Skip to main content

tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  December 2, 2010 12:00am-12:30am PST

12:00 am
tavis: the evening. following last month's gains by republicans in congress, there is so much soul-searching within the democratic party. so tonight, conversations with two high-profile democrats on how the party can it regain enthusiasm. first up, second highest ranking democrat dick durbin. yesterday he joined leaders from both parties at a white house meeting. then there will be joined by gary hart. the former colorado senator is up with a new book. it is called "the thunder and the sunshine". a look at the future of the democratic party with illinois senator dick durbin and gary
12:01 am
hart coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. >> nationwide is on your side >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute tavi>> i thought that people cae
12:02 am
to a with the spirit of trying to work together. i think it was a good start. the american people did not vote for gridlock. they are demanding cooperation and they are demanding progress, and they will hold all of us, and i mean all of us, accountable for. tavis: president obama yesterday following his meeting with both parties. among those attending that meeting is illinois senator dick durbin. he joins us tonight from capitol hill. good to have you back on this program, sir. >> nice to be with you. tavis: your take away from the meeting? >> it was a good meeting. for those of us who've been lucky enough to be in meetings like this, it was extraordinary. we had a formal meeting in the roosevelt room and the white house. it had all the principles involved and leaders from the administration as well as from congress with our staff. then after that, the president
12:03 am
said, i would like to ask the members of congress to join me and the vice-president in a small room. and we went off to the small dining room off the oval office, a close setting where the conversation continued. it was an effort by the president to reach out in a very personal way to the leadership in congress and to engage all of us in trying to work together. tavis: breaking bread is one thing, passing bills as another. if one believes what one reads, one gets the sense republicans are interested in blocking as a beacon number of bills. -- a significant number of bills. >> tavis, the day afterwards, unfortunately, the republican senate leadership issued a letter saying the 42 republican senators which basically said, stop, do not try to do anything in the senate until we get the tax cuts resolved and senator john cabell who is my
12:04 am
counterpart on the republican side basically has said, do not try to bring up any other issues. we will hold everything hostage until we get this done. we agree it has to be done, but to think that the senate will do nothing while the negotiations are underway seems like a colossal waste of time. tavis: so what is going to happen? >> the senators on the republican side have it within their power to initiate filibusters'. i hope they have a change of heart. i hope the negotiations produce something we can vote on. tavis: what is going to happen on the tax-cut issue? >> i am not sure. we need to extend a tax cut for working families, some 98% of americans are not millionaires. those folks need some assurance in their lives that the tax cuts they enjoyed this year will be around next year. it is a great boost to our economy for that money to be in their pockets and spent by these families. i think it is important step and i stand for that. i think we need to extend
12:05 am
unemployment benefits, the single most effective thing to pump money into the economy to help those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are struggling to pay for the basics. those are two things we need to move on quickly. tavis: did the senate and the white house spent too much time over the last year and a half of bailing out wall street, bailing out the auto industry and other industries and not spending enough attention focused on the issues of jobs which seems to be the issue that got ever went out to vote in november? >> the first thing the president did was the stimulus bill, an effort to turn around what looked like a frightening global depression. it worked. it stopped the decline. unfortunately, we have not seen liftoff since. we have been moving in the right direction, creating more private-sector jobs but not at the pace we want to see. i think that is the reason we did so poorly on november 2 elections. yes, we did other things as well. an effort to make sure that wall
12:06 am
street did not take us down that path again. an effort to provide credit for small businesses. so it is not is if we did not address those issues. we did. the results were not as robust as we wanted them to be. we are trying to find new ways to work together. the lesson from the election is people want to see the economy turn around, back to work as soon as possible. tavis: some would argue that the effort was not robust enough. there are any number of economists, paul krugaman comes to mind, they suggest that the stimulus was not big enough in the first place. >> i agree completely. to win over three republican senate votes to pass it in the senate, the first thing the president offered we had to cut the amount of money going into the stimulus package. many of us thought we were moving in the wrong direction. let's do something big and old
12:07 am
that will that impact on the economy quickly, but unfortunately we were not able to do that. we had to reduce the size of the package. the money invested at that time and a larger amount would of had a much more positive impact. tavis: in terms of actual legislation coming from the democratic party, tell me the argument you can make now that the focus after november is going to be on lifting up the week working class, legislation aimed at everyday people. talk to me. >> i can tell you several things. if we're going to have tax cuts, let's focus on those in lower and middle income groups. make sure they get the breaks they need to continue to provide for their families. secondly, when it comes to some of the tax provisions -- earned income tax credit, child care tax credit, the make work pays tax credit. all of these are designed to reward working families to give them more spending power to cope with a very difficult challenge in the economy. i think the unemployment benefits are the same way.
12:08 am
today, december 1, is the first day that we have cut off unemployment benefits. i think it is a terrible decision. we should restore them. some 2 million americans will lose their unemployment benefits before christmas. happy holidays. the fact that these are people who are struggling to find work. many of them will be receiving unemployment checks of about $300 a week. you do not get rich at that amount, but it is enough to pay for bills and keep your family together while you search for a job. let's focus on helping the unemployed, finding the education and retraining may be, providing tax code provisions that give people a helping hand. >> tavis: i think most of us would probably agree, senator, i am sure you do as well, that deficit reduction is a real issue. the question is when the time for that conversation has come and whether or not we ought to change our focus to talking about deficit reduction obverses
12:09 am
stimulating the economy. everyone knows the commission has come out with a report. i am asking two questions. one, your take on that report, the top law and take. and your take on whether or not this conversation in washington will shift at the wrong time. >> this is a reality. the deficit faces us. we borrow 40 cents of every dollar we spend. we are most of it from china. they have become major creditors of the united states and have more power over our economy and we want them to. so dealing with this is not only the right thing economically, it is right from a moral view. point. we cannot leave this debt to our kids. but the real reality of the situation is that if we hit the brakes on spending and stimulus it right in the midst of recovering the economy, we could plunge the economy back into recession with even higher unemployment. so the deficit commission that i serve on this week has said, let's not do anything it to
12:10 am
really reduce the spending dramatically until we are clearly through the recession. i think that is a sensible approach. we have got to keep a foot on the accelerator moving forward until more people get back to work. that is a good way to cure part of the deficit we face -- or people working, paying taxes, reduces the government expenditures and helps us move closer to balance. tavis: we know republicans took over the house, democrats have a slight majority in the senate, but i am curious as to your take on how wounded democrats are in your home state of illinois, the seat that once belonged to barack obama that went to republicans. how wounded are democrats in the senate as we speak? >> we've gone from 59 of votes to 53, which is substantial and the senate were 60 votes are needed. it will be tougher. we will have to be bipartisan in our effort to get bigger things done in this new congress. i can tell you there is a
12:11 am
spirit in the senate that we need to continue to work together and with the president to move this country forward. i hope we can do it in a bipartisan basis. i hope we do not face a string of filibusters' we have seen over the last several years that has ground the senate to a halt many times. tavis: unlike my friend tim russert i will warn you in advance that i will pull this tape out. the answer to the question you are about to get me out -- i will pull this tape out into years. you will see yourself on this program in the future. how should the american people judge democrats in washington between now and 2012? two years from now, a big presidential election. what should be judged on in 2012 as to whether or not we return more of your for your review to the house and senate? >> which party offers the best prospects for building the american economy so that we can grow this economy, creating jobs and prosperity not just for
12:12 am
those at the top of for everybody. that will be the bottom line question. it is important. it is not just a matter of growing the economy. we have to make certain we are moving forward with the kind of jobs that can sustain a family and help them to grow the important part of the community. my fear is we seem to be falling behind. our workers are more productive. their wages do not reflect it. we need to have fair compensation, living wage, good benefits, a decent treatment of workers, and we can do that and still be competitive on a global basis. tavis: senator dick durbin, always foru as sharing your insights. another view about the future of the democratic party with former senator gary hart. stay with us. tavis: gary hart is a former u.s. senator from colorado, a democratic presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988.
12:13 am
he is a professor at the university of colorado and an author of "the thunder and the sunshine." he joins us tonight from denver. senator, good to have you back on the program, sir. >> it is a pleasure, mr. smiley. tavis: let me start with the question of the democrats and how or if in fact they can get their mojo back. you have been around for years in politics, so you've seen these kinds of ads and flows. what strikes you about what has happened and democrats -- to democrats in november? >> i think the democratic party must define the future in terms that the american people can understand. there is a sense in this country that we are stagnant, that we are if anything moving in circles and not forward. not only for our generation but for our children and future
12:14 am
what my party has to do, and indeed all of those in public office, is construct a narrative that explains to the american people how investment today profits this country in the future and offers us more hope and promise, and that investment must first of all be in our people and particularly in our done a people, their education and their health. that is the backbone of the country. we have to invest in infrastructure, in our transportation systems, in our environment, in the new energy systems, and we have to do that with the understanding that perhaps the return on those investments may not occur in our lifetime, but they will certainly occur in our children's lifetimes. tavis: how to convince the american people of that when we live in a society that is more here and now than ever before? we live in a right now community, all right no country.
12:15 am
so how to convince folks that investment pays off in the future? >> you are absolutely right. in the past the 30-40 years, it instant gratification. i wanted no, i do not want to think about tomorrow. i think it requires leadership in not only among politicians but in the religious community, inuit education community, in the business community. it requires people in all walks of life to save life is not about feeling good right now. it is about what kind of society and country and culture you leave behind. i think this it was, on the 50th anniversary of his election, it was a really what john f. kennedy was trying to say to us by giving something back to your country you have the good feeling that that civic duty provides you, but you also note that you are leaving something behind that is more important.
12:16 am
it is amazing to me the effort that welker people -- wealthy people go through it to put together a great financial legacies for their children but they are not thinking about the environmental legacy, the peace legacy, the education system, the entire country that they are leaving behind. and i think the theory is that if you are rich enough you can live in a gated community and let those social problems, leave those behind, but it never works that way. so i think we also have to get back to the culture in which i grew up, that sacrifice for your family and a sacrifice for your country pays off and a long term. and that requires of voices from all segments of our society to make that case. tavis: the other issue you raised is that the notion -- the notion that most americans do not see us as a country advancing ford anymore. -- forward anymore.
12:17 am
i raiderettes newsome report the other day that suggested something start a week -- i read a rasmussen reports that suggested that almost half of americans think our best days are behind us. i just came back from china, and that is not the feeling in china. they know they are on the cause of something big. another economy is growing, they are getting richer. the feeling amongst the chinese people that i experienced as possible about the sense they are moving forward. what you say to the american people and how you advance legislation in informant when people think that our best days are behind us as americans? tavis: tw >> we incorporating a sense of investment in the future and all segments of our society, but also getting beyond this notion that the government is our enemy. that is not the case. the government does a lot of
12:18 am
good things, but there is a constant barage and the last decade from certain segments of the media saying that the government is your enemy, the government is evil, they cannot do anything good. the only way we can act collectively, it in or did not individually, is through our elected representatives and the steps that they take to make this a better country. that has always been the case. has government got off the track from time to time? has it been corrupt, as if it -- have at people that elected? yes. but that does not mean that the government is inherently evil. it must be made the instrument of progress, and it can be. it has spent in the past. the great steps forward in our country have been through collective action at the local, state, and national level, and that is what we must get back to. by the way, who is leading that development in china are certain elements of the chinese
12:19 am
government. tavis: if i have talked to one politician, i have talked to, as politicians, persons like yourself who have served over a period of decades. i have heard this 1000 times now that i have never seen it this bad. i have never seen the grid lock, i have never seen the partisanship. talk to anybody that has been around and they say the same thing. i have never seen it this bad. so have you not seen it is bad and what you make of how bad it really is in washington, in our politics? >> the mood is the worst in my lifetime. i served under democratic and republican presidents, under both gerald ford and ronald reagan as well as jimmy carter. and democrats lent a hand under republican administration. we voted for quite a lot of the things the republican president wanted simply because they had
12:20 am
won a majority of the votes. not the case and president ford's case, but in ronald reagan's case. now we have an opposition party that has publicly announced that it is opposed to everything, everything and anything is president and this administration wants. that may be their so-called base may like that, the haters, but it is not in the interest of this country. and it weakens america, and people simply have to acknowledge that. tavis: the s.t.a.r.t. treaty. president obama met withcall in paul today and a number of former high-ranking officials -- colin powell -- trying to rally the troops around getting
12:21 am
a start treaty re-signed. you have written about u.s. and russian relations. your sense of how much of the party this is and can the president get this done in this lame duck congress? >> of course he can. i think every living secretary of state from both political parties and several administrations support this, as well as a virtually our entire military establishment it means -- it means that it is in our nation's best interests. we are not doing the russians any favors. this is for us, and that is what these leaders are saying. what is driving the opposition is in extreme elements of their party. they are trying to keep the far right happy at the expense of what is in america's interest. encouraged by statements that senator john mccain has made and a few others have made that perhaps they are republicans -- they are
12:22 am
republicans. they will not support this treaty. all we need is six or seven republican votes to reach the 2/3 required by the constitution to approve this tree. and it is manifestly in the united states interest. tavis: let me ask you about to monetary issues. i am an esquire magazine reader. i saw the commission you were part of laying out some specifics about how to balance the federal budget. give me a top line on that. then i went as do about the issue of deficit reduction. tavis>> two democratic senatorsd two republican senators sat in their room and york this fall and in the course of three days, by cooperating, by looking at what was best for the country, we've balanced the federal budget by 2020 with a surplus, $12 billion. we modernized the military. we protected social security to
12:23 am
2075. we kept tax rates about what they are now, income tax rates. we did not dramatically raise taxes on income. we added a tax on gasoline to escalate every year for the next 10 years, which raises an enormous amount of money. we reformed and modernized the way we deal with health care costs, and we ended up in a solid, stable, fiscally responsible position. it can be done. if four of us can do it in three days, surely the congress of the united states, if they put the national interest first, can do it in six weeks. tavis: is now the time to focus on deficit reduction or is about getting the economy started again? >> it is both. it ise next two years, getting the economy started again most -- most of the
12:24 am
measures we undertook started two years from now in 2012. we have to give the economy to years of stimulus in every way we can think of -- two years of stimulus in every way we can think of. corporate america has to spend some of its money to hire people, by new equipment, do research and development. this cannot all be done by the government. but there are hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate treasuries that the corporations simply are not spending t. tavis: and what is the abiding lesson that you want to share with us that you take away from this four seasons in this life you live. >> back to the theme we started with and that is that life, given my religious background, is not simply about doing something for myself or my family and a leading everybody
12:25 am
else behind. we are a national community. we recognize that in the age of roosevelt won the country was in terrible trouble. and the more we unite and think of ourselves as a big society and a big family, the better of this country will be, not just today but for generations yet to come. tavis: the new book is called "the thunder and the sunshine -- four seasons in a burnished life." thank you for your time again this evening. >> thank you appeare. tavis: until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show visit tavis smiley at tavis: join me next time for conversation with actors hilary swank on her latest film "conviction." that is next time.
12:26 am
>> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. thank you. >> be more.
12:27 am
12:28 am
12:29 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on