SEPTEMBER 25, 2003
SPEAKERS: BRIAN WILLIAMS, CNBC
RON INSANA, CNBC
GLORIA BORGER, CNBC
GERALD SEIB, WALL STREET JOURNAL
FORMER GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN (D-VT)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO)
U.S. SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (D-FL)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT)
FORMER U.S. SENATOR CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D-IL)
THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.)
WILLIAMS: Hello and welcome. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal, the co-sponsors, want to welcome you here and thank you for being with us. In a way, the stakes could not be higher, as we gather for the next two hours here on the campus of Pace University in Lower Manhattan.
We have an extraordinary field of Democratic candidates, extraordinary, for one, for its size. We are one short of an official NFL roster at 10.
Time is absolutely critical, so we will begin with the introduction of the candidates. We must tell you their order on the stage was randomly chosen by lottery. And we ask our friends assembled here in the audience to hold hoops, hollers and applause until the last name is read.
From Florida, Senator Bob Graham; from Missouri, Congressman Dick Gephardt; from Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman; from Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry; from North Carolina, Senator John Edwards; from Arkansas, retired General Wesley Clark; from Vermont, Governor Howard Dean; from New York, the Reverend Al Sharpton; from Illinois, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun; and from Ohio, Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
We have a distinguished panel of journalist questioners here today as well. I am joined by three of my colleagues in the business of politics and the economy, Gerald Seib from the Wall Street Journal, Ron Insana from CNBC and Gloria Borger, also a CNBC colleague.
Our thanks as well from all the organizers here today, to the Democratic National Committee staff and their chairman, Terry McAuliffe.
Now to the rules, the eat-your-peas portion of our broadcast. All answers to direct questions will be given 60 seconds and just 60 seconds. Any response or rebuttal, at the moderator’s discretion-I am supposed to add right here-will be given 30 seconds.
As 60 winds down into 15, a light, clearly visible to all the candidates on the stage, will start flashing, and as 15 reaches zero, we will hear this sound.
Somewhere at “Jeopardy,” they’re wondering where it went.
Without further delay, we should probably get into the questioning, and this is that moderator discretion we talked about earlier. General Clark, we’re going to begin with you.
A few moments ago on live television, the political editor of the Wall Street Journal called you the hot story here at this debate before we had even started.
The American people are certainly anxious to learn more about you and anxious to know things like allegiance. And we want to clear something up.
On May 11th of 2001, as reported in US News and World Report, you addressed at the Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Arkansas, expressed your support for the leadership of Ronald Reagan, for that matter, the leadership of our current president, George W. Bush, his immediate staff and Cabinet, and indicated they were needed in place.
Did you believe it then? Do you believe it now?
CLARK: I think it’s been an incredible journey for me and for this country since early 2001.
We elected a president we thought was a compassionate conservative. Instead we got neither conservatism or compassion. We got a man who recklessly cut taxes. We got a man who recklessly took us into war with Iraq.
I was never partisan in the military. I served under Democratic presidents, I served under Republican presidents. But as I looked at this country and looked which way we were headed, I knew that I needed to speak out. And when I needed to speak out, there was only party to come to.
I am pro-choice, I am pro-affirmative action, I’m pro- environment, pro-health. I believe the United States should engage with allies. We should be a good player in the international community. And we should use force only as a last resort. That’s why I’m proud to be a Democrat.
WILLIAMS: Governor Dean, let’s throw a little discretion around. How about a rebuttal? Do you believe this is a Democrat you’re standing next to?
DEAN: I think that’s up to the voters in the Democratic Party to determine. I think the issues in this campaign are jobs and who can deliver them, which I have. I think the issues in the campaign are health insurance, which I have delivered. And those things are important.
But the biggest issue in this campaign is the question of patriotism and democracy. I am tired of having John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney and Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh lay a claim to patriotism and lay a claim to the American flag. That flag belongs to every single one of us. And I am tired of having our democracy hijacked by the right wing of this country.
Those are incredibly important issues too, and they’re going to be central to the debate in this campaign.
WILLIAMS: Governor, your time for that has expired.
Next question will go to, in order, Senator Kerry, Governor Dean and General Clark.
We’re going to hear a lot about one figure tonight, that’s $87 billion. It’s been said it’s more or less the down payment on the war with Iraq, the war with Afghanistan, the ongoing war on terrorism. Can we please tonight have your vote, up or down, yes or no? And if yes, how do you pay for $87 billion?
Senator Kerry, beginning with you.
KERRY: Well, let me begin, Brian, by first of all saying I hope the fact that the ticker is down in both measures is not a reflection of the fact that all 10 of us are meeting here today.
Secondly, let me say that if George Bush rebuilds Iraq the way he rebuilds the United States, they’re going to lose 3 million jobs over the course of the next two years.
I believe the $87 billion is at issue. I have introduced an amendment, together with Joe Biden, that calls on shared sacrifice in America. We need to ask the wealthiest people in our country to bear some of the burden, as our troops and as the middle class in America is bearing the burden.
And so, I believe if we’re going to pass any money at all, it ought to come at the expense of President Bush’s ill-advised, unaffordable tax cut, which is driving this country into deficit.
Secondly, there are some other conditions that I think are critical and, until I know how that comes out in the struggle, I can’t tell you exactly where I’m going to vote.
WILLIAMS: Governor Dean?
DEAN: I believe the $87 billion ought to come from the excessive and extraordinary tax cuts that this president foisted upon us, that mainly went to people like Ken Lay who ran Enron.
But I think the test of leadership is not doing what’s popular, I think it’s doing what’s right. I stood up against all the president’s tax cuts. And I find it somewhat surprising that some folks are supporting some of the Bush tax cuts.
They are a mistake. The middle class never got a tax cut for us to defend. Their college tuitions went up. Their property taxes went up. Fire and police and first response services are going down and local people are having to pay for that.
So I believe not only should we get rid of the $87 billion worth of tax cuts to pay to support our troops-even though I did not support the war in the beginning, I think we have to support our troops-I also believe we ought to get rid of the entire Bush tax cut. It is bad for the economy and it has not created one job.
WILLIAMS: Is that an up or down, yes or no, on the $87 billion per se?
DEAN: On the $87 billion for Iraq?
DEAN: We have no choice, but it has to be financed by getting rid of all the president’s tax cuts?
WILLIAMS: General Clark?
CLARK: Well, Brian, if I’ve learned one thing in my nine days in politics...
... you better be careful with hypothetical questions, and you’ve just asked one.
Now, look, this $87 billion is the first we’ve heard from this administration of anything like a reasonable estimate of what the down payment is. Congress needs to really go after this figure.
What is the strategy? What will make this operation a success? What will it take to exit? How do we get international support in there? There are dozens of questions to be asked on this.
We need to make this operation a success. We need to support our troops. But we need answers on this.
And the final answer that we need is, the president needs to tell us how he’s going to pay for it. This can’t be an addition to the deficit. We want to see where the money’s coming from.
WILLIAMS: To my colleagues on the panel, Gerry Seib from the Wall Street Journal.
SEIB: Brian, let’s continue the Iraq line with Senator Lieberman and Senator Graham, because for you it’s not a hypothetical. Where do you come down on the $87 billion? Your colleagues have suggested paying for it at least in part by rolling by the top Bush tax cuts. Is that the way to go? Should the wealthy pay for Iraq and Afghanistan?
Senator Lieberman, let’s start with you.
LIEBERMAN: That is certainly my first choice as to how we should finance this $87 billion. The fact is that the only Americans sacrificing today for our policy in Iraq, which is critical to our national security and world security, are the 140,000 Americans who are there in uniform for us.
And, of course, we all agree that if George Bush had a better, more multilateral foreign policy, we wouldn’t have to finance this alone.
Again he went to the United Nations this time like a beggar and was turned down by the nations of the world.
But we have no choice but to finance this program for two reasons. We have those 140,000 American troops there. We need to protect them. We need to protect them and bring them home safe to their families.
Secondly, we are involved in a great battle in the war on terrorism. Those terrorists have poured in there. They’re attacking Americans. They’re attacking the institutions of civilization: the United Nations, Jordanian embassy, Muslim mosques. We cannot afford to lose this fight.
SEIB: Time’s up.
GRAHAM: I will support whatever is required for the troops in Iraq. I will not support a dime for the profits of Halliburton.
We have two clear issues: one, support of the troops. I believe that should be done by eliminating the tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans and using that to pay the cost of occupation of Iraq.
For the rebuilding of Iraq, I believe that we should look to the Iraqi oil source in the same way that in the 1990s we looked to the Mexican oil source in order to finance the bail-out plan that we had for them.
The policy that the administration is following in Iraq is typical of their policies elsewhere. It is disrespectful of other nations. We need to be inviting in to participate in this occupation. And it is anti-patriotic at the core, because it’s asking only one group of Americans, those soldiers in Iraq and their families, to pay the price of this occupation.
SEIB: Turning on Iraq to Congressman Kucinich and Reverend Sharpton, you’ve both been outspoken critics of the war and have said, in fact, you’d bring the troops home. But the fact is that as of now the troops are there, the United States is committed.
Would you vote-will you vote yes or no on the $87 billion? And if the answer is no, what’s the message you would send to the troops who are there today?
KUCINICH: The message is now I will not vote for the $87 billion. I think we should support the troops and I think we best support them by bringing them home.
Our troops are at peril there, because of this administration’s policy. And I think that the American people deserve to know where every candidate on this stage stands on this issue, because we were each provided with a document-a security document that more or less advised us to stay the course, don’t cut and run, commit up to 150,000 troops for five years at a cost of up to $245 billion.
A matter of fact, General Clark was one of the authors of that document that was released in July.
So I think the American people deserve to know that a candidate-and I’m the candidate who led the effort in the House of Representatives challenging the Bush administration’s march toward war, I say bring the troops home unequivocally. Bring them home and stop this commitment for $87 billion, which is only going to get us in deeper.
After a while, we’re going to be sacrificing our education, our health care, our housing and the future of this nation.
KUCINICH: Bring them home.
SEIB: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, as the only New Yorker, I want to welcome General Clark to New York and I want to welcome him to our list of candidates.
And don’t be defensive about just joining the party. Welcome to the party. It’s better to be a new Democrat that’s a real Democrat, than a lot of old Democrats up here that have been acting like Republicans all along.
In terms of your question, I would unequivocally vote no, because I think to continue to invest in a flawed and failed policy is not wise or prudent. It is really to try and chase bad investment with bad investment.
The signal it would sent the troops is that we really do love them. Real patriots don’t put troops in harm’s way on a flawed policy.
We would send a signal that we’re not going to ask you to fight for health care for the children of our Iraq when you don’t have it for the children in South Carolina or New York.
That’s the signal. That’s real patriotism.
WILLIAMS: Reverend Sharpton, thank you.
The questioning continues with Gloria Borger.
BORGER: This is for Senator Edwards and Congressman Gephardt.
I want to get to the realm of the possible right now, when it comes to this $87 billion, because I’m hearing Senator Kerry say, “Until I really know how it kind of works out I’m not sure how I’m going to go.”
I hear Governor Dean say, “Well, we want to get rid of all the president’s tax cuts to finance it.” But it is a Republican Congress, as you well know that, so that is not likely to happen very quickly.
So let me start with you, Senator Edwards. How would you vote on the $87 billion?
EDWARDS: Well, what’s happening, Gloria, is we have young men and women in a shooting gallery over there right now. It would be enormously irresponsible for any of us not to do what’s necessary to support them.
The second thing is, when we went into Iraq, we, the United States of America, assumed a responsibility to share-and I emphasize share-with our allies and friends the effort to reconstruct.
That does not mean George Bush should get a blank check. He certainly shouldn’t get a blank check under these circumstances.
So the answer to your question is, we will vote for, I will vote for, what’s necessary to support the troops.
But we have a lot of questions that have to be answered first. We have to find out what-how he plans to bring our allies in, how much control he plans to give up in that process. We need to find out what, in fact, is our long-term plan there, how much money he plans to spend over the long term.
He’s given us no long-term budget nor any idea about how he plans to pay for it.
So I think there are a lot of questions that have be answered.
And as one of the people on this stage who has a responsibility, I take that responsibility very seriously.
WILLIAMS: Did you have a rebuttal to the senator?
BORGER: Well, just a quick little follow-up.
I take it that means you might vote for something less than $87 billion. You might vote for something less and cut off money for reconstruction or whatever.
EDWARDS: Let me give you a simple answer: I will vote for what needs to be there to support our troops who are on the ground there. I will not vote-I will not vote for the additional money unless and when we have an explanation about our allies coming in and what we’re going to do to share the cost with others.
BORGER: Congressman Gephardt, can you get specific?
GEPHARDT: Gloria, we’ve got to get answers to very important questions. I don’t think you can assume that Republicans are just going to vote for whatever the president asks for either.
We got some tough questions to ask. What’s the money go for? Are we going to just pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq? Is that part of this money? When we can’t remodel schools in the United States, can’t, apparently, get the electric grid straightened out in the United States, we’re going to build the electric grid in Iraq?
And who’s going to help? I’ve been telling this president for over a year and a half, “If you want to deal with Iraq, you got to get help.” He still doesn’t have the help. It’s incomprehensible to me that he could go to the U.N. the other day and come away empty-handed.
He is not leading on this issue. He needs to come to the Congress with answers to a lot of our questions before Congress can make that decision.
BORGER: Now I’m going to ask the $87 billion question to Ambassador Moseley Braun. And obviously, you do not have a vote in Congress on this, so it’s a little easier for you to talk about.
But do you think it’s a smart move for your fellow Democrats out here to be, sort of, splitting this decision on this vote the way they are?
MOSELEY BRAUN: I stand with the mothers of the young men and women who are in the desert in Iraq and who right now are in the shooting gallery without even sufficient supplies to sustain themselves.
And so, it is absolutely, I think, critical that we not cut and run, that we provide our troops with what they need and that we just not blow up that country and leave it blown up; we have a responsibility.
Following in on that responsibility means we will have to vote some money. The estimates vary as to what that is.
Almost a year ago, I called on this president not to go into Iraq and I called on the Congress not to give him the authority to go into Iraq, and at the same time asked the question, “Mr. President, how much is this going to cost?” He didn’t answer the question then, he’s not answering the question now.
But I believe that it’s going to be important for us to come up with the money to make certain that our young men and women and our reputation as leaders in the world is not permanently destroyed by the folly of preemptive war.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador, thank you, we gave you back the two seconds for clearing your throat, so we’re even steven.
The questioning continues with CNBC’s Ron Isana.
ISANA: Thank you, Brian.
I’d like to turn to President Bush’s tax cuts, and your plans for them. Congressman Gephardt and Governor Dean have suggested they will roll back the increases in the child tax credit and some other middle-class tax benefits.
Senator Kerry, you have suggested that anyone who walks away from the middle class is not a true Democrat. Are your colleagues abandoning the middle class?
KERRY: We Democrats fought hard to put those tax cuts in place, Ron. Those represent the efforts of Democrats to try to reach the middle class of America.
The 10 percent bracket wasn’t George Bush’s idea. It was our idea. It was in keeping with the spirit of our party to try to help the average American get ahead in a country where increasingly average Americans are getting stomped on, where there’s an unfairness in the workplace, where corporate executives, as we’ve seen, are walking away with millions and sticking the average American with the bill.
I think Governor Dean is absolutely wrong. And he’s wrong on his facts. The fact is that 32 million American couples get about $1,000 out of the tax cut. The fact is that 16 million American families get $1,500 to $3,000 from it.
Just ask Ted Walsh (ph) and Mia Gloss (ph) in Barrington, New Hampshire. He’s a firefighter, she’s a teacher. If Governor Dean has his way and Congressman Gephardt, they’re going to pay $3,000 additional taxes.
We can cut the deficit in half, we can be fiscally responsible, but we don’t have to do it on the backs of the middle class.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thanks.
We’re going to divert and go to Governor Dean, as we owe you a response, and we’ll treat it as a full minute because it is a response to Ron’s direct question.
DEAN: And all due respect to Senator Kerry and the others from Washington that voted for these tax cuts, this is exactly why the budget is so far out of balance.
Washington politicians promising people everything. You can have tax cuts, you can have insurance, you can have special education. We cannot win as Democrats if we take that kind of attack. Tell the truth: We cannot afford all of the tax cuts, the health insurance, special ed and balancing the budget, and we have to do those things.
The fact of the matter is that 60 percent of Americans at the bottom got $325. That is not a tax cut. Whatever you got out there in tax cuts, the majority of Americans saw their kids’ college tuition go up, their property taxes go up, because people like the friend-Senator Kerry’s friend in Barrington got laid off because of the enormous tax cuts and no money coming to the states.
Let’s call this one right. Let’s be fiscally responsible and balance the budget.
Bob Graham and I are the only people up here that have ever balanced a budget and I think we ought to balance this budget and not promise more than we can deliver.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Gephardt, you get to answer a full question.
GEPHARDT: Thank you.
I don’t agree with John. I think that’s the wrong policy, and let me tell you why.
This plan has failed. The president’s economic plan has failed. And we should not keep half of a failure or a quarter of a failure or two-thirds of a failure. If it’s failed, let’s change the policy. Let’s do something else.
That’s why I have a health care plan that I think will stimulate the economy much more than the Bush tax cuts, will create more jobs, put more people to work and solve a major, major problem that we have for every American.
The other thing I’d say is if you do what I’m saying, we’ll go back to the Clinton tax code. That was (inaudible) tax code. I led the fight in 1993 to put those changes in place; it worked. And my plan will put more money into the average family (inaudible) Bush tax cuts in (inaudible).
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, I’ll give you 30 rebuttal.
KERRY: Again, with Governor Dean, Governor Dean didn’t balance this budget alone. The federal government gave him about 21 percent of that budget, in order to help balance it.
And the fact is that going back to the Clinton tax cuts, doesn’t create another job, it puts a burden on current predicament of middle- class Americans. They lose their current revenue.
What’s kept America’s economy moving in the last two and a half years has been consumer spending. If all of a sudden, when we’re trying to recover, we sucked a whole lot of money out of those consumers, we are not going to be able to keep the economy moving.
It’s the wrong policy. We can have the deficit cut in half...
KERRY: ... the way Bill Clinton did it.
WILLIAMS: Times is up for...
KERRY: And I believe we don’t have to do it on the backs of the middle class.
WILLIAMS: For rebuttal, Ron, you can continue your questioning.
INSANA: General Clark, in your eighth day as a politician you began to outline some of your economic priorities. You suggested you would keep some of the middle-class tax breaks but essentially get rid of much of the rest.
You spent time as an investment banker. Don’t you believe that lower capital gains taxes, lower dividend taxes not only help the rich and Wall Street but also help to create jobs and help the economy overall?
CLARK: I think that what we need to do in this economy is go back and look at our overall position for a deficit.
We started with $5 trillion surplus. We went to a $5 trillion deficit, projected over 10 years.
Now, this administration hasn’t had a real economic strategy. All it’s had is a tax-cut policy.
We’re faced with a very serious deficit problem. We need to keep the-we need to go back to the top 2 percent and repeal those tax cuts. We need to put all the government spending programs on the table, including the military programs. We need to then have no new programs unless you can pay as you go. And then we need a simpler, fairer, more progressive tax code.
And I’ll be coming out in a few weeks with my own economic plan to address the deficit. It will be a central point of focus of my administration. And I think it’s a tough problem, but it’s a problem we as Americans, if we work together and bring people together on this issue, we can solve it and still achieve the goals we need.
WILLIAMS: I want to turn into taxes for a little bit here. There’s a lot of talk, as you all know, in Washington about deferring tax cuts, rolling back tax cuts. But let’s talk about the guarantee not to raise taxes, perhaps.
And, Senator Graham, why don’t I begin with you? Are you willing to say here and now those famous words, in a Graham presidency there would be no new taxes?
GRAHAM: No, and you don’t have to watch my lips saying that word.
I believe it’s irresponsible, particularly a candidate for the president of the United States, to make an announcement in advance that they would never seek to increase federal revenue or reallocate the responsibility for paying the cost to the federal government.
In the first year of President Bush’s administration, this country, this city was struck with a horrendous terrorist attack which has resulted in billions of unanticipated new responsibilities for the federal government.
What we are doing now, is we are asking our children and our grandchildren to pay for these costs. We’re writing a deficit bill the likes of which we’ve never seen, which we’re not going to assume responsibility for, but ask our children.
WILLIAMS: Senator Lieberman, direct question, 60 seconds, same question: Would you exert the same sort of caution or can you say that existing revenue would be enough, no new taxes under a Lieberman administration?
LIEBERMAN: Same answer that Bob Graham gave; it’s the right answer.
And immediately as president, I would attempt to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the highest income Americans, they don’t need it. It sent us in a deficit that will cost the middle class, and as Bob said, our children and grandchildren, all sorts of money in the future.
There’s a choice here and I want to take it to a larger point. The debate going on between us is really a debate about whether we want to take the Democratic party back to where it was before Bill Clinton transformed it in 1992, or whether we want to take it forward.
And some of my opponents here, including Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, want to repeal all the taxes. That, as John has said, would mean a middle-class tax increase. Bill Clinton was for a middle-class tax cut.
Some would spend over $3 trillion. That would put us as much into debt as George Bush has done, and take all that money out of the Social Security trust fund.
Some forget that Bill Clinton was for trade that created jobs, and they’re against trade today.
I want to build on the Clinton-Gore record, and create 10 million new jobs in the first four years of my administration.
WILLIAMS: Time, Senator. Time, Senator.
BORGER: Let’s go to Senator Edwards on this question. If as president you decide to cancel tax cuts, that means that people’s taxes are naturally going to go up.
Yet a lot of people here say that that is not a tax increase. So how can you tell voters that their taxes will increase, but they are not getting a tax increase?
EDWARDS: Well, here’s what I’d say to voters. What I’m going to do is something dramatically different than this president is doing.
Everyone on this stage is against Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, but there’s something more radical than that going on here. What this president is doing is trying to shift the tax burden in America from wealth to work.
He wants to eliminate the capital gains tax, the dividends tax, the estate tax, all the taxation of wealth or passive income on wealth, and shift that tax burden to people who work for a living. It’s an enormous mistake.
The middle-class working people made this country what it is today. And I would say to Governor Dean and Dick Gephardt, I grew up in a middle-class family whose taxes they’re talking about raising.
For a family of four, who makes about $40,000 a year, we’re talking about almost $2,000; $2,000 that could be used to pay a lot of bills.
What we ought to be doing instead is empowering those families, helping them buy a house, helping them invest, lowering their capital gains rate. So we improve the-and expand the investor class in America.
WILLIAMS: Senator, time.
BORGER: Reverend Sharpton and Ambassador Moseley Braun, many of you here around this table were talking today about tax cut for the middle class versus tax cuts for the wealthy. This leads me to ask a very basic question of you and that is how do you define rich in this country?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that, clearly, rich are those that are above a certain income bracket that are able to, without any concern, pay for their livelihood and their family.
I think what we’re hearing here, though, is something that is particularly disturbing to me. I think that we’re not talking tax cuts, we’re talking tax shifts.
And what President Bush has offered and some are supporting, is to give us $300 at the end of the day, when we bring about an economy where interest rates go too high, where mortgage lending can’t happen for people right here in Queens.
My two daughters are here tonight. Would I rather give them $300 that, if they buy a pair of sneakers apiece, the $300 is gone, or would I rather them be able to buy a home and have interest rates where they can have a home mortgage?
If you talk to the American people like that, they will understand the fallacy of that.
And that’s not about reading lips, because we’ve read Bush’s lips; they lied. He said that there are no tax cuts, yet he caused a shift where state tax, sale tax and property taxes went up. That’s a tax hike...
WILLIAMS: Reverend. Reverend.
SHARPTON: ... where I come from.
WILLIAMS: Reverend. Reverend, thank you.
BORGER: Ambassador Moseley Braun, who’s rich and who’s in the middle class?
MOSELEY BRAUN: The economic policies, the trickle-down economics that this administration has given us has created a situation, probably in recent-in our memory, that we’ve never seen before in our memory, of embedded wealth, entrenched poverty and a shrinking middle class. That, it seems to me, is the antithesis, the opposite, of what the American dream is all about.
And so, what we are not-we’re not talking about class warfare, which I think is suggested by your question. This is not holding it against someone for doing well.
But as people do well, I think they have a responsibility to build community. And that means getting away from an ethos of greed, that we have seen all too much of in recent times, and making certain that the economy works for every American and that opportunity is kept alive in this country.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador, thank you.
Congressman Kucinich, you talk often about your family history in this country and your background in the state of Ohio. How do you define “rich” these days?
KUCINICH: Well, I think it’s defined when you consider that the top 272,000 taxpayers are getting as much of a benefit under the Bush tax cut as the bottom 129 million. So I think that what’s happening in this society is, there is a maldistribution of the wealth.
And I’m disappointed that my fellow colleagues here haven’t continued to make the connection between the rising deficit and the war in Iraq. Because unless we commit ourselves to get out of Iraq-get the U.N. in and get the U.S. out-we’re going to see rising deficits.
They’re talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars for this war. And if you look at the maldistribution of wealth, it’s going to be accelerated by this war.
Are we going to have tax cuts for the wealthy and then ask people later on to increase their taxes? Are going to have the Pentagon budget go to $550 billion within eight years and ask the people to pay more taxes?
I think we have to reorder our priorities. It begins with getting out of Iraq and putting money again into health care, into education, into job creation.
WILLIAMS: You can set us up nicely, Congressman, for the focus of our next segment.
We are going to take a break. Our focus tonight, of course, overall, is the economy. Our time frame, two hours. Our guests, the 10 declared Democrats in the race for president.
We are joining you this evening from the Campus of Pace University in New York. We’ll continue right after this.
WILLIAMS: We are back from the campus of Pace University in Lower Manhattan, the presidential debate with all the 10 declared candidates in the Democratic Party for president.
Just one housekeeping note: Fairness is enormously important to us. We are running a clock on all answers, all rebuttals, and it is our-we will do our level best that everything come out on time and even at the end of this evening.
We’ll resume the questioning with Congressman Gephardt.
You have a lot of union support, Congressman. They put a premium, it is said, on not just creating new jobs but protecting old ones. This week your spokesman called Senator Kerry a knee-jerk supporter of free trade. Is that fair, Congressman?
GEPHARDT: Well, the fight for labor unions and working families is in my bones. My dad was a Teamster and a milk truck driver, and I’m very proud of what he stood for and represented in my life and in my family’s life. And I’m proud to have the support of working families.
This administration has declared war on the middle class. They’ve lost more jobs in the last two and a half years than the last 11 presidents put together. He’s lost more jobs than Herbert Hoover, almost. This is a colossal disaster for the president and for the country.
We need to have a policy to build new jobs in this country. Part of it is fair trade, not just free trade.
Everybody here-most everybody here voted for NAFTA, voted for the China agreement. I did not. I led the fight against it. That’s the kind of trade policy we need that globalizes with fairness and standards around the world so work, wherever it’s performed, is given a fair wage for their hard work.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
Senator Kerry, you have accused Governor Dean of playing on workers’ fears and advocating protectionism and saying that under him it threatens to throw the economy into a tail spin. It that fair?
KERRY: Yes, it is fair, because Governor Dean, on a number of occasions across the country, has said very specifically that we should not trade with countries until they have labor and environment standards that are equal to the United States.
That means we would trade with no countries. It is a policy for shutting the door. It’s either a policy for shutting the door, if you believe it, or it’s a policy of just telling people what they want to hear.
I think there’s a middle ground that’s smart for America. No president can shut the door to globalization and no president should.
President Clinton traded. We created 23 million jobs in the 1990s, we balanced the budget, we paid down the debt, we brought more women into the workforce than at any time in American history. We lifted a hundred times the number of people out of poverty of Ronald Reagan.
We can do that again, but we have to enforce trade agreements. We have to be fair in our trade.
And I intend to sign no trade agreement that doesn’t have adequate labor and environment standards. I’m going to raise the enforcement level. But I’m not going to shut the door, because that would depress the economy of our country.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, thank you.
Governor Dean, you have said that the senator from Massachusetts lacks an understanding of the job loss in this country. You have heard the accusation from him.
DEAN: I think that’s true.
You know, to listen to Senator Lieberman, Senator Kerry, Representative Gephardt, I’m anti-Israel, I’m anti-trade, I’m anti- Medicare and I’m anti-Social Security. I wonder how I ended up in the Democratic Party.
I’m not a new entrant to the Democratic Party. I’ve been here a long time.
I voted for-I supported NAFTA, I supported the WTO. We benefited in Vermont from trade.
But I have spent a lot of time in the Midwest in the last couple of years. Our manufacturing jobs are hemorrhaging. We have to go back and revise every single trade agreement that we have to include labor standards, environmental standards and human rights standards.
And if we don’t, the trade policy that we seek to help globalize and help workers around the country and the world is going to fail. I want a successful trade policy, but I’m no longer willing to sacrifice the jobs of middle-class Americans in order to pad the bottom lines of multinational corporations.
Trade has to be fair to workers, not just multinational corporations. And I think Senator Kerry is insensitive to the plight of workers-American workers who have lost their manufacturing jobs.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, rebuttal time, and then perhaps Congressman Gephardt.
KERRY: Well, I gave a speech in Detroit several days ago which reflects an economic policy that I’ve laid out over the last years that will address the manufacturing loss.
I’m not insensitive to the jobs. I’m desperately concerned about those jobs. But you don’t fix them by pandering to people and telling them you’re going to shut the door. You have to grow jobs.
We need to increase our commitment to science in America, to venture capital, to the kinds of incentives that draw capital to the creation of jobs.
Democrats can’t love jobs and hate the people who create them.
KERRY: We need to encourage job creation and trade, but fair trade, and I’ve shown how that can happen.
WILLIAMS: Time is up on that, Congressman. We’ll try to get to you.
The questioning continues with Gerry Seib.
SEIB: I’d like to turn this question of job loss to Senator Graham, if I could.
What would you do as president, if anything, to either discourage of maybe even punish American companies that take jobs overseas? Or to deal with allies such as Mexico that have lower labor, environmental standards, that make them attractive places for American factories?
GRAHAM: I am the jobs candidate. And I’m not only talking about what I will do, but what I have done.
While I was governor of Florida, when the state had a population of approximately 12 million people, I presided over the creation of 1.4 million new jobs in Florida, new jobs that resulted in, for the first time in our state’s history, the per-capita income in Florida being above the national average; resulted in Florida for three years in a row being recognized as the state that had the best climate for economic development.
I also am the candidate who has the most comprehensive economic plan, Opportunity For All, which lays out the pillars of creating new jobs in America: balancing the budget; making our tax program more fair and progressive; third, investing in America by rebuilding America. If we can afford to rebuild the bridges, the roads, the schools and electric system of Iraq, we can afford to invest in rebuilding America.
WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, thank you.
Before Gerry continues, just been told by our timekeepers, again, another reminder, when the bell sounds, we must stop talking. We’re getting sloppy and over on time. It’ll have to come out at the end.
SEIB: Senator Edwards and Reverend Sharpton, on this question of job loss, you’ve both had a fairly tough line.
I think, Senator Edwards, you’ve talked about withholding tax credits from companies that move jobs overseas.
Reverend Sharpton, you’ve talked about punishing companies that move overseas to dodge American taxes.
Isn’t that, though, a message that builds walls between the U.S. and the rest of the world economy on which our own prosperity has become so dependent?
SHARPTON: No. When I say that we should punish companies that go and have offshore corporations to duck taxes, that doesn’t affect our standing with any other country. That affects people like Enron, that had 3,000 offshore companies deduct taxes. That doesn’t hurt other countries, in terms of our enforcement.
I think what we should say to other countries is the way that we can develop them in proper relationships is to, first, have a strong country here.
We’re on an island right now that, one side trades trillions on Wall Street; the other side, you have people in Harlem and Washington Heights trying to choose between rent and prescription drugs. We have a responsibility to those citizens and we need to make that responsibility our priority before we try and help to accommodate companies that don’t want to stand up for their responsibilities.
We’re told the responsible thing to do is serve the country. But if you’re a multi-billionaire, the responsible thing to do is to duck taxes and to try to down-size employment. That’s ridiculous.
WILLIAMS: I’ll take a 30-second rebuttal here from General Clark before we continue with Gerry.
CLARK: Well, I think that American business is the source of jobs and opportunity in this country. We need to look very carefully at how we create positive incentives for business. And we need to go right at the jobs problem in this country.
I’ve got a better job plan in eight days than George Bush had in three years in this country, and it will work, it’s significant, and we need to concentrate on creating jobs here.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, General.
Gerry, your question for the senators.
SEIB: Senator Edwards, I’ll come back to you. How do you draw the line between building walls to protect jobs and building walls that create isolationism economically?
EDWARDS: Well, we should start by saying this is not an academic discussion. Over 3 million Americans under this administration have lost the self-respect and the self-dignity that comes with a paycheck and a job. That’s the starting place. This president doesn’t understand that.
I think what we ought to do is have a tax system, to answer your question, that’s fair, that values hard work in the middle class over wealth. We, in fact, ought to have trade agreements that have real protections in them that allow our people here at home to compete.
But we also ought to close down loopholes in our tax code that give American companies an incentive to go overseas. In fact, I think we ought to go further than that: We ought to give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs right here in America.
But I think we have to do another thing-that’s to protect the jobs we have. We have to create jobs. And in order to create jobs, we ought to identify those places in America where job losses occurred and say to new business, “If you’ll start there, we’ll give you the seed money with a national venture capital fund”; and second, to existing businesses and industry, “If you’ll locate in an urban area, in an inner city, in a rural area, we will give you incentives to go there.”
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
Questioning continues with Ron Insana.
INSANA: Thank you, Brian.
I would talk to you about a tradeoff between jobs and trade. I’d like to switch the conversation a little bit to the budget priorities of the Democratic Party and jobs.
Senator Lieberman, Ambassador Moseley Braun, you seem to have different priorities in these issues.
Senator, you tout jobs as the main portion of your economic program.
Ambassador Moseley Braun, you suggested a balanced budget is the utmost priority.
Senator, first, which should be the priority of the Democratic Party, balancing the budget or creating jobs?
LIEBERMAN: We can do both, but the priority has to be to create jobs.
I’ve got an aggressive, constructive economic plan which I am confident will create 10 million jobs in the first four years instead of losing 3.5 billion as George Bush has already done.
For the details I would forward folks to my Web site, joe2004.com.
But-you can imagine how happy I was the day Joe Biden announced he was not running for president of the United States.
But fiscal responsibility, paying down the debt is a critical part of creating confidence again in our economy.
And incidentally, so, too, is trade. I’m for trade because trade creates jobs. You cannot build a wall around America and create one more job. The last president to try to do that was Herbert Hoover, and it led to the Great Depression.
Bill Clinton understood that trade creates jobs.
LIEBERMAN: One in five jobs in America today is dependent on trade. I want to increase trade, I want to enforce other countries to play by the rules and that’ll create more jobs.
WILLIAMS: Thanks. Fine.
Ambassador Moseley Braun, would you balance the budget first in order to create an environment where the economy is on better footing so jobs can be created?
MOSELEY BRAUN: You have to create jobs and you have to get the economy going to create the economic-the robustness in the economy that will produce the revenue to balance the budget. I mean, balancing the budget is a priority that will come when we create jobs.
And I thought, Joe, you were going to say something about, you know, the party of fiscal responsibility; we’ve already done it. When Bill Clinton became president, we balanced the budget and created jobs and had this country on a good economic foot and the people were doing well. We were in a time of prosperity.
This administration has not only had a job hemorrhage, but sent us into record deficits. Their policy of borrow and pass the buck has just simply shifted the responsibilities not only to state and local governments and tax payers but to our grandchildren, and that’s wrong.
We, as the Democratic Party, stand for getting this economy back on track and preserving the promise of the American dream that we will pay our bills as we go.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador, thank you.
INSANA: General Clark and Congressman Kucinich, Congress has in the past bailed out industries like airlines, like autos, in order to save jobs. There are some in Congress who are worried that there’s a looming financial disaster among these government-sponsored entities that provide home mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that should something terrible happen there, in the wake of an interest rate problem in this economy, we could see a systemic financial problem that destroys jobs.
How would you deal, General Clark first, with a potential problem at a place like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?
CLARK: Well, I think we do have to recognize that home ownership is critical in this country and we’re sustaining our economy right now off the refinancing proceeds of the American family. I’ve refinanced my home. I’m sure many other people here have and most of my family has.
But we don’t want anything to happen to these mortgage agencies, because they are the ones who are helping to facilitate home ownership. So we really do need to investigate this.
This is an area where the way the process works is that if there’s a sudden rise in interest rates these institutions will be in jeopardy. It’s time to relook again the real meaning of the federal guarantee or whether or not there is a federal guarantee behind them.
But one thing I would do as president, I’m going to assure that every American has the right to own a home and will maintain his home ownership no matter what might change and what might problems there might be in these institutions. We’ll fix this.
INSANA: Congressman Kucinich?
KUCINICH: It think it’s important to do some analysis as to why people have lost their homes, because unless we have economic policies that are aimed at savings jobs and stopping the loss of jobs and creating new jobs, you could talk about Fannie Mae and other agencies and it will be for naught.
I’m the only one up here on this stage-and I’m, frankly, surprised at my Democratic colleagues that they won’t take a firm stand and recognize that NAFTA and the WTO have hurt this country.
KUCINICH: I’ve said very clearly that we need to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO, and that would be my first act as office.
And it’s not a choice between trade or no trade. You return to bilateral trade, conditioned on workers’ rights, human rights and the environment, and unless you address that issue-there’s a $435 billion trade deficit. Unless you address that issue all of these other issues about creation of new housing won’t mean an awful lot, even though it’s well intended.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
BORGER: Congressman Gephardt, still on jobs, you proposed a $200 billion a year health care plan, and you say that that plan is going to pump money into the economy, and that’s the way you’re going to provide jobs in this economy.
Yet Senator Edwards says that it’s a terrible plan, because it depends on companies getting tax credits, and they will then provide the insurance to their employees. And he says by depending on these companies it’s like telling employees, quote, “They’re in good hands with Enron.”
You’re somebody who is very pro-labor. Can you tell us what makes you so convinced that corporate America is going to fulfill the role you envision for it?
GEPHARDT: Because my bill makes them do it. We don’t just hand out tax credits, we say, “You’ve got to pass it along to the employee so they can buy the plan that they want to buy.”
Let me tell you something: We’re never going to solve the economic problems in this country until we solve the health care problem. We have 50 million people without health insurance.
GEPHARDT: These are middle-class Americans who cannot get access to the health care that they need.
My plan is the best plan. It’s the only plan that helps everybody.
We did an economic study. A reputable economic forecaster said that we’d put $312 billion of stimulus into the American economy.
Further than that, I help average families more than the Bush tax cuts. I give them between $2,500 and $3,000 a year. Bush gives them a paltry $700 a year.
I got to ask everybody a question: How many jobs do Americans have to lose before George Bush loses his? That’s the question we ought to be asking today.
WILLIAMS: Gloria Borger?
BORGER: Senator Kerry, you were shaking your head, and I’m wondering whether there’s a rebuttal from you.
KERRY: Well, I agree completely with John Edwards.
First of all, no one is going to find $228 billion to put into health care. Nobody believes it’s there, and it can’t be found, number one.
Number two, it is given to those companies without any demand on the cost of health care in the country.
I’ve offered a plan which costs about $75 billion a year but which controls costs by pulling all the catastrophic cases-any case $50,000 or more we take out of the system and that reduces premiums across the country.
KERRY: There’s no command and control. It’s not a government plan.
WILLIAMS: Out of time.
WILLIAMS: Gloria, continue the question.
BORGER: Again on jobs to Senator Graham and Reverend Sharpton, one way you both want to create jobs is by-through public works projects. You spoke about that just a moment ago.
But what’s the evidence that you have that Washington spending our tax dollars is going to do a better job of creating those jobs than private employers could do hanging on to those same tax dollars?
First to you, Senator.
GRAHAM: Gloria, I believe in the rather radical idea that if you want to create jobs, you create jobs, and you use those jobs to build a stronger economy.
Would anyone here question the fact that we are in a nation where our basic systems that support not only our lifestyle but also our economy, from the electric grid to our transportation systems to the enormous water and sewer needs across America, are all in serious distress?
What better way to add to the economic strength of America, not only today, through the 3 million people who will be employed in this great state/federal partnership patterned on President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, where the state and the federal government working together will create a new America, a stronger America and 3 million jobs?
BORGER: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: Not only did Eisenhower, but Roosevelt had a public works program.
What I’ve proposed is a five-year, $250 billion infrastructure redevelopment plan. $50 billion a year rebuilding highways, roadways, tunnels, bridges and, in the name of homeland security, ports. If you look at the ports in this country, we are in disrepair.
Not only does it create jobs, it does what is needed because we need to deal with the infrastructural decay. And if we do not create jobs, we can have all of the recovery we want in production, we are not going to have consumers to buy it.
We are going from a threat of inflation to a threat of deflation.
SHARPTON: And unless we have someone to deal with these times-President Clinton did a good job, but we had a technology boom then. We don’t have that now.
I mean, I know that within the next hour we’ll say that Bill Clinton walked on water. The fact is there was a reason the economy was strong then.
We don’t have that reason now. We must invest in job development. That’s how you bring the economy back.
WILLIAMS: Reverend, thank you.
And we’ll go to break shortly.
But Senator Lieberman-a strict 30 second rebuttal-is what we’re talking about here really a modern-day WPA?
LIEBERMAN: Well, that could be part of it.
But, look, the way we’re really going to grow the economy is to invest in people, to invest in innovation, to have the federal government put money in the kind of research that will create the new high-technology, bio-technology industries that will create the millions of new jobs.
And one of the ways we do that is having the federal government partner with business, give business tax incentives to invest and grow and create jobs. And then, use public money to give lifetime opportunities for training and retraining to America’s workers.
That’s the way we are going to do it.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
We’re at Pace University in Lower Manhattan. All 10 declared Democrats in the race. Two hours, many issues to come.
Our CNBC-Wall Street Journal debate continues.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back, campus of Pace University in Lower Manhattan. All 10 declared candidates, two hours, largely on the subject of the economy and all that that entails.
WILLIAMS: So many topics yet to come. We have done some tabulating on time. We know who is running ahead and behind, in terms of questions, answers and rebuttal. It’ll be reflected in our questions here in this next segment.
Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun to you: What do you believe happened between the Clinton-ambitious Clinton health care proposal and where this country is today in terms of affordable health care for all?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, there’s no question in my mind but that every American wants to have universal coverage. But the only way we can get there is with, in my opinion, a single-payer system that is decoupled from employment, that’s to say, doesn’t depend on employment.
The Clinton plan attempted to reconcile the public and private systems that we have now. They are simply irreconcilable. You cannot bring it together and make it make any sense without a whole lot of bureaucracies.
So if we go to a single-payer system, we will give our export sector, our multinationals, a competitive boost in the international markets, because right now they’re carrying the cost of health care. We will give the middle class a boost in terms of their-and working people a boost in terms of their paychecks. We will give small businesses a real boost because they can’t afford it.
And we can do it without spending a dime more than we are presently paying at the highest level of any industrialized country in the world.
A single-payer system really is the only way to go. And if we take it off the payroll tax, we will provide working people with opportunity for health care.
WILLIAMS: Let’s continue our questioning with Gerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal.
SEIB: General Clark, Congressman Gephardt has described for us here his ambitious health care program: $200 billion a year.
SEIB: Others of your colleagues have smaller programs on the table. You’re the newcomer here. Let me ask you, what would you do to improve the health care situation, to provide health care coverage, and specifically to give prescription drug benefits to Medicare recipients?
CLARK: Well, I think in this country we have to recognize we are in a health care crisis. We’ve got 41 million Americans uninsured, we’ve got more dropping out of their insurance programs as they lose their jobs. Even the people who have health insurance today are insecure about keeping it.
I’ve been in the race about nine days, so I don’t have a complete package of health care proposals, but here’s what I would do. I think as we move toward this, we need to take the existing programs, we need to build on the existing programs, we need to take the states’ child health insurance program an stretch it. We need to raise the limits on Medicaid. We need to look at the 55 to 65 age group and help them. And we need to look at the substance that’s in those proposals.
We should be doing much more with preventive and diagnostic care. We need a comprehensive preventive medicine program for this country. We call it executive fitness in the Army. It’s an executive wellness program. Why isn’t it an American wellness program?
So we’ll come out with our health proposal. We’ll move it that way.
WILLIAMS: General, thank you.
SEIB: Senator Graham, any conversation about health care in this country these days turns to the price of prescription drugs. The average price of a prescription rose 4 percent in 2002, 10 percent of 2001, 9.2 percent before that; all well above the rate of inflation.
SEIB: As president, do you think the government should and would it under your leadership impose any kind of price controls on prescription drugs?
GRAHAM: Well, I can tell you this: There will be nothing done about the price of prescription drugs as long as George W. Bush is president. He is literally in bed with pharmaceutical companies and has made a pact to even avoid in the proposed new federal expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs anything that can be construed as holding down prices.
I think what we need to do is, first, we need to open up competition in the pharmaceutical area through things like making it easier to get generic drugs to market, a reasonable reimportation plan. We need to also have a plan that will assure that access to life-saving drugs are available to all Americans.
And we can do that, among other things, by relieving the states from some of the pressure of prescription drugs for their older citizens, rather than the Republican plan, which is to stick it to the states first.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator.
BORGER: Well, talking a little bit more about prescription drugs-and this is for Congressman Kucinich and Senator Lieberman.
A very big issue on Capitol Hill, as you well know, is the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. The drug companies say you should not be able to do this because the industry needs the money in this country for research and development. The Food and Drug Administration also says that these drugs might be unsafe.
BORGER: Senator Lieberman, you first: Are you for the reimportation of drugs from Canada?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I have supported measures to allow for the reimportation of drugs with an FDA approval that it is safe.
We’ve got a crisis here and there’s something unfair happening. Look, the American pharmaceutical industry has presented us with drugs that are keeping people alive and well a lot longer than they otherwise would be. But they’re asking the American people, and the American people alone, to finance the research that leads to those drugs. That’s not fair.
We’ve got to ask the Canadians who have price controls, the Europeans who have price controls, to begin to pay part of that cost.
And, of course, the best way to give prescription drugs to people at an affordable cost is to cover prescription drugs under Medicare and to cover the 41 million Americans who don’t have health insurance today, because it’s they who get whacked by the cost of prescription drugs, not the people who have health insurance.
WILLIAMS: Let me jump in here just for a second.
Thirty-second rebuttal to Dr. Dean. You’re the only one here on the panel who has examined a patient, as far as we know.
Respond to what the senator said.
DEAN: In all due respects to all the candidates here, any of whom would be better than George Bush as president, these folks have been in Washington a long time and talked about health insurance for a long time, and we have very little to show for it.
DEAN: In my state, 99 percent of the kids that are eligible for health insurance who are under 18, 96 percent have it. Everybody under 150 percent of poverty, all our working poor people, have health insurance. And a lot of seniors have prescription benefits.
This does need to be a system that’s built on what we have. We’ve done that in Vermont. I’d like the opportunity to do that for the whole country.
WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you.
Back to you, Gloria.
BORGER: Well, Congressman Kucinich, we’ll give you a chance to answer the question on the importation of drugs from Canada.
KUCINICH: Of course, there ought to be reimportation. But that’s beside the point.
The pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies control our health care system. And I’m the only one on this stage who’s actually introduced legislation, with Congressman Conyers and McDermott, that provides for a totally new change; that has health care for people, not for profit.
It’s called Medicare For All. It’s a single-payer program. And it’s financed by a 7.7 percent tax paid by employers. And it covers everything. It covers all medically necessary procedures and a wide range of benefits.
And it’s kind of surprising to have people on this stage who have plans, including Dr. Dean, that would leave 10 million Americans out. I think it’s important that all Americans be covered. And I think that it’s important that people receive the ability to have complementary and alternative medicine, to have a prescription drug benefit, to have vision care and dental care and mental health care, to have long-term nursing care all covered under one Medicare For All, single-payer program.
I’m the one who has that plan. I’m the one who’s offering it. I’m the only one on this stage who can say that.
And I want say, with the doctor advocating that, I think it’s time to get a second opinion.
(LAUGHTER) WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
So many doctor puns, so little time.
Gloria, you may continue.
BORGER: This is for Reverend Sharpton.
Governor Dean has called this prescription drug plan that is now pending in Congress, quote, “a political trap for Democrats.”
BORGER: He says that it could make the Democrats look bad if they vote against a bill that they really view is a bad plan.
Would no bill getting out of Congress be better for senior citizens than the prescription drug bill that is now pending?
SHARPTON: I think that we must-again, this process is about what we are going to say to the public we stand for. And I think that we’ve got to quit the compromising on the principles that the party should stand for.
So in this particular case, I agree with Governor Dean. I have supported single-payer plan. I think the only way you’re going to solve these problems is you’ve got to have a national single-payer plan for everyone.
I think that we’ve got to stop going with half a loaf. I would rather have no bill and fight for something real than to continue to give people something that I think is a diluted version of what we need to have.
Plus, I don’t think that the bill in any way covers the areas that we need, in terms of giving relief to the senior citizens that we would try to address this to.
So in this case, I think he’s right, I think that we’ve got to stop acting as though everyone in the party agrees. We must define policy, and this is one of those areas we must define it.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Reverend.
To Ron Insana.
INSANA: General Clark and Senator Edwards, if I may switch to a different entitlement program, Social Security, a lot of the people, General, make their money just a few blocks from here at the New York Stock Exchange, and there was great talk many years ago about allowing Americans the opportunity to invest some of their retirement money into the stock market.
INSANA: However, Senator Graham has referred to the stock market as a-simply as a lottery. Do you share that view, or do you find an appropriate role for stock market investments in the Social Security retirement program?
CLARK: George Bush said that he would protect Social Security, but all he’s done is present tax cuts. His tax cuts total three times the amount of money needed to make the Social Security system solvent for the next 75 years.
I’m a believer in Social Security. I think you need to protect that system, I think you need to put the resources into it, I think you need to assure that it’s solvent. And I’ll tell you why.
First, it’s right. It’s right because when people work in this country, the wealthiest country in the world, they have a right to be assured that in their elderly years they will have a minimum standard of income.
Secondly, I think it’s good business practice, because in the economy we’re facing in the future, we want people to move between jobs and job, we want people to move between skill and skill. We want them to have retirement security, so they can take a chance.
For both reasons, we need to sustain Social Security.
WILLIAMS: Ron, I’ll give you an extra 30. Did you get the answer you wanted?
INSANA: Not at all.
General, would you allow, or do you favor an individual’s being able to invest?
CLARK: Let me be more explicit. I think it’s great if individuals invest in the stock market, but not as a substitute for ensuring the solvency of Social Security. We’re going to get Social Security right first.
And then, we’re going to put in place the measures so that individuals can save and invest on top of Social Security.
And I’m in favor of individual investment and taking care of ordinary working families. When I was in the United States Army and I was trying to save $100 a month, that savings was important to me.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, can the stock market be a component of the Social Security retirement system?
EDWARDS: No, I don’t believe it can.
I think we have to do a number of things. One is, in order to lengthen the financial viability of Social Security, the single most important thing is to get away from this deficit spending that this president has put us in and move back to fiscal responsibility.
Which means, in my judgment, what I would do as president is stop President Bush’s tax cuts for the top two income tax brackets-people who make over $200,000 a year-close a whole group of corporate tax loopholes to generate revenue that will get us back on the path to fiscal responsibility.
I think we also ought to actually raise the capital gains rate for those who earn over $300,000 a year, so that the rate is more in line with the income tax rate paid by people who work for a living.
But we have a train wreck coming. We have the onslaught of the baby boomers coming. We have government that’s in deficit, getting deeper into deficit. What we ought to do is help people save.
EDWARDS: We have one of the worst private savings rates in the world. I would match dollar for dollar the savings of middle-income families to allow them to save privately to help us address this problem.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
All of the candidates who would use too much time in previous segments are discovering rapidly who they are.
Gloria Borger, do you want to continue the questioning?
Well, Senator Edwards talks about a train wreck that is coming-and this is for Congressman Gephardt and Ambassador Moseley Braun-because whenever the future of Social Security is talked about, the issue of retirement age has always been put on the table. People now live longer and they work longer than they did when the retirement age was set at age 65.
So, Congressman Gephardt, why not raise it?
GEPHARDT: Well, I was a leader of the effort in 1983 to make sure Social Security was sound out into the future. And as part of that legislation, we raised the retirement age-and that’s in the law today-to 67.
I’m not for taking it higher than that. I think we really create problems for people if we do that.
But let me go back to the point that really needs to be made. We are never going to solve Social Security until we get this economy straightened out.
There’s no longer a mystery of how to do this. We did it. I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in 1993. We got it through. We didn’t get a Republican vote in the House, a Republican vote in the Senate.
GEPHARDT: It created 22 million new jobs. It made our unemployment go down to 3 percent. We took a $5 trillion deficit and turned it into a $5 trillion surplus. Why wouldn’t we want to go back to that?
BORGER: Well, back to the retirement age...
... Ambassador Moseley Braun?
MOSELEY BRAUN: You know, I think if we are actually going to accept our generation’s responsibility, that’s going to mean that we give our children no less retirement security than we inherited from our parents.
To me, that means keeping Social Security safe, that means not raising the retirement age, that means not putting on additional restrictions that would give people less upon which to fall back and retire than we inherited.
I would point out that I was actually surprised at the first question, because, frankly, I have not heard much conversation about privatization of Social Security since Enron. And you ask any employee from that company and what they’ll tell you is that in the absence of a safety net that government guarantees, you might be finding yourself 87 years old, unable to work and unable to have any-to take care of yourself.
We have a responsibility to protect Social Security and retirement security. As the only woman-the first woman in history to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, I worked hard for retirement security and for women’s pensions.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Ambassador.
A question for Governor Dean: What is your position on raising the retirement age?
DEAN: We shouldn’t do it.
You know, Dick Gephardt, earlier in his career considered means testing Social Security and Medicare both, something that I have never considered. I considered raising the Social Security age possibly to 70, possibly to 68.
DEAN: I’ve rejected that. I think Dick has since rejected means testing Social Security.
What we’re trying to do as Democrats is save Social Security and Medicare both. And I think we’ve succeeded in doing that. In fact, many of the things that I suggested in 1995, which Dick Gephardt has attacked me for, were actually incorporated into the Clinton plan to save Medicare and Social Security, and has resulted in the savings of over $200 billion.
So my view is, we do not need to raise the retirement age above 67. We do not need to means test Social Security or Medicare.
If we need to do anything, we may need to raise the cap on earnings in order to make Social Security solvent.
But Social Security is solvent today, and it will remain solvent if we can turn this economy around, and that’s what we’re all trying to do here.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Gephardt, we would be remiss.
GEPHARDT: Howard and I just have a basic disagreement. He said in, I think, 1993 that Medicare was the worst federal program ever. He said that it was the worst thing that ever happened.
He also supported, at our darkest hour-when I was leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America, he was shutting the government down-Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare.
Now, you’ve been saying for many months that you’re the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you’re just winging it.
This is not the view of Democrats, in my view.
This program has been under attack from the Republicans since the beginning. And we need a candidate against George Bush that can take the fight to him on it, not someone who agreed with the Gingrich Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Governor Dean?
DEAN: That is flat-out false, and I’m ashamed that you would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be compared to Newt Gingrich.
DEAN: First of all, I did say that Medicare was a dreadful program because it’s administered dreadfully.
I’ve done more for health insurance, Dick Gephardt, frankly, than you ever have, because I’ve delivered it to a lot of seniors and a lot of young people. And I’ll stake my record on health insurance against anybody up here.
Of course, we’re not going to get rid of Medicare, and you are wrong to insinuate so, but we’re going to run it properly because we’re going to have somebody that actually is taking care of patients running Medicare and Medicaid in the FDA so we can get the things that we need to get to patients.
To insinuate that I would get rid of Medicare is wrong, it’s not helpful, and we need to remember that the enemy here is George Bush, not each other.
WILLIAMS: Reverend Sharpton, you were wanting in here, I’m going to allow you a 30-second rebuttal.
SHARPTON: Again, I think that we can only solve this if there’s a commitment to health care, generally, under a single-payer plan. And I think that the danger of all of these programs is that it doesn’t cover all of us.
And you can get on my Web site, Al2004.com. I’m a different Al than you hung out with before, Joe, but I’m going to win.
But the other thing is, I agree. I hope we don’t, in our distinguishing, make George Bush the winner tonight. I think all of us have disagreed. I think clearly we need to make sure we don’t give George Bush the night by getting too personal, Hilda (ph) Howard.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
(LAUGHTER) Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.
And to Congressman Kucinich on what needs fixing in health care.
KUCINICH: Well, first of all the Social Security money belongs to Main Street, not to Wall Street.
KUCINICH: It needs to be said very clearly here that privatization is off the table. There will be no privatization when I’m elected president. I’ll block any effort.
Furthermore, none of the other candidates has addressed the real issue here, and that is that people are retiring earlier. They’re retiring at age 62. And so we ought to take the retirement age back to 65, take the retirement age back to 65. The money is there.
Right now, the Bush administration is using the surplus to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.
And Social Security, as a matter of fact, is a better investment now than the stock market. There’s a higher return. There’s guaranteed cost-of-living increases. Privatization you have to worry about the value of your account.
I’m saying that Social Security right now, the retirement age ought to go back to age 65. I challenge every one of my Democratic colleagues to look at the record, look at the trust fund, it’s solid through the year 2041, get that money back to workers who are retiring earlier.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Congressman.
Our questioning will continue with Gerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal.
SEIB: Let me switch to a different subject, which is energy and energy security, and address this question to Senator Kerry and Senator Joe Lieberman.
Just yesterday, OPEC announced a production cutback and the price of oil jumped immediately. How can you say on one hand that there is a paramount economic and national security need to reduce dependence on imported, and specifically Middle Eastern, oil, while on the other hand oppose drilling in one section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska?
Senator Kerry, you first.
KERRY: Because the Arctic Wildlife Refuge won’t provide a drop of oil for 20 years.
KERRY: And because the total amount of oil, if it were to come through at the level that some people in the oil industry predict, will amount to about a 1 to 2 percent reduction in the total dependency of the United States on oil.
We only have 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Gerry. There is no physical or metaphysical way for the United States of America to drill its way out of this problem. We have to invent our way out of this problem.
And the sooner that we have a president who understands that and begins to commit America to the science, the discovery, to the alternatives, to the renewables, to begin to press America toward the great journey toward energy independence, the better off America will be, the better our health will be, the more effective our economy would be and, frankly, the better our national security will be and the better world citizen we will be.
I think the OPEC rise yesterday absolutely underscores the danger to the United States of this current dependency. We need to commit ourselves to energy independence now.
SEIB: Thank you, Senator.
Senator Lieberman, you see any other alternatives?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I sure do.
Look, there’s been a widespread loss of confidence in George Bush’s economic policies. And the OPEC decision to cut the supply of oil shows that even George Bush’s buddies in OPEC have lost confidence in his economic plans, because they based that cut in supply on a projected cut and demand because they see America in a jobless recovery.
LIEBERMAN: It’s going to take a Democratic president to begin to create jobs again.
And one of the ways we’re going to do it with a declaration of real energy independence, so no matter how strong we are, we can’t have our strength be compromised by the countries in OPEC.
I am for increasing the average fuel efficiency of our vehicles to 40 miles a gallon. That’s critical. I’m for investing billions of dollars in creating new, alternative renewable energy technologies and giving tax credits to people who buy them.
We can get together and make ourselves energy-independent and stronger economically.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator.
We’ll go over to Ron Insana.
INSANA: Senator Graham, the energy problems in this country don’t extend only to petroleum and petroleum production. On August 14th of this year, this area of the country and much of the rest of the East Coast suffered an enormous power blackout.
The Bush administration wants to give more control of the electrical grid to the states. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would like to see the federal government solve the problem.
Two questions: Who do you think should solve the problem, or has jurisdiction, if you will; and how should the problem be solved?
GRAHAM: This is another example that one of the recurring themes of the Bush administration, is to divide Americans, not bring us together.
We’ve just been talking about the issue, the future of Social Security; that’s a division between generations in America.
The issue of who’s going to pay for the cost of rebuilding our electric system is a regional conflict within America.
GRAHAM: We need to be looking at ways to solve problems as Americans, not as subgroups of Americans.
The way we ought to deal with this electric grid program is through a combination of the companies, and their customers, and the federal government and the state.
In the plan that we have presented, Opportunity For All, we provide the funds for the federal share of a massive rebuilding of not only our electric system but also our other critical transportation and urban systems upon which we and our economy are sustained.
WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, thank you.
A brief note: I’ve been asked to ask the audience again to limit applause.
And to Gloria.
BORGER: This is to Senator Edwards, back on trade: You know that President Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel last year. Reports are that the administration is now considering rolling back those tariffs.
If you were president, what would you do?
EDWARDS: I supported the tariffs as the time. I think they were important, given the surge of steel that had come into the United States. I think it was the right thing to do. I supported it at the time.
We’ve just gotten a new report, which we’re in the process of looking at-we’re examining right now.
My reaction to what I’ve seen so far is it may be time to ease off on the tariffs. It may actually be the right thing to do, given the result of the report.
I also want to say something about the exchange that took place just a few minutes ago. We need to be really careful that our anger is not directed at each other.
The reason I want to be president of the United States is to change the course of America, to make sure that everyone in this country gets the opportunity that they’re entitled to, no matter where they live or what they color of their skin, what family they’re born into. That’s the America I want to be build as president.
EDWARDS: And I think those of us on this stage have an obligation, not just to the Democratic Party, but to the American people to make sure we do that.
WILLIAMS: Let me hop in for a quick rebuttal from Governor Dean.
What do you think about internecine warfare here among Democrats?
DEAN: I don’t think we should ever have internecine warfare. And I promise never to have internecine warfare.
WILLIAMS: How about little flashes of anger?
DEAN: Well, little flashes of disagreement are going to happen from time to time.
The truth is that we have fundamental policy disagreements here. And what we really need to do is confront George Bush with what he’s done to this country.
But I do think it’s important that if folks are going to talk about us being like Newt Gingrich, that we’re not going to stand for that. There is nobody up here that’s like Newt Gingrich, and I think we have to understand that.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, I’ll give you 30 seconds, and then we really do have to...
KERRY: Well, in defense of Dick Gephardt, I didn’t hear him say he was like Newt Gingrich, I heard him say that he stood with Newt Gingrich when we were struggling to hold on to Medicare. That’s a policy difference.
It’s also a policy difference when Governor Dean says that we could balance the budget by cutting veterans’ benefits, cutting Social Security, cutting defense. “It’d be tough,” he says, “but we could do it.”
Now, I think these are policy difference that we need to discuss, and it’s perfectly fair.
WILLIAMS: Our discussion of policy differences and plain old policy will continue from the Lower Manhattan campus of Pace University. Still a lot to go. We’ll talk about trade when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We are back.
WILLIAMS: All 10 Democrats in the race for president. Our two- hour debate this evening. And we’re going to talk about another perceived difference between two of our candidates up here on stage: Congressman Gephardt and General Clark.
Beginning with Congressman Gephardt, it’s the subject of trade. Do you wear the label “free trader” or “Made in America”?
GEPHARDT: I’m for a progressive trade policy and I will be a president who will lead not only America but the entire world toward a trade policy that will help every business and every worker in the world. That’s what we need.
Some of the candidates were saying that they wouldn’t be for a trade agreement that doesn’t have labor and environmental standards in it. Well, that’s what I tried to get in NAFTA. That’s what I tried to get in the China agreement. And that’s what I will do as president.
I finally got, at the end of the Clinton administration, an agreement with Jordan that I encouraged that had labor and environmental standards in it.
This will be hard to do. It will take a long time to get those standards to be realized, but let me tell you something, if any human being in this world works for a living, they ought to be treated as a human being. I have been in the villages in Mexico and China. I have seen the raw sewage coming down the middle of the road. We owe this to our fellow human beings.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
General, NAFTA is now on the table. Same question: “free trader” or “Made in America”; pick a label.
CLARK: Well, I believe in open trade. I think the record is that we do better if we keep our borders open and we have reciprocal trade agreements.
But I emphasize reciprocal. If we’re going to open our markets to them, they’ve got to open their markets to us. And we want to make sure that they’re not practicing anti-competitive practices, like dumping.
And as president, I’d have no hesitancy in enforcing trade agreements.
I’d like to see them have better labor standards, better environmental standards abroad. Those need to be put into the agreements, they need to be enforced.
We’re not going to bring those countries up to our standards; that’s impossible. But we can help. We can help move this whole mankind forward, and that’s what I believe in.
WILLIAMS: Senator Lieberman, same question.
LIEBERMAN: What’s the question?
WILLIAMS: “Free trade” or “Made in the U.S.”?
LIEBERMAN: Made in the U.S. and sold abroad-that’s what this is all about.
I’m for trade because trade is all about breaking down barriers abroad so that we can sell more American-made goods there and make them here to create jobs.
You know, Brian, this is all about jobs, and I want to talk about something we ought to talk about here so close to Wall Street now after Dick Grasso’s resignation.
There’s a loss of confidence in the American economy, and part of it is because of the culture of greed and irresponsibility. And at the top of that, unfortunately, is the president of the United States. He’s taken our government into terrible debt. His administration has yielded to special interests over and over again. Halliburton writes the specs and then gets the no-bid contracts.
LIEBERMAN: In the Bush administration, the foxes are guarding the foxes and the middle-class hens are getting plucked. I want to make clear I said plucked.
WILLIAMS: Roger that.
Roger that. Senator Lieberman, noted. Distinction noted.
Gerry Seib, Wall Street Journal, continue the question.
SEIB: Let me also speak clearly here to Congressman Kucinich.
Any discussion of trade and everybody leans fairly quickly to China these days. President Bush as well as Democrats are criticizing China for unfair trading practices, for a big trade surplus with the U.S.
Would you today revoke China’s most favorite nation trading status? And what would you say to all those voters in the...
KUCINICH: I was not in favor of it.
SEIB: And what would you say to those voters?
KUCINICH: I voted against most favored nation status for China for a number of reasons.
First of all, we have to keep in mind that there has to be some correspondence in trade. There has to be some relationship between what a country sells in America and what it buys form America. And that’s not my idea, it’s Lester Thurow who’s talked about it and other economists who recognize that there has to be some reciprocity.
China right now-we have $100 billion trade deficit with China, and we have an overall trade deficit approaching $500 billion; the exact total is $435 billion. I raised this issue before. Unless we challenge the underlying structure of our trade, this idea of made in the U.S. and sold abroad, what does it mean? $435 billion deficit.
What we need to do is go back to our trading structures.
KUCINICH: We need to cancel NAFTA, cancel the WTO, which makes any changes in NAFTA-WTO-illegal. My friend Dick Gephardt ought to know that, because his name was on the bill that created the WTO.
And we need to go back to bilateral trade that’s conditioned on workers’ rights, human rights and the environment.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
INSANA: Reverend Sharpton, you’ve been critical of President Bush’s trade policies, when, in fact, it was Bill Clinton who signed more free trade deals than almost any other president in history.
So why are you picking on President Bush in that regard when his predecessor’s responsible for some of the things we’re talking about today?
SHARPTON: Well, I picked on President Clinton when he was in, I disagreed...
... I disagreed with NAFTA when Clinton was in, and I think that we have come to see that that disagreement was correct.
I think that we cannot have trade policy that overlooks labor, overlooks workers’ rights, overlooks environmental concerns. We can’t act like just because something is trade, that also that makes it right.
African-Americans are here on a bad trade policy...
We’re talking about where we are near, we are near an African burial ground. I’m here on a bad trade policy. So just because it’s trade, doesn’t mean that it is good and it is something that we should support.
Democrats ought to always say that we support human rights, environmental rights and protection, not just making money.
SHARPTON: And we need to walk over to the African burial ground here and understand what bad trade policy-non-ethical trade policy has led to in the history of this country.
BORGER: Well, let’s talk some more about trade with Governor Dean.
To put it mildly, Governor Dean, some of your colleagues on this stage have recently questioned your position on free trade. That is because at first you said that U.S. labor standards should be the model for negotiating free trade, and then you changed that to international labor standards.
Did you feel the need to restate your position because Joe Lieberman said that your original policy would lead to what he called a “Dean Depression”?
DEAN: These days I feel my need to restate practically every position I have based on all the things these guys have said about me in the last three or four weeks.
My position on trade is pretty clear. I supported NAFTA, I supported the WTO. I think the admission of WTO to-China to the WTO was a national security issue, which I told President Clinton in 1999.
However, the problem is that these trade agreements are skewed toward multinational corporations. They benefit them, but they do not have equal protection for the people who work either in this country or elsewhere.
I agree with Al: If you put human rights and labor standards in these-and environmental standards in these trade agreements, that will both help American workers and help workers in other countries.
Now, what’s my position on labor standards? Eventually we have to have the same labor standards through every trade agreement. The European Union is often held up as the model, but you can’t get into the European Union unless you have the same environmental and trade standards. I think the place to start is international labor organization standards adhered to and enforced by every one of our trading partners, but ultimately we have to have exactly the same labor standards everywhere.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Governor.
Ambassador Moseley Braun, a lot of agreement going on here. Do you agree with what Governor Dean just said?
MOSELEY BRAUN: I think the whole idea is to create a partnership for prosperity between the government and the private sector.
And let me suggest a slightly different way of looking at these international trading agreements and arrangements. And that is that it’s in the interest of American firms to embrace the idea of labor and environmental and human rights standards, because, otherwise, not to embrace them, simply gives a price advantage to firms and countries that exploit workers, exploit the environment and take advantage of that exploitation by passing it along in their price.
One of the reasons we have such difficulty is that we are making ourselves noncompetitive by allowing firms and other nations to enjoy the advantages, if you will, of exploiting the environment and their workforce.
I think we have to really incorporate and head for the deep integration of our markets. As Joe Lieberman said, made in America sold abroad, but sold under conditions in which the playing field is level and we do not allow others to take advantage of us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Ambassador.
Gerry Seib will continue the questioning.
SEIB: Senator Graham, we’re talking about trade agreements, but the underlying issue is really labor.
Simply put, is the Democratic Party too beholden to Big Labor?
GRAHAM: No. The Democratic Party is a big tent. Labor is a very important occupant of a portion of that big tent.
I think there are two questions in the discussion of trade that are paramount.
GRAHAM: One is, of course, we have to have a playing field which is as level for the competition of free enterprise to take place as possible. And I agree with my friends on the stage that that includes taking into account the context of trade, such as labor and environmental policies.
The second aspect is how is America going to win on that level playing field? We are going to win by making an investment in our people, to have the best trained, the best educated workforce in the world with the ability to retrain periodically throughout the work life.
We Americans have had a great tradition of being able to accomplish what we set out to do. We are Americans. The only question is not whether we can do it; it’s whether we have the will to do it.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
To Ron Insana, final question in the area of trade.
INSANA: Senator Edwards, the world trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, collapsed recently because poor countries walked out, complaining that big countries like the United States unfairly support their own farmers. Would you be willing-facing the Iowa caucuses soon-to repeal farm subsidies if it helped poor farmers overseas gain a greater standard of living?
EDWARDS: My belief is we have to stand by our farmers. It’s been a huge issue in my state of North Carolina.
I have specifically proposed that we stop subsidies for millionaire farmers. I don’t think we should do that, and I don’t think we need to be doing that.
I also want to go back to the question that was just raised, the issue of whether labor is too-or the Democratic Party is too beholden to labor.
EDWARDS: I think, in fact, when you come from a family like mine where my mother, who’s a letter carrier and a member of the Letter Carriers, she and my father have health care because of the union. My younger, and only, brother, who’s a member of IDEW, has health care because of the union. We need to do-empower working people to organize.
We need labor law reform in this country. Things like card check neutrality, putting teeth in the law to make sure that those who violate the law during organizing campaigns are, in fact, held responsible.
And I think we ought to make the hiring of permanent replacement workers for strikers-we ought to ban it. We ought to make it the law of the land tomorrow.
We need to empower working people so that they have more voice, not less voice in this country.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
Let’s talk about corporate responsibility for a moment. Reverend Sharpton, a lot of populist talk in the last campaign for president. Lot of Democrats figured post-Enron and now post-$140 million salaries here on Wall Street there may be traction in it for them as an issue going into this next election. Do you agree with that?
SHARPTON: I absolutely agree. I think that anytime you’ve seen, from Enron where thousands of people’s life earnings gone, to now in the midst of record unemployment, the vulgarity of what happened here on Wall Street with $130 million salaries, that that is something the American people need to understand came from deregulation. It came from a social policy set in Washington.
When you have non-bid contractors rebuilding Iraq, if any Democrat holding office in this country had given away those non-bid contracts, they would be in front of a grand jury, probably in court as a defendant.
SHARPTON: If any Democrat holding office in this country had given away those nonbid contracts, they would be in front of a grand jury, probably in court as a defendant.
This is an absolute issue that should be raised before the American people. Greed and runaway deregulation I think has added to the deficit. And I think George Bush should have to face that in this next election-that combined with the fact that where they can count so many billions and can’t count enough votes to elect him to office, that will defeat him in 2004.
WILLIAMS: Reverend, thank you.
Gerry Seib, continue the questioning.
SEIB: Senator Kerry, Congressman Kucinich, Reverend Sharpton just mentioned the Grasso resignation over the compensation package. Does that episode suggest to you there should be some more legal oversight of the exchange or of the way corporate boards are put together?
Senator Kerry, first.
KERRY: I think we need to democratize the process. Clearly, boards of directors need to be represented better with respect to shareholders. There are many things we can do. Look, this goes to the core of what we are and who we are as Americans. The reason to be concerned about it is not as a matter of targeting CEOs or being, you know, angry at business. It’s because it’s a matter of fundamental fairness of how we hold ourselves together as a country.
It goes to the core of how Americans ought to have a relationship between worker and those they work for. And that workplace has been abused. When you have misconduct in the boardroom, it’s as bad as a mugging in the streets, except that in many ways it’s broader because more people are hurt.
And many Americans are feeling mugged by what is happening in this country today, the fundamental unfairness.
KERRY: When you have a $7 billion no-bid contract to Halliburton, it breaks faith with the American people. I mean, one wishes that they built bridges in schools in America, because maybe then Bush would invest in them.
And that’s the kind of thing we need to do.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator.
KUCINICH: Thank you very much. The question of Wall Street and the problems that exist on Wall Street today really go to the center of a debate in this country about wealth and democracy.
We cannot keep our democracy if those who are in charge of handling the engines of our economy are not honest with the American people, are not honest with their shareholders, are not honest with their investors.
That’s why there is a role for government here. And that role for government is regulation. That role for government is breaking up the monopolies. That role for government is insisting on public disclosure, insisting on public audits, insisting on restitution whenever someone has been cheated.
You know, when you look at how corporate corruption has cost American workers jobs. I have a card here you’d find interesting. Hewlett Packard laid off 25,700 workers. Its executive’s salary went from $1.2 million to $4.1 million. Delta laid off 17,400 workers. The executive salary of the CEO went from $2.1 million to $4.6 million. Tyco went from $11...
WILLIAMS: We’ll have to...
KUCINICH: Tyco’s executive went from $36 to $71 million. There has to be accountability and there has to be honesty on Wall Street.
WILLIAMS: Have to leave it there, Congressman. We’re getting into a little bit of a time crunch as the end of the broadcast nears.
The next question is going to be from Ron Insana. All of the respondents, we’re going to switch to a 30-second rule.
INSANA: For Governor Dean, Congressman Gephardt and Ambassador Moseley Braun.
Senators Edward and Lieberman called for Richard Grasso’s resignation from the New York Stock Exchange amid the furor over his pay package. None of the rest of you did.
Governor Dean, I’ll start with you: Why not? Did you support Dick in his position? Or did you just not feel it was appropriate to make a statement about it?
DEAN: I thought that while what Dick did was legal, it was really inappropriate. And it’s a symptom of a larger problem with corporate America. There’s an incredible insensitivity both in the Bush administration and at the highest levels of corporate governance in terms of the plight of the middle class.
Middle-class people are really struggling in this country. They did not benefit from the president’s tax cuts.
And I think corporate America has lost touch with the average Americans’ concern in this country. And until they get that touch back, we’re going to have this big divide and need for supervision of issues like salary and pension reform.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Gephardt?
GEPHARDT: I’m glad he resigned. He should have. We have a crisis of confidence in this country because we see every day excesses of people that have more money than people can imagine wanting more money.
Greed, selfishness can kill this great democracy and ruin capitalism. We need a president different than George Bush who was brought to office by the millionaires, and we need to have governance to make capitalism work for everybody.
WILLIAMS: Time, Congressman.
INSANA: Ambassador, I hope we didn’t mischaracterize your position.
MOSELEY BRAUN: No, you-well, I didn’t issue a statement. The fact of the matter is, we are right now at Pace University that is in walking distance of Wall Street on the one hand, but also in walking distance to a main street that suffered from the tragedy of September 11th.
MOSELEY BRAUN: We are near hallowed ground in this country.
And when you look at the small businesses nearby the former-the site of the World Trade Center, what has happened to them is emblematic of the kind of excesses and the failure to build community that this administration has demonstrated.
WILLIAMS: Thirty seconds gets rough.
MOSELEY BRAUN: I know, I’ve used up 30 seconds. I got less questions than anybody else up here.
WILLIAMS: Sorry about that.
MOSELEY BRAUN: So I just want...
WILLIAMS: I got our bookkeepers to lean on.
MOSELEY BRAUN: That’s OK.
WILLIAMS: Again, we are in the lightning round, 30 seconds per answer.
BORGER: This is for General Clark.
Your Web site says that you’re a licensed investment banker. You’ve also held some prominent positions on corporations since you left the Army. Specific reforms from you on corporate governance?
CLARK: I think Sarbanes-Oxley is a step in the right direction. I think we need to continue to emphasize independent corporate boards. That’s the key. Put the corporate governance in place, independent, put the responsibility of the board to the shareholders, not just to the CEO and that will start the ball moving in the right direction.
BORGER: Well, no, I just-I was-everybody, sort of, is saying that, General. But do you have anything more specific about what you would do rather than independent corporate boards?
CLARK: Well, I’m out there on the...
BORGER: You talk about problems with accounting standards for example.
CLARK: Gloria, I’m out there on the cutting edge in five different companies, and I can tell you that Sarbanes-Oxley is tough, it’s difficult and companies are working through it. They are working on revenue recognition. They are working on transparency of options so everybody knows what the full diluted value is.
CLARK: These rules are in place, but they’ve got to be implemented.
I think the one additional thing that needs to be looked at is more emphasis on the independence of the boards of directors.
WILLIAMS: We’re going to try something that actually Senator Edwards referenced earlier in the broadcast.
For Senator Dean, I’m sorry, I was mistaken, for all of you...
DEAN: Governor Dean.
WILLIAMS: Boy, I have changed your name and office. By the...
... time we leave, you could be elevated to at least the vice presidency.
What in office, as president, would be the least popular, most right thing you would do? Again, 30 seconds each.
Senator Graham, we’ll go around the horn.
GRAHAM: I would begin the process of rebuilding America’s relationship with the world. And I would do what this president has been unwilling to do, and that is to recognize that if we are going to have the respect for the world, we must allow the world to participate in important decisions, such as who’s going to control the occupation of Iraq.
We seem to be elevating the commercial interest of those American firms like Halliburton, which are getting the no-bid contracts, above the patriotic interest of getting more countries involved, less American casualties, less American cost.
WILLIAMS: That’s all the time we have.
Congressman Gephardt, again, least popular, most right?
GEPHARDT: I will do for the middle class of this country and for the people of this country what I did in 1993, which was very unpopular.
The Clinton economic program wasn’t popular. We raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, we cut taxes on others, we cut spending in some areas that were tough to cut, and we raised spending and invested money in other areas.
It was the proudest moment of my time in the Congress, because we lost the Congress because we did the right thing for the American people. That’s what I’ll do.
WILLIAMS: Senator Lieberman?
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Brian.
Let me say this has been a significant debate for because it’s the first Democratic debate in a while at which I have not been booed.
It’s not over, I know.
And I have been booed-I know perfectly well after 30 years in public life what you have to say to any crowd to get a round of applause. But if I’m before a labor group and I believe that trade creates jobs, I’m going to say that.
That’s what being president is all about: having a clarity of judgment and the courage to stick with it.
Here’s the answer. I’m going to prosecute the war against terrorism...
WILLIAMS: Senator, you are...
LIEBERMAN: And win it even if it’s unpopular because that’s here our future security rests.
WILLIAMS: You are spending time spending time you do not have.
Senator Kerry, least popular, most right? KERRY: I think there are two things. Number one, young people don’t believe that Social Security will be there for them. I intend to take the politics out of how we are going to guarantee that Social Security is sound into the future.
KERRY: And that requires leadership.
And secondly, I’m going to ask Americans to join in the great effort of living up to our responsibilities in a global plate basis, not unlike George Marshall did with the Marshall Plan. We need to rebuild all of our relationships in the world. We need to do a better job of making ourselves safe and creating cooperation. And that will require enormous leadership.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, same question?
EDWARDS: I know the American people are worried about their safety and security. I’m also worried about it and I don’t take a back seat to anybody in what needs to be done to keep America safe.
But we can’t ever forget what it is we’re supposed to be fighting for. And in this effort to protect ourselves and fight our war on terrorism, we cannot allow people like John Ashcroft to take away our rights, our freedom and our liberties.
Those things are under assault. And we have to stand-it’s easy to stand up for those things when times are easy. Now, after September 11th, it’s much harder. And the real test will be 20 years from now.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
CLARK: If I am president, we are going to build on a new kind of American patriotism. We are going to reach out to people and bring them together based on a concept of public service and contribution to the public good, the protection of our liberties, the right to speak out. And we’re going to focus that.
And you asked for something that’s unpopular but necessary. We’re going to focus it on deficit reduction. We’re going to put this economy back on a sound footing so we can not only pay our bills but meet the other needs that we have in education, health care, the environment and Social Security.
WILLIAMS: General, thank you.
DEAN: As governor, I’m an expert in doing things that sometimes people don’t like. I actually had the pleasure of serving through both Bush recessions, not one of them. And I had to balance the budget during very difficult conditions.
We have to balance the budget. That means we have to make unpopular choices. That’s why we think we ought to repeal the entire Bush tax cut so we can, in fact, have health care programs.
I also signed a civil unions bill which gave equal rights to gay and lesbian people when only 35 percent of the people in my state supported it.
That’s what American people want. They do not want people who are going to promise them everything. What they want is somebody who’s going to tell them where they stand.
WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you.
SHARPTON: I think two things. I would take a critical review of our defense budget. I would not do anything that would jeopardize America. But I think things like F-11 bombers and other unnecessary military equipment, we need to take the money away.
And we need to have an honest discussion about what still separates us in America. Today is Thursday. If you read the Wall Street Journal and the Amsterdam News, you wouldn’t know you were in the same town. We need to really talk about that in America.
And a lot of people don’t want to do that because it’s politically risky.
Tonight we have eight career politicians, an officer and a gentleman-this is the Democratic Party.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador Moseley Braun?
MOSELEY BRAUN: And a lady. And a lady. Thank you. I would work to build community and civil society and fight the discrimination against women in daily life.
It’s recently been reported one in five women cadets at the Air Force Academy were either raped or sexually assaulted, and it is like the biggest kept secret in town.
MOSELEY BRAUN: I think looking at this at the academies to see the treatment that women cadets are receiving, giving women opportunity in the workforce, ending what I call the sticky floor of the pay discrimination that women suffer.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador, thank you.
And finally, Congressman?
KUCINICH: Three things come to mind. First, I would take action to stop the federal death penalty.
Second, I would move to cut the Pentagon budget by 15 percent, which would in no way affect adversely our national defense, and put the money into child care.
Third, I would move to create a Department of Peace which would seek to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society and to work with the nations of the world to make war itself archaic.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you very much.
And it is-we have gotten to that time. We get to do this all over again. That is, a rebroadcast on tape later this evening, MSNBC at 9 o’clock for the entire two hours.
To all who helped, to our candidates, organizers and our hosts, I am Brian Williams, NBC News. Thank you for being with us.
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