, this is old wine in new bottles. Six months from now, we can say look, the president has had four years. He has failed. Give us our chance." You know, the argument against Obama is not going to be that you don't like him, he isn't a good guy, he doesn't give good speeches. It's that he failed. And so, rather than say, "We didn't pass his proposals," and, therefore, let Obama say, "Had they passed it, it would have worked." They're saying let him do these things, it's around the margins. They know it's not going to turn around the job market, and six months from now they're going to say, "See, we even let him take his shot. Now, let us put our agenda in place." And their radical agenda becomes the centerpiece.
OLBERMANN: So you have nice guys -- nice-guy Republicans for the time being, Jeff Madrick, while you let the president drive a car that needs a full tank of gas, and you've just given him a teaspoon?
MADRICK: Well, yeah. I think Republicans like tax cuts, and they have to start admitting it. I think there are two issues here. We don't yet know what's behind curtain three. We don't know how -- he promised to tell us how he's allegedly going to pay for this and when. When is a very important issue. And how does this -- how does this mix with the Super Congress? How do we negotiate that? I'm dying to hear the details of that. But the other thing is this, $400-$450 billion is a big stimulus program. The problem is, and I think as you and Elliot have alluded to, the problem is how much pop do we get for that $450 billion stimulus? How much pop do we get for tax cuts and tax credits? My big gripe with the Republicans is they want to give tax cuts, and we don't get a pop. We gets lot of privilege, lots of cash in the bank for people who don't need any more cash, and don't want to spend it. The pop has to be investment. It has to be make-work programs. What is government for but to make jobs?
MADRICK: Well, I get a little tired of hearing only business makes jobs. When government educates somebody, they make a job. When they build a nice road, they make a job. When they sanitize, and keep clean, and reduce disease, they make jobs. Let's get this very clear.
OLBERMANN: And build a road, and you can also, then somebody else can drive to another job on the road.
OLBERMANN: Or take the railroad to the road, or use the electricity from the Hoover Dam for the road. We can go into that in extent in the rest of the hour. I want to take a quick break here, because we're going to come back in a moment with the esteemed senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders.
OLBERMANN: Continuing with reaction to the president's jobs speech tonight, the proposal of the American Jobs Act, and other measures to be determined. Let's go back to Washington, where Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats, has been good enough to stand by us. Senator, good evening.
BERNIE SANDERS: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president said 16 times, "You should pass this bill right away," or "Pass this jobs bill and --." Do you suppose there's any chance of it actually being passed by the House?
SANDERS: Well, we should pass a jobs bill. But, what we have got to do is pass something that is significant, that is going to put many millions of people back to work, and we have got to do it as soon as possible. I think there are a lot of themes that the president talked about that are exactly right -- rebuilding our infrastructure, making sure that we rehire teachers, taking care of our veterans so that they get jobs, summer programs for kids. That is all exactly right, but the bottom line is at the end of the day, is what the president is talking about, is it big enough, is it going to have a real impact, given the fact that we have 25 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed today.
OLBERMANN: You use the word significant. Is it significant enough? I ask you that very question. Is it significant enough?
SANDERS: I think probably not. Give you one example, Keith. I mean, when you have 16 percent of our people unemployed, when the American Society of Civil Engineers tells us we need to spend over $2 trillion in the next five years to start rebuilding our infrastructure, I think what the president is talking about is a very, very, small part of what we need to do. Furthermore, and I think I'm going to be in a minority on this one. You know, when the president says, "Hey, Keith, the good news. Your taxes are being cut. You're going to get another $1,000-$1,500 next year. Good news, right?" Do you know where that money is coming from? That money is coming from the payroll tax. That is money that otherwise would have gone into the Social Security trust fund. And I've got a problem, I have a real problem when Social Security is under the kinds of attacks that we're seeing right now. Do you really want to divert tens and tens of billions of dollars away from the Social Security trust fund? I have a real problem with that.
OLBERMANN: We talked two weeks ago about your proposal to increase, or to apply those taxes to payrolls above -- a figure slightly above --
OLBERMANN: And, it seems like that's being drawn into reverse. It seems like the subject of regulations was being thrown into reverse, that there was -- the president was still playing inside Republican defined goal posts.
SANDERS: I think that's right. I think if you -- above and beyond the fact that I'm not enthusiastic about diverting tens of billions away from the Social Security trust fund. As I understand it, about two-thirds of his proposal is based on tax breaks. I think you got a lot better bang for your buck, you create a lot more jobs when you're talking about investing in roads, bridges, rail, when you are investing in education. I think that's how you create the jobs -- energy transformation, rebuilding and retransforming our energy system is the way you create jobs. When two-thirds, two out of every three dollars in this program is for tax breaks, you know, I think we can do better than that.
OLBERMANN: Let me play you something from, to this exact point, from the president in this speech tonight that referred to tax breaks for the more well-off. Let's not stigmatize the rich by calling them the rich. Let me play you this, and see if that fits into your assessment of not enough or sufficient. Here's the clip.
(Excerpt from video clip)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm also well aware that there are many Republicans who donít believe that we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here's what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than a secretary. An outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share.
OLBERMANN: So, Senator Sanders, apparently we have taken care of Mr. Buffet's problem, where we're going to get him back up to the regular tax scale, and help out his secretary. But, was there anything in there that suggests that there's actually going to be a modification in the tax code so that those of us who have a lot of money are paying a little bit more, and those who do not are paying a lot less.
SANDERS: What the president said, Keith, is absolutely right. The rich are getting richer. Their effective tax rate is the lowest that it's been in decades. There are loopholes, such that corporations are stashing their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. We're losing $100 billion a year. Oil companies making billions, paying nothing in taxes. The president is absolutely right to raise that issue. He's got to tale it to the American people and he's got to put the republicans on the defensive. I prefer -- that is the way I think we should be raising revenue in this country, in addition to cutting military spending. So I support the president's position on that and I hope he fights vigorously for it.
OLBERMANN: If any of this gets any traction and he gets any of this out of a Republican-controlled House, even if he has to compromise it down, do you suppose that would be instructive to this president and that he will then come back to you and to the House in a couple of months with another speech of this nature, suggesting even more small "P" progressive measures to try to attend to this jobs problem?
SANDERS: Keith, the irony is, you know, you and I may call some of these ideas progressive. They are supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people. Every poll out there says, do away with corporate tax loopholes. Ask the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes. Rebuild the infrastructure. Make sure we have a strong education system. I think when the president talks that language, he is talking for the vast majority of the American people. It is good public policy. It's good politics. The job now is to rally the American people for something that is strong. We are in a horrendous economic moment. We need to create millions and millions of good-paying jobs and we've got to do it immediately.
OLBERMANN: All right. Last question, Senator. What happens tomorrow in Washington in response to this bill proposal?
SANDERS: Well, I think it's going to start going to the committees. There'll be some debates. Some of us will try to expand on his ideas. Some of us will try to make sure that we create more jobs and come up with a larger proposal than the president was talking about. And some of us are waiting, for example, some of the details. We don't know exactly what he's talking about, in terms of tax reform. But I think the urgency is there. This is what the American people want and we've got to go out and deliver a strong, strong jobs program to save the middle class of this country.
OLBERMANN: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who's always so generous with his time with this program. As always, great thanks, sir. Have a good night.
SANDERS: Thanks very much.
OLBERMANN: Much interest in this. Is there, as I just suggested to the Senator -- is there something, in terms of people's reaction to this, never mind yours or mine or Eliot Spitzer's or Jeff Madrick's or the senator's or Congressman Grijalva or Congressman Ellison, who we're supposed to hear from before the top of the hour -- anybody else. What's the reaction from the president to this? How will he react if this thing actually moves in any kind of direction, positively, in the days and weeks to come. We're going to talk about that with Ryan Grim, The Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post, when our coverage of the president's speech continues here on Current right after this.
OLBERMANN: As promised, as we continue in the wake of the president's job speech, I'm joined by Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post, obviously in Washington. Ryan, thanks again for staying with us.
RYAN GRIM: Oh, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: All right, let's discuss this -- this -- this speech in terms of the president's reaction to his own speech. What happens now if this thing gets any -- moves the ball forward three yards? I know it needs to 100 but if it moves the ball three yards, what happens, in terms of the president's perception of his presidency and his approach to the jobs issue?
GRIM: Right, well, this could wind up being a real political education for this president. You know, for the last three years, he's kind of had two different moves. He's had the cave and the big speech. And this is kind of a new move. It's a big speech combined with confronting the other party. He, regardless of the substance of the speech today, what you notice and what everybody's been talking about is the tone of the speech. It was much more aggressive than the Professor Obama that we're so used to hearing and so tired of hearing the last couple years. So, if Obama manages to get re-elected after this speech, and that's a big "if" because of this economy, but if he does, a lot of people, and he particularly, will be able to look back at this night as the moment that things turned around. And if that's the case, then he'll start taking a more aggressive approach because it paid off for him. You know, he is a politician, just like other politicians, and they want to win, so if they sense something winning, they're likely to continue it, so that might be the rosiest glasses that you could look at this -- that you could look at this speech through.
OLBERMANN: But let me quote somebody who spoke tonight who said, "But know this, the next election is 14 months away and the people who sent us here, the people who hired us to work for them, they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day." Politically, obviously, a president lives day to day too. Something will show up relative to this in the opinion polls. Is there not a chance that his approach might be affected sooner than 14 months from now?
GRIM: Oh, absolutely. You make a very good point. Just the fact that Boehner came out tonight and said that this merits consideration -- was the phrase. That, you know, that in Washington nowadays counts as a stunning statement from the speaker of the House
OLBERMANN: That's another Nobel Prize.
GRIM: It really is. I mean, the entire White House must've done a double take when that statement came in. "Merits consideration"? And so, all of the people that have been saying, "We need to jam these republicans up. We need to push them harder," are now getting a little bit of wind in their sails.
GRIM: And so you're right. It won't take until 14 months, you know, if this makes a little bit of momentum and if he moves off of his, like, 39%-40% approval rating, which he has to. He has nowhere to go but up. Then he's gonna be able to take -- you know, to credit this speech as the reason for that. And then, maybe there'll be more of that in the future and the country can only benefit from that.
OLBERMANN: But what was behind, do you think, Boehner's statement tonight? Because I've been speculating for 24 hours now that I thought the most underreported story of the last couple of weeks were these comments that Eric Cantor made yesterday about how they were cut and grow or they were supposed to be, the Republicans were, and then, suddenly, they realized that for the last eight months, they've only been cut, and now they have to pay attention to grow, and there's ways to work with the president, which sounded like they had gotten the worst research numbers, the worst focus group details, the worst internal polling possible. Something that said, you know, "Your position in the House, Republicans, is down to 3 percent approval." Have they been scared into that position? Certainly, Boehner could not have assessed this on merit. That's not what he's there for.
GRIM: Right. Well, clearly and what you've heard from a lot of Republicans is that these are a lot of ideas that we've heard before. And, in fairness, we have heard a lot of these ideas before. So you're right. It's not on the merits. Clearly something is different. And that something is, I think you're right. They've seen the poll numbers. They came back from an August where a lot of constituents were coming to their town halls and demanding this type of action. And they're responding. So, you know, our democracy is largely bought and paid for but it still does respond at the margins to, you know, outrage, and there is a lot of outrage. The country really is in the tank. And people were, you know -- people made that clear to Republicans through their pollsters and through their town halls over August. So that's why, I think, you're seeing Boehner be a little bit more receptive to this.
OLBERMANN: Ryan, there were several things in there that made progressives certainly blanch. Markos Moulitsas mentioned turning more of the future, in terms of budgeting, to this nefarious and certainly nebulous, if not yet nefarious, debt committee, to expand its purview as to how much it might cut out of budgets yet to come, in years yet to come. Also, the subject of the possibility of streamlining elements of Medicaid that the president mentioned. And obviously he bought a little bit into the idea that he said there at least 500 reforms that could be found, in terms of regulation. Are there little booby traps in here that would make his Democratic base or even the Democrats in the Senate and the House, who will have to carry this water for him, a little hinky?
GRIM: Yeah, there sure are and a lot of it doesn't make any sense. I mean, why did Obama have to throw in a line saying that we need to cut Medicare? He didn't use the phrase "cut Medicare" -- trim -- you know, I forget exactly how he phrased it but his meaning was very clear. He said, you know, we have to cut back on Medicare. If this is -- if you think of this as the first speech in his presidential campaign, why would he start by talking about cutting Medicare? I mean, they already have the Republicans on the run because of Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. You know, they already took a shellacking in 2010, largely because seniors were furious about the Medicare cuts. A lot of them were valid in health care reform but they were furious about those cuts. Why would he want to step back into that? You know, so it's little -- it's little things like that and, you know, why did he have to go back to the line about "we can't afford to do certain things." We are an extraordinarily rich country. We're the richest country on the planet. We can afford to do whatever we need to do to get out of this recession. It's what we choose to do. And for him to repeat the Republican line that we can't afford things just feeds back into it. So, to me, you know, if you're going to go all in, go all in. You know, why put a few of their arguments in there with it? I don't have decent rationale for that.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, the exact quote, "If we don't gradually reform the system, while protecting current beneficiaries, it won't be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it." And we'll see whether or not that was --
GRIM: Yeah. Everybody knows what that means.
OLBERMANN: That's right. Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of Huffington Post. Always of great service to us, particularly so tonight. Thank you, sir.
GRIM: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Let's continues in the studio with economist, Jeff Madrick and the former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. Let me ask you about that, in particular. Last night, Rick Perry, during the Republican debate, shot his Texas shoot-'em-up six gun into his boot by coming out in front of a largely sympathetic to the elderly audience of Republicans and talked about the Social Security ponzi scheme and just hitting these number -- these things in pure scare tactics. This would seem to have really cost, not just Perry but the GOP, any credibility they had on this topic. Why would the president go in and say, "Yes, we have to go over here to Medicare," and, as he said, "Gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries"? It seems like -- what was that -- why was that still in the speech?
SPITZER: Well, first in terms of last night, if ever there was an event that showed Rick Perry to be all hat and no cattle, it was last night. I mean this guy just can't think straight about serious issues. Put that aside. I agree with you. The president should not be embracing but this goes to the heart of the problem with him. He embraces their framework for dealing with issues and then changes it around the margins and they still won't give it to him. This speech he just gave -- I think Jeff used the number and I think it's right, two-thirds of it is tax cuts. Now, but -- this is not -- it's not going to give us the bang for the buck that we need. So that, in my view, is why Boehner is saying, "Yeah, we'll think about this." It is extending tax cuts and praying that they have a much greater impact now than they have had over the past two or three years. I don't think it is going to work. But Boehner looks at this and says, "Hey, you're becoming a Republican. Strip away some of the rhetoric. You're becoming a Republican, in terms of your stimulus."
OLBERMANN: And Jeff, that's one of the unfortunate takeaways of this, and it's a continuance of everything else he's done economically, which is, as I said earlier, he is playing between two Republican goalposts.
MADRICK: Right. I think that's what Republicans are now thinking. I think Boehner may come out and say, 'Hey, we agree with some of this. He adopted our ideas, essentially, philosophically. Philosophically now, he moved to our camp." But there is a booby trap and I think you used the right word. The booby trap is they're going to say, "But now, you have to tell us how you are going to pay for this."
MADRICK: And that, he avoided all together. And the hints are reform Medicare and do -- and, you know, you may not have Social Security down the road. Which is an extreme --
MADRICK: I mean, that's an extreme statement for a Democrat. And that's what bothered me most about this speech.
MADRICK: We are going to have Social Security. Even if we do nothing about it. There's going to be two-thirds to three-quarters of payments down the road if we do nothing about it. I don't think we have to do a lot about it. But that's the booby trap. And he left that, what I call curtain three, for another day. And that might be their counterplay. "Hey, yeah, we love these tax credits. We love tax cuts. But now you're going to have to show us what you're going to cut on the spending side."
OLBERMANN: We will only support if you -- if Monty, if you show us what's behind door number three.
OLBERMANN: With Carol Stewart down --
MADRICK: Is Monty still around?
OLBERMANN: I believe so.
SPITZER: Can I raise another issue that was barely mentioned in the speech?
SPITZER: That's trade. It seems to me --
OLBERMANN: Louis Slaughter is happy tonight that that was included in there.
SPITZER: But not a whole lot and not enough. In other words, there was, I think, a critically important article written by a guy, Mike Spence, got the Nobel Prize in economics, conservative guy, who studied the past 20, 30 years of the U.S. economy and said that all the job growth was in what he calls the "non-tradable" sector. In the tradable sector, we've had zero job growth. Why? Because China is, in fact, playing games. I know the economists love to say comparative advantage, all this stuff -- the course you love to take in high school. But you know, the economists were wrong.
SPITZER: We have been paying for them through currency manipulation, theft of intellectual property, and I'm not becoming sort of a Luddite on this, but they're playing games and they're costing us tens of millions of jobs.
OLBERMANN: What was -- so there's a product they're willing to have distributed in China, provided we give them all the specs first?
OLBERMANN: -- an electronic product.
SPITZER: It was the technology for electric cars.
SPITZER: They want to take the technology in return for our right to sell it.
OLBERMANN: They'll sell the Volt for us, as long as we give them the schemes.
SPITZER: So they can then undercut it with cheaper labor and take the market away from us. The president hasn't come to grips with the fact that trade is really where we're being destroyed. Now, it's globalization. It's good at many levels.
SPITZER: But we are not playing on a level playing field. He danced around that tonight, and I think this is a critical issue.
OLBERMANN: Right, the Chinese will then be selling the "Dolt" after we give them the plans. We are going to take one more break. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota will join us as we continue our coverage in the wake of the President's speech after this.
OLBERMANN: As promised, once again we are joined from Washington by Congressman Keith Ellison, the Democrat of Minnesota. Great thanks, Representative. We appreciate your making it over, I understand under some adverse physical conditions tonight.
KEITH ELLISON: I'm a trooper.
OLBERMANN: We know that, sir. All right. The consensus an hour after the president ended his speech tonight was that, from all respects, it had the right level of anger, urgency, and, in terms of an actual approach to doing something about jobs, it was at least a great first step. Is that your assessment more or less?
ELLISON: Yes, it is. I think that the president has firmly placed jobs first on the national agenda. If the Republicans don't want to get with it, that shows that they're not about jobs first. I think they have amply demonstrated that already so far but this is in front of prime-time audience, where they sat stone-faced when the President was talking about getting Americans back to work. So I think, you know, the pressure is on them. And the president has definitely helped himself. Of course, there were some things in there that I found disturbing.
OLBERMANN: Mm hmm.
ELLISON: And I don't mind talking about those things tonight. But I will say this, in the main, I was pretty happy with the president's tone and his substance with a couple of things that we got to talk about.
OLBERMANN: All right. Well, let's get those out of the way immediately while the subject is fresh.
OLBERMANN: Senator Sanders -- there were a couple of things he didn't like in here. He's worried about taking money out of payroll taxes that continue to fund Social Security. There are a couple of other things that have been raised. What are your complains about that speech?
ELLISON: Well, again, I want to be clear that I was mostly happy with it. But let me just say that the things I was concerned about, number one, you know, this whole dialogue about Medicare and Social Security. I don't think it belongs in a jobs speech and talking about paying for the jobs package and somehow implicating Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. I just think it doesn't make any sense at all. I mean, you know, look, Paul Ryan handed us a present by attacking Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. Why would the president, when he is trying to pump up jobs just sort of like give a nod to Paul Ryan? I don't think that that's good strategy, and I don't think that's ultimately going to be successful. 52 million Americans get a Social Security check every two weeks, and many millions of Americans rely on Medicare. I don't think it's the right way to go. Now look, I'm not saying I am against any reform.
ELLISON: I'm all in favor of letting Medicare negotiate drug prices just like the V.A. does. That would be a reform. But I think he needs to get way more specific, and he shouldn't take a good message and then sort of throw some -- throw a wet blanket on it with that kind of talk about Medicare and Social Security. Then another thing I thought needs some real focus is this discussion about these trade bills. You know, I think that, you know, NAFTA has been a disaster. These FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea need much closer examination before I'm convinced that we're not just going to offshore more American jobs. I think we really need to dig into them. The case for these kind of bills has not come in yet. And if it has come in, it shows that they're not good for American jobs. So, you know, those two things, Social Security, Medicare, and the trade stuff, I wish -- I thought the speech could well have done without. But at the same time, you know, I definitely think that the president did a good job tonight, and I liked most of what I heard. Typically, the stuff about infrastructure.
ELLISON: Bank, investing in our nation's infrastructure. You know, I'm from Minneapolis. Four years ago, a bridge fell into the Mississippi, killed 13 Minnesotans --
OLBERMANN: Yes, sir.
ELLISON: And injured another hundred. You know, this is not just a matter of putting people back to work. It's a matter of safety.
ELLISON: You know, we got to invest in the nation's infrastructure.
OLBERMANN: Anybody who was even there with us on TV that night, I was sitting out the whole night that night, was there was no theory behind that when you see a bridge collapse in a major metropolitan area. Given what was put into this speech including the things that maybe you or I were not particularly happy about, we know the Republicans could oppose anything, including sunshine.
OLBERMANN: But how do you oppose a bill predicated on these four corners, breaks for small businesses, improved working conditions for vets, improved infrastructure, particularly for 35,000-some-odd schools that need -- that get new blackboards and new floors, by the way, and improved conditions for hastening jobs for those who have been unemployed the longest? How do the Republicans -- you're in there every day with these guys.
OLBERMANN: Are they staying up all night to find out some evil way to come back and combat this? Or how would you possibly combat something predicated on those principles and throws in a lot of the stuff the Republicans want anyway?
ELLISON: I think they got a real problem on their hands. I think the smartest thing for them to do is just put the American people up front like they should have been doing all along. I mean, when it comes to Republicans, if they ever do the right thing it's by force. They do the wrong thing by choice. Particularly with this president. And so, I'm hoping that they'll just do the right thing and support this bill since much of it is stuff that they've supported in the past. But I've got a feeling they are not wise enough to do that.
ELLISON: I've got a feeling that they are going to try to subvert and undermine because, there's -- for two reasons. One is I think they pin their election fortunes on President Obama's failure, and so they think anything they can do to obstruct him is going to somehow help them. But sadly the American people don't enter into the calculus. The other issue, however, is, look, high unemployment does not hurt some of their benefactors.
ELLISON: I mean, high unemployment gives some of their benefactors the chance to chase some unions. It gives some of their people to tell the people that are already on the job that if they complain about wages or working conditions that they may be out of work. I mean, sometimes high unemployment is good for some of these corporate folks who cared nothing about workers but care everything about just profits. So, I mean I think it's important that we really do face the fact, the ugly fact that not everybody wants to bring unemployment down. Some people want a big reserve labor pool.
ELLISON: And they want to be able to threaten labor unions and threaten workers that if they organize, they're going to be without a job. I just think it's an ugly fact that we haven't been able to face yet, but it's true.
OLBERMANN: So, the comments that Majority Leader Cantor made yesterday about how the Republicans had been trying to focus on cut and grow, in his terms, but, as he said, "The fact is for the last eight months, we've been about cuts, "implying they had failed in terms of grow, "And that is why it is imperative," he said, "that all of us join together, work with the president to see how we can grow this economy." Is it your assumption those are words that are just designed to make it seem as if they are being cooperative, and as I said to Jeff Madrick earlier, allowing the president to have a teaspoon of gas when the car needs to be fully re-tanked?
ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, I'm one of those guys who's optimistic. I say trust but verify. If they say they're all in, then get on in.
ELLISON: And let's get the bill passed. But you know what? I'm not going to pin all of my hopes and dreams on their cooperation because if history is any guide, you know, they've been missing in action so far. I mean, they've had the majority for over 250 days and haven't passed a single jobs bill. So, I mean, how do they account for that? I mean, so look, if Cantor has now turned over a new leaf, fine, but, you know, I'm not going to hold my nose while waiting on it.
OLBERMAN: Good. We're relieved on that point. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
ELLISON: Take care, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, take care. Thank you. Thank you very much Congressman. Have a good night.
ELLISON: Yes, sir.
OLBERMANN: We'll wrap this up about -- we'll go back to what the president e-mailed his people at 6:00, his supporters at 5:00 this afternoon, forgive me, eastern time, where he said the speech will be very nice and all that, but "it depends upon what you do next." We will wrap that up with former Governor Eliot Spitzer and economists Jeff Madrick when "Countdown's" coverage of the president's speech resumes and concludes after this.
OLBERMANN: The theme of the president's speech seemed to be, pass the bill now. I say this because of the following compilation that we have made for you. Let's play this.
(Audio from video clip) OBAMA: You should pass this jobs plan, right away. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. You should pass it, right away. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this bill right away. Pass this jobs plan. You should pass it.
OLBERMANN: What happens will be up to you, the president e-mailed his supporters at 5:00 this afternoon. "In the coming days and weeks, it will be up to you to pressure Congress to act or hold them accountable if they do not." Quick thoughts in our remaining 90 seconds. Eliot Spitzer, does it pass?
SPITZER: Yes, it does pass, and here's why, because the Republicans love it. It's an extension of any -- something that's already been there, tax cuts for businesses. It will not, unfortunately, generate the hiring we need. This is old wine in new bottles. I wish it would have had more pop than it's going to have, and as has been pointed out by Bernie Sanders and others, being financed by money coming out of Social Security and then there will be further cuts coming out of the Super Committee in other discretionary spending. The Republicans actually like it, Republican ideas in the speech.
OLBERMANN: So, Jeff Madrick, do we want it to pass then?
MADRICK: Well, I want something else to pass. I want some direct spending to pass. I think the Republicans may go with it, emphasis on the may and use it as leverage to get cuts in the social programs they think their constituencies want to cut, and I think that's very dangerous. The very fact that the president, we didn't quite get to this, kept saying, "I will talk about how to pay for this and I will tell you next week how well pay for this," we have to get the economy working, then worry about paying for this. This idea of having to pay for it right up front or very soon, is hobbling the American economy.
OLBERMANN: And the premise of what would happen to this economy if everybody stopped borrowing.
MADRICK: Yeah. We would be in for some trouble.
OLBERMANN: It would be equivalent -- would it not be equivalent to the Earth suddenly stopping the spinning on the axis? But even if we resumed a second layer, it's all over.
MADRICK: Something like that, and we went through -- we've gone through it before, in the '30s.
OLBERMANN: It has been a pleasure, gentlemen, your insights particularly have made this greatly worthwhile. I hope to the audience, and certainly to me. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer and Jeff Madrick, thank you kindly for being here with me.
SPITZER: Thank you.
MADRICK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: It's been a pleasure. And to all of our other guests tonight, and to you to for watching "Countdown's" coverage of the President's speech, good night.