tv Crossfire CNN December 16, 2013 3:30pm-4:01pm PST
second, it gets rid of those across-the-board budget cuts that were particularly damaging to the middle class. finally it lets us move on. let's start to do the work the american people expect of washington. how about addressing economic inequality? if it's important enough for the pope to highlight for the entire roman catholic church, it certainly should be important enough for washington to take action. instead of the same old ideological fights like big government versus no government, let's agree that the truth is somewhere in the middle and get something done. >> boy, i hate to -- >> i'm sure you don't have anything to say about that. >> i hate to shock our audience but i think a lot of what you just said is right. >> whoa! >> the biggest disappointment to me in this whole budget process, and paul ryan is a brilliant person, but this was really just addition, subtraction. no real creativity, no really interesting useful ideas, no breaking out.
and i think it's a disappointment. we have two really good guests tonight. cornell west, a philosophy professor and conservative columnist ross douthet, neither of whom is timid, shy or lacking opinions. i want to come first, cornell, to you. you've seen the deal. you understand the arguments both ways on this budget deal. tomorrow the democrats have to have every democrat vote yes, even though it doesn't have unemployment compensation extension, even though it doesn't do anything about inequality. if you were in the u.s. senate tomorrow, would you vote for this budget deal? >> i think i would begin with a speech that says this is scrooge without the spirit of christmas. it's too cold-hearted and mean-spirited. we need to have the unemployment benefits. and yet at the same time i think i would still vote for it. why? it's a moment of bipartisan
coming together. let's make real the words about inequality that barack obama put forward and the words of nelson mandela. nelson mandela, and let's look at big banks, look at big corporation, strengthen our progressive trade unions and make sure that we can stop this upward distribution of wealth to the 1% of 95% of the new income since 2009? >> in the obama economy. >> exactly, that's right. because the neoliberal regime cuts across both parties. >> i want to note for the record one of those rare histotoric moments. that we just had you say that you would actually sfroet something that is much too mild, much to meek, but you'd vote for the process. i think that's a very interesting position on your part. >> that's one reason i'm not a senator. if i was locked within those constraints, given the dysfunction
dysfunctionality, i would affirm the process. >> i think i would vote for it for the opposite reason. i think it's an acknowledgement from both parties there isn't going to be a process over the next few years because the political parties are too far apart on fundamental issues about the long-term structure of government. basically what you've had over the past few years, it hasn't been pretty but it's been a weird bipartisanship where we've had some tax increases on the rich, which is the easiest part of the democratic agenda to enact, and we've had some spending cuts and discretionary spending, which is the easiest thing to republicans to do. and everybody sort of realized to get any further democrats would have to raise taxes on the middle class, which the democratic party is not about to admit they want to do and republicans would have to pass cuts to medicare and social security, which i think to republicans' credit they're willing to admit they want to do but isn't going to happen with a democrat in the white house. so in a sense passing this now is a statement, okay, we're just going to do some small ball
deals and not going to pretend these big issues will be resolved in what is now a lame duck presidency. >> i disagree with you, ross. >> i'm shocked! >> i know you are. we've never disagreed before but this is a first. you know, i think that there are lots of tax loopholes out there that could be closed that could fund critical programs to growing the middle class, to close that income inequality gap. we could raise the minimum wage. one thing congress didn't do is pass unemployment benefits. 1.3 million people are going to lose benefits at the end of the year. it's estimated that that would cost the economy, everybody, up to 240,000 jobs. my question to you is this is all happening over the holidays, about to have christmas, people will be losing their benefits. we're going to see stories of increased hardship. will republicans join democrats in passing unemployment benefits when they return from the
holidays? >> my guess is yes. and i would make a distinction here between you're throwing a bunch of different ideas out here, right? i think there is a case, a decent case for continuing to extend unemployment benefits maybe with more job training requirements and other amendments as long as the unemployment rate is where it is. that's very different, though, from something like raising the minimum wage, which is basically something that effectively makes it harder for low-skilled americans to find work at a time when unemployment is still very, very high. so there's sort of plausible liberalism and then there's implausible but feel good liberalism and i think raising the middle wage is an example of the latter. >> i think back to the neoliberal regime that we're talking about. >> i can feel it all around me. >> we've had a bipartisan agreement on austerity. where was the creation of jobs with a living wage. where's the empowerment of workers. i was blessed to spend time at a
prison with my brothers for seven hours and you look at america through their lens and what do they see. no serious talk about poverty. >> i think you are seeing some serious talk about prison reform from republicans. from rand paul -- >> in newt -- newt's got a chapter on it that is actually i think quite challenging. and eric holder is beginning to talk. >> well, eric holder is adopting ideas that rick perry in texas adopted first. i think this is a case where once again the republican party is out ahead of the democratic party on addressing the issues you care about. >> let me ask you a question that ties together this whole challenge of prisons and unemployment compensation. it strikes me that there are large parts of america where we have got to find a way to have a totally new approach to job training, to education. i'm very impressed with the germans who are the most effective economy in europe. 40% of their population goes
into apprenticeship programs and learns how to do very sophisticated manufacturing and they dominate large parts of sophisticated manufacturing. it's really different than our models. and my question, let's take unemployment compensation. i would be eager to support extension if we attach some kind of learning and training program so that people were not just being sustained but they were taking the time when they didn't have a job to actually substantially increase their potential job capability. could you support that kind of linkage? >> once they actually come out of apprenticeship programs. see, germany doesn't have an economy in which they are so thoroughly obsessed with
privatizing, and they don't have military droughns tnes the way . they don't have an empire the way we do. >> that's because we handle some things for the germans so they don't have to handle it for themselves. but here's the question. for the liberal side of the table, if you look at president obama's second term agenda, right, and he gave this speech with inequality and i think there's a distinction between focusing on inequality and focusing on social immobility but just take inequality. what is the centerpiece of president obama's remaining second term agenda. it's an immigration reform that by design would dramatically increase levels of low skilled immigration for the foreseeable future. maybe that's the right thing to do for other reasons of social justice and sort of justice for people outside america's borders, but there's almost no question that if that passes, it will increase inequality by creating more competition for exactly the kind of jobs for people coming out of prison and so on. >> and you're absolutely right.
as long as the neoliberal regime remains in place, then that divide and conquer strategy will be operating between brown and black and white and so forth. i love these pictures. mcdonald's and walmart and wendy's and so forth. we need workers coming together across race so that on moral grounds we must ensure that our latino brothers and sisters are treated with dignity. but they need to come together as citizens and workers to get some accountability to big banks and corporations. >> we are going to continue this. it's obvious thangs bik budget deal isn't going to solve anything, but at least the government is still open. if we care about the poor and care about compassion in this christmas season, where do we go from here? in the last month pope francis has been focusing some very strong language on this problem. we'll ask our guests about it next.
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welcome back. in the crossfire tonight, cornell west and ross douthet. the senate is getting ready to vote on the budget compromise. all signs point to it passing. washington continues to be trapped into small incremental agreements that merely avoid disaster so the government won't close. that's progress? pope francis, however, is raising the standard dramatically by pointing to the gap between the very, very wealthy and the very, very poor. the pope has said bluntly he is not a marxist, and frankly most of what he's saying is in scripture. in this christmas season, it's hard to argue jesus wasn't radically concerned about the poor. the question is what can government do that actually will help rather than hurt. i want to ask this question,
cornell, something that i was struck with. we are on the edge of the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, and it strikes me that there has to be -- if conservatives need to be concerned about the poor, liberals need to be willing to put all of these bureaucratic institutions up and look at them critically for whether or not in fact they're helping rather than hurting. >> i think we have to be very honest about. sure there's talk about redistribution. people are afraid to talk about redistribution. within rule of law, it is not only necessity, it is imperative. 22% of our children of all colors living in poverty in the history of the world. some redistribution has to take place and not by programs only. jobs with a living wage. but i love the pope. i think in fact that edward snowden, we've seen the triumph of edward snowden and his recent decision. edward snowden probably should have won that man of the year for "time" but i love pope francis because he's a prophetic voice, his tone and tenderness
dealing with the humanity of poor people. >> i think the one thing we all agree on is that we all like pope francis. but, ross, i want to ask you a question. there's no question that government programs can be better in terms of creating opportunities, putting people on a road to opportunity. in fact the president has put reforms in place and here was his message earlier this month in his economic inequality speech. >> progressives should be open to reforms that actually strengthen these programs and make them more responsive to a 21st century economy. >> so the president -- >> who could argue with that? >> the problem is the response to the 21st century economy, that's what needs to be contested. it's the neoliberal economy. >> but also, dr. west, we have to acknowledge that in rethinking these programs, you've got to take into account that some people don't want to rethink them. they want to just eradicate
them, get rid of them and that's many times what the debate is on the hill. food stamps. >> here's the challenge for progressives. progressives built a set of programs, a set of entitlement programs. medicare and social security, that basically were designed to disguise the fact that they were, as dr. west would put it, redistributing, right? so you pay social security taxes, you may medicare taxes and so people have the idea i'm just getting out what i paid in. the problem is that's not what really happens, right? you actually -- a typical medicare recipient gets back vastly more from medicare than they pay in. likewise with social security. so what's happened to liberals is that these programs are essentially crowding out the rest of the federal budget. if you want to know why liberalism has so much trouble getting traction for straightforward redistribution, it's because entitlements claim more and more and more of the federal pie. >> you do a very good job making this about liberalism instead of talking about the problems of conservatism and that was my
question to you. where is the conversation amongst republicans to reform these programs for the better rather than just slashing them and getting rid of them? >> i think you've seen a pendulum swing basically. you had an era under president george w. bush where there was a lot of talk about compassionate conservatism and doing exactly that, thinking about reforms that focused on poverty and so on. the bush presidency ended, i think we can all agree, fairly badly. some of the things that the bush presidency tried to do with home mortgages ended up blowing up in their faces and -- >> the education budget. >> smashing the education budget? >> no child left behind increased the budget. >> no child left behind was basically an unfunded mandate. that was the largest problem. >> are you saying education funding hasn't gone up? >> no. i'm saying that we -- of all of the investments in this government, we have given under george bush tax cuts to those at the top, slashing critical program that say grow the middle class, including education. >> as a matter of fact, as
education funding gone down a single year in the last 12 years? has it gone down a single year? >> has it gone up enough? >> wait. >> has it gone up enough? >> this is like your kids saying i need a ferrari for christmas. >> no. i'm saying we need a skilled workforce. >> no, i think -- >> and what are you willing to say, we need to tax the middle class to pay for the education spending increases that you want. >> or asking everybody to pay their fair share. >> as long as it's fair. but i think stephanie is making a strong point. namely, when you look at what's really at the top, military, taxes that are almost subsidies for agribusiness, subsidies for corporations and so forth what is left over -- >> but again, your question was about conservatism. who in the republican party has been most willing to take on defense pork and potentially even agribusiness? it's often been the tea party
wing of the party. the ultimate answer to your question is i think there is actually a real rethinking going on on the right now with figures like senator mike lee of utah and others looking at new approaches on poverty and other issues. and i completely agree. the republican party has not had much of an agenda for the past few years because it's just been focused on opposition, but i think that's target to change. >> we did have the that try to combine some of the notion of the right wing populist. the populism i like. the right wing i don't. it can be homophobic and. >> they're two great things. >> they can't execute, because you've got wall street sitting there, corporate america sitting there. if we don't hit big street and big corporations head on, we're not going to go anywhere. >> wall street has been as close to the president as -- >> i know.
i'm the first to say that. >> wall street and the president. >> with all the restorms that he has passed. >> there are a lot of things i'm critical of. >> let me ask you about a very different kind of redistribution. >> yes. >> my hunch is, and i don't want to date it yet. but my hunch is you could take what we pour into certain social sector bureaucracies, and if you found a way to get it directly to the poor and skip all the people in between, you would radically increase their income. >> i'm with you. nixon called for a guaranteed income. i res nation with that motion for the very weak and the very vulnerable. >> i'm with the speaker on the point that the best, the thing the government does most effectively is just write checks. the layers of bureaucracy you put in place tend to do more
harm than good. the problem with just writing checks is creating a culture of dependency. what you need is a way that tie to work and family. >> a lots of programs sitting in congress that do just that. stay here. this is an important conversation for us to have. and we're going to come back to this. we want you at home to weigh in on today's fire back question, exactly on this point. should job training be required to receive unemployment benefits. tweet yes or no using the #crossfire. we'll have the results aft break. and next, we'll let our the guests weigh in on a subject everyone, including saturday night live is discussing. >> wow, you're santa? >> that's right. i guess the truth is out. you heard of secret santa.
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to wear an all-red suit? >> all right. so this is the question we've all been waiting for and we're dying for the answer. what color was santa? or is santa? >> everyone knows santa was turkish. 4th century. this debate comes down to whether you think santa claus is a real person or not. >> not on this show. santa claus -- >> he's got a point about turkey. >> santa claus. >> emphasis being right at the center -- >> can be any color you want. but the historical santa was turkish. >> whatever color he is, he loves the children. no matter what color they are. james brown had a song called santa goes straight through the ghetto. whether you go to poor whites, brown, yellow, make sure you touch every child.
>> richard who works with us in makeup had a great line. he said santa claus is what every child needs him to be and the children gets to define santa claus, not some tv commentator. >> that's well said. i wish our public policy could express that in terms of the humanity of our poor children. >> at christmas, there ought to and greater capacity to slow down. the new york times series on the homeless children in new york city, it makes you think how could a country this powerful, this wealthy, not find a way to bring itself together. >> but it's, christmas brings out everyone's anxieties, though. that's the weird thing. >> i want to thank cornell west. go to facebook or twitter to weigh in on our fire back
question. should job training be required to receive unemployment benefits. 68% say yes, 32% of you say no. >> the debate continues. from the left, i'm stephanie cutter. >> from the right, i'm newt gingrich. erin burnett out front starts right now. next, a major blow to the nsa spying program. does today's ruling prove edward snowden's case? >> it is a scathing projection of the nsa program. plus, was rick santorum right? does a new legal case show gay marriage opened the door to legalizing polygamy? and google's robot army. and it won't be a small one.
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