MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a special edition of MEET THE PRESS from Chicago. As the jobs debate heats up in Washington, the unemployment rate remains at a crisis level, 9.1 percent. Protesters take to the streets around the country to complain.
Protestors: (In unison) Where are the jobs?
MR. GREGORY: The president campaigns against Republicans, urging them to take action on his jobs bill.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: If Congress does something, then I can't run against a do-nothing Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it's not a matter of me running against them, I think the American people will run them out of town.
MR. GREGORY: What is the economy's impact on America's biggest cities? How must they innovate to confront their budget shortfalls? And what does this debate mean for the president's political future?
Joining me, an influential voice in the Democratic Party, former chief of staff to President Obama and now Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel. Then the Republican view on the economy, taxes, and the next showdown over the debt: House Budget chairman, Republican congressman from Wisconsin Paul Ryan.
Then our political roundtable on the GOP race for the White House and the debate over the economy.
MR. GREGORY: Is it strong enough of a Republican Party for its nominee to beat this president?
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: More of my interview this week with Vice President Biden on the president's re-election prospects. Plus, Christie is out of the running, as is Sarah Palin. What does it mean for the rest of the field? Romney, Perry, and the latest entry into the top tier, Herman Cain. With us, senior political analyst for Time magazine, Mark Halperin; writer for Vanity Fair and co-author of "All the Devils Are Here," about the financial crisis, Bethany McLean; and two members of Congress from Illinois, Democrat Luis Gutierrez and Republican Aaron Schock.
Announcer: From Chicago and the site of Chicago Ideas Week, this is a special edition of MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. A week in politics defined by anger and resentment over the state of the economy and income inequality. As protesters behind the Occupy Wall Street movement bring their message to New York and to here in Chicago, the president expressed his support for their views.
PRES. OBAMA: I think people are frustrated and, you know, the, the, the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.
MR. GREGORY: While the House Republican leader was critical of their tactics.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (V-VA): If you read the newspapers today, I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. And, believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.
MR. GREGORY: As populist anger becomes a hot political topic in the race for the White House, we have come to the city of Chicago to meet up with a familiar face to a national audience, Rahm Emanuel. He was, of course, President Obama's first White House chief of staff after serving as a congressman from Illinois' 5th congressional district. And he is now the boss, the mayor of Chicago. And on this marathon day here in the Windy City, he is also kicking off Chicago Ideas Week, which brings together top speakers and innovation and creativity in business and technology.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for having us.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D): Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: Thanks for being with us this morning. Here it is, the cover of Chicago magazine. Rahm on the cover. You're five months into your term, and there's no question that the economy is, is a big reality that you face. How tough is the national economy being in such distress is it for you here in Chicago?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well, there's no doubt in people's lives it's difficult. We have a foreclosure issue. We also have an unemployment issue and even for those who are working, they're on razor's edge as a--the means, their paycheck going from the beginning of the month to the end of the month and trying to make it stretch all the way through. That's why, as mayor, I've been focusing on what I think are the three fundamentals: safe streets, strong schools, stable finances. And if we put that in order, I think people have confidence to invest in the city and create jobs, which is why GE's adding 1,000 jobs, United Airlines adding 1,300 jobs here and, just this week, Ford made an announcement, if there's a ratification, they're going to put 1,200 jobs in a plant here in the city of Chicago.
MR. GREGORY: Your unemployment rate in Chicago is higher than the national average.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Right.
MR. GREGORY: Let's look at the national average. New jobs numbers that came out this week...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...over the term of the Obama presidency and going back to February '09, and you can see on the screen the trajectory at 8.2 percent, the high point, of course, October of 2009, up over 10 percent. And now it's been distressingly steady here at 9.0 or 9.1 percent.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Are there government remedies that are left to really solve this?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Sure. Let me take one step back and take a look, a wide lens view and then come right down. Basically, about every six or seven years the American economy reinvents itself with a single engine. That was what NASA was for invention. There was a military build-up in the '80s, the Internet and the new economy in the '90s, housing in 2000. I believe, if you take a look at the data, rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our broadband for the new economy, is essential as that single engine. While you have a high unemployment, the 9 percent you noted, among building trades, the carpenters, iron workers, the building trades that used to be in the housing industry and the office building construction, it's double that. Have them rebuild our schools. Have them rebuild our roads because we have a 21st century economy sitting on a 20th century infrastructure. And that should be the reinvention engine like NASA was, like the Internet was at different moments in time, and we will be a stronger, more productive economy for that rebuilding of America.
MR. GREGORY: You, you had that opportunity for stimulus...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...in the middle of the financial crisis when you were in Washington as chief of staff. There were political concerns about how big of a stimulus package you could get through. What you're talking...
MAYOR EMANUEL: You noticed that, huh?
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. But what you're talking about now no longer enjoys political consensus.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Oh, I don't...
MR. GREGORY: Do you think this president wasted it, the crisis you talked about, to do the big things at that moment to really be a jobs president to create, the demand in the economy that you're talking about through more government spending?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well, first of all, it's a stimulus for the economy. But--and everybody--you'll have other people on here, everybody has roads and bridges and stuff in their neighborhood and their community. In Chicago, take our mass transit. We're about $7 billion behind on our--on our public transportation capital. Our water system, about 50--about 75 percent of it, the paper pipes, 100 years or older.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Every--but that's an example throughout the country, number one. Number two, there's also a piece the president did do. He inherited an economy that was spinning towards a depression. He entered a financial situation that had frozen up to the point that it was near collapse and an auto industry that was on the doorstep of bankruptcy. Now, one of the capacities now, because he took the tough decisions, the right decisions, we're actually importing, as The Wall Street Journal noted this week, importing auto jobs to the United States because finally the auto industry restructured itself.
We're at the point, having stabilized the situation, now what's the liftoff? And I believe the investment in rebuilding America is exactly that. It's good for the economy today, and it'll be good for the economy long-term. Was there opportunities? He took the opportunity to deal with all three within the first six months. Our--we're now importing auto jobs. We're--before it was near the bankruptcy. And I would also argue, not to get too political too fast, but I can't miss the opportunity, which is some people in the...(unintelligible)...wrote stories and wrote op-eds saying, "Let it go bankrupt." The president of the United States doubled down on the American workers. Auto industry not only is stronger, not only creating the jobs today, we also--he negotiated two fuel efficiency standards that were denied for 30 years. And now the United States went from 2 percent to 40 percent of the alternative battery production. At every level, the auto industry that was first started here in the United States, is stronger and better and more prepared for the future than it was when he was in office at 1.2 million manufacturing jobs, the manufacturing base of America is stronger. Now, that's not enough, and he'll be the first to admit it. And the next step, rebuild America from the ground up for the 21st century.
MR. GREGORY: But if you look at the president's approval rating, I'm going to put it up on the screen, 41 percent approval. His disapproval on handling the economy...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: ...is up in the 60s. I asked you about his opportunity to really become a jobs president. You have talked about the fact that you advised him at times to take a more practical approach, not to double down in the ways that you say he ultimately did. What were the opportunity costs of not a big enough stimulus...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: ...of healthcare reform that hurt him politically...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...at a time when he now needs, as you say, more government spending, but he doesn't have the political capital to get it done, does he, Mayor?
MAYOR EMANUEL: But--first of all--but David, no. He--let me say this. As you aptly pointed and that is correct, I often advised the president about doing the quick political thing, and he looked at the long-term. And he rejected the quick and political because it was in America's interest. That's both true about financial reform, health care, the big decisions. And he's never lost his fight for America. And he did make decisions that were in the long-term interest. To his credit, he wanted advice, unfiltered, "Give it to me what you think" assessment. I gave it to him, and he made the decision what he thought was in the interest, and I think correctly. We are better country for financial reform. Let's just take the financial area, one area. President Bush passed TARP, President Obama put the stress test in, put--made sure they, they raised private capital, passed a financial reform. Not all of that is perfect, some of the real problems still to be worked out. You look at America's financial situation today and its financial industry vs. Europe that took a pass on it, he showed political leadership even when it wasn't popular. Take the auto industry. Everybody said the conventional wisdom, even sometimes discussed on MEET THE PRESS, "Let it go bankrupt. Why have good money after bad?" Today we're stronger because of those leadership positions, and he hasn't lost a fight. And what you want out of a leader is somebody that hasn't lost a fight. And I believe, like I do for the city of Chicago, if I can get one moment in for the city of Chicago, if you spend political capital on what you believe is right for the country, and not just political capital because you know you have to reorganize and restructure, you'll be stronger coming out of that process.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me--and I want to talk about innovation in Chicago in just a minute. Let me just do two more political questions. One is the bottom line.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Uh-huh.
MR. GREGORY: You may say the president's looking at the long term. How much trouble is he in for re-election with this economy?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well, look, there's no doubt there's a, there's a challenge politically because the economy is not where the American middle-class family needs it to be for their bottom line. But...
MR. GREGORY: And he's accountable for that?
MAYOR EMANUEL: But--all of us are. Everybody in public life, everybody in, in corporate life is accountable for that result. And corporate life, you deal with it if it's--you're a public company with stockholders. For the president of the United States, for members of Congress, also, as you know, their ratings are low, they're facing challenges. You're accountable to try to get the results so the middle class can achieve the middle-class dreams not only for themselves today but for their children.
MR. GREGORY: You, you...
MAYOR EMANUEL: But he'd be the first--yes, he--all of us in public life who seek public life, you know the bottom line is try to make sure that people have the ability to achieve their dreams. And understand that your role in government--I don't create jobs, president doesn't create jobs, you create conditions for jobs to take hold, for the businesses to create them. That means good investment in research and development, good investment in the type of infrastructure that's necessary, make sure your educational system is turned around, which is another area where the president showed the type of leadership and bucked convention.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, let's talk about environment.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: How about the--what's going on in the streets of Occupy Wall Street?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Complaining about the unfairness, railing against Wall Street. The president has sympathized with those protesters in the street. Is, is demonizing Wall Street the way to create an environment...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well...
MR. GREGORY: ...to get the banks to hire?
MAYOR EMANUEL: The--it's not...
MR. GREGORY: Is this not a reverse tea party tactic?
MAYOR EMANUEL: No, it's not. But here's, here's what I think you see, and I think--I can't speak for the president, but I can speak what I think is my view, at least, and I think he--I would say I think he would share. When the financial industry or the financial sector was on its knees, it's not popular, but the whole country rallied with the--under President Bush's leadership for a 700-plus-billion-dollar TARP, which is the financing that was needed. Then there was the stress test, and there was stress to force the banks to raise the capital they needed. Then there was the actions, even when the industry today still doesn't support, the financial reform. Were there problems throughout all of that? Sure. Did we get it exactly right? No. But you look at where the United States' financial industry is today vs. what's going on in Europe when they didn't deal with it, we're--it's night and day, number one. Number two--and that took political leadership even when it was not popular.
And second, when the industry needed that type of help, America came to its help and assisted it to get stable. Can you--if you go around the neighborhoods of Chicago, you go around anywhere in the country, go to Peoria, there is stress on people's lives. They too need help. Not a bailout, but a chance to get the economy moving for them. And that's an understandable sense of frustration on their part. And it's not just limited to the Wall Street. Go in Europe, go in Asia, go other places, there is a major restructuring going on in the world's economy, major here in the United States. And what are the decisions we're making today?
As I say in--as mayor of Chicago, decisions we make over the next two to three years will have an impact of what it will be like in the next 20 to 30 years. And that's the same decisions facing there. And if you can't hear the public's frustration, not just what's happening on Wall Street, but happening in the neighborhoods of Chicago, if you can't hear it that means you don't understand your role in public service. There is a normal given frustration because the economy is not working for folks, and we have a high unemployment, we have a high economic stress, and we have to make sure we have the right policies to address that frustration.
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about innovation, about Chicago Ideas Week, and this economic reality that makes, on a week when we lost Steve Jobs, a real pioneer and a real innovator, it--these conditions make your job so much harder. How do you have to think about governing differently in this reality? And how do you think you've done it?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well, first of all, thanks for the question. I think that--I'm proud we're having--just take a look at Chicago this week. You have the second largest marathon, 37,000 runners. You have Ideas Week. We just had a major international dance festival. Two weeks from now the Humanities Festival.
Now, I believe in government and what I've been doing from day one is reforming it to better serve the taxpayers of the city of Chicago. We have it now with our educational system. Step one, we have--are going to have the longest school day and school year in the country from the shortest.
Step two, where other cities and states are cutting back on early childhood, 7,000--6,000 more kids in the city of Chicago will get a full kindergarten.
Step three, we have the first accountability from the corporate suite in the school system all the way to the classroom. Everybody will be on performance pay, including principals, teachers, and the CEO of the school system. And it's the first time anywhere in the country a school system has accountability.
Third--second, safe streets. We've taken about 1,000 officers from clerical positions, administrative position, unaccountable operations and put them on our streets in our communities where, for the last nine weeks, we've seen crime drop by 20 percent.
Wednesday I'm introducing a budget. We're going to have major efforts there reforming government. Meaning just this week we kicked off recycling. Well, now we have a private company competing against the streets and sanitation workers of the city of Chicago, whoever has the best service, lowest price, will win. It's no longer the city payroll, it's the city taxpayers that will be our priority.
Third, we negotiated with labor the most comprehensive wellness healthcare plan in the country, public or private, anywhere else, 32,000 workers we--heard of the wellness plan. That will drive our healthcare costs and stabilize them after years of growing at 10 percent.
At every level we're going to reform government, reform the bureaucracy, where do the people need the services, and put our dollars where they meet government so they can lead the type of life they want for themselves and their families.
MR. GREGORY: Before you go, Mr. Mayor, one more political question. President's adviser, David Axelrod, talked about re-election for the president as a "titanic struggle."
MAYOR EMANUEL: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: President called himself an underdog. What's this president got to do to get his swagger back?
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well, first of all, focus on--and he has, on day one--where the American people got to get their dreams back. They are under huge economic stress. It came to a boil in 2008. As everybody knows, and it's no comfort to anybody, a recession from a financial meltdown is more severe than any other recession. People have to feel in their lives some improvement and some opportunity of improvement for them and for their children. That is what his focus has been on day one. And I can understand--and if you don't understand and hear the frustration in people's voice, then if you're not in--if you're in public life you should get a different job and I know--and I...
MR. GREGORY: But if, if there's not improvement...
MAYOR EMANUEL: Well...
MR. GREGORY: ...by next November, he's in trouble?
MAYOR EMANUEL: ...well, he--there was a contrast choice because--go back to one thing. I'm going to add in Chicago--not I, but when the Ford plan adds that third shift, if it's ratified, that auto industry--we're going to be a better city. It's one of the companies that--factories--that exports most is--for Ford--is from right here in the city of Chicago. There would not be an auto industry if Mitt Romney was president. He would have said, "Let it go bankrupt." We're a stronger country for it. But if the--just be in the auto industry--it cannot just be in the technology sector, it cannot just be in the financial sector. It's got to be a country moving, which is why I know and I believe fundamentally as a mayor or as a congressman or as chief of staff that rebuilding America's infrastructure is right today and it's right for tomorrow.
MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there.
MAYOR EMANUEL: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Mr. Mayor, thanks a lot. Thanks for having us. Appreciate it.
And coming up, President Obama and Vice President Biden. This week both lashing out at Republicans in Congress, trying to paint them as the do-nothing party. Joining me for a response and the Republican view on what to do about the economy, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. He's down from Wisconsin to come here in Chicago. Later, my interview with Vice President Biden, his candid take on the Republicans and framing the 2012 race. As well as our political roundtable. Still ahead on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, the Republican view on the economy, taxes, and the next showdown over spending. Joining me, House Budget chairman Paul Ryan. It's up next, right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We are back live from Chicago. Joining me now, Republican congressman from Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan, who was good enough to drive down from southern Wisconsin in your district to here in Chicago, making it a big day for us.
So thank you. Welcome.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Thank you. Welcome to the Midwest.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Thanks very much.
Let's talk about news now. The state of this economy is such that the Fed chairman this week, Bernanke, warned that the recovery is, "close to faltering." Bottom line here, all the argument in Washington, what of this jobs bill the president wants can actually become law?
REP. RYAN: Well, what's concerning about it is he put ideas in this jobs bill that have already proven to fail. Instead of trying to get compromise, he's embracing conflict. He's running around the country campaigning on a bill that he knows won't pass, can't even get out of the Senate right now, rather than working with us on ideas that we agree on that would actually help create jobs.
MR. GREGORY: So like what? What could...
REP. RYAN: Well, for...
MR. GREGORY: What piecemeal could work?
REP. RYAN: In his speech, he said, "Let's do business tax reform and trade agreements." Great, we agree with those. Let's do those. We're bringing these trade agreements up next week in the House. I think we'll pass these things. Quarter million new jobs by the administration's estimates. What about business tax reform? I don't think the president seems to be willing to work with us on individual tax reform, but on business tax reform former competitors...
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk about that. I've talked to White House officials who say, "You know what, we'll probably get there on lowering the corporate tax rate."
REP. RYAN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: The supercommittee is looking at...
REP. RYAN: I think that's the way to do it.
MR. GREGORY: You think there's news there?
REP. RYAN: Yeah. I think the supercommittee should do that. I think they have the wherewithal to do that. And I do really believe that that will help us create jobs. We are taxing our businesses at a much higher tax rate than our foreign competitors tax theirs, and we're losing as a result of it.
MR. GREGORY: So the president agrees, if that's the agreement, to lower corporate tax rates. What do Republicans give in terms of closing loopholes?
REP. RYAN: My point is, why didn't he put this in his jobs bill? Why didn't he put ideas in the jobs bill that have a bipartisan support instead of putting all these failed ideas that have already proven not to work.
MR. GREGORY: The payroll tax cut's in there. You guys have agreed to that before, have you not?
REP. RYAN: You know, but it's already, Bush did it, Obama did it. The point is, it hasn't worked to create jobs. We want to go with ideas that work. So, with respect to your answer on loopholes, I'd say get rid of all these loopholes so we can lower rates. The more loopholes you get rid of, the lower the rates you are. We shouldn't be picking winners and losers in Washington either through spending or through the tax code. Both parties have been doing this. And so what we passed in our budget in the spring was a call for doing just that. And so that, to me, is an area where we could get some bipartisan compromise; but, instead, what we're getting is a campaign from the White House trying to, you know, create political ruckus, as far as I'm concerned.
MR. GREGORY: The, the, the--I'll get to that in just a second. But there is a basis of some compromise, because I think this is a new development.
REP. RYAN: I would like to think so.
MR. GREGORY: You think there is.
REP. RYAN: I'd like to think so.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the campaigning that's going on. I did speak to Vice President Biden earlier this week in Washington at the Atlantic Ideas Festival, and he made it very clear what he thinks about Republicans and their view of trying to help the economy, or work with this president. And this is what he said.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: There are also limits on what government can do when one party decides, "We're going to do nothing. We're going to do nothing." Nothing. Let me say it again, "We're going to do nothing."
MR. GREGORY: You couldn't hear what the audience was, was hearing.
REP. RYAN: Yeah, I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.
MR. GREGORY: The vice president saying there are limit on what any party can do when you have the other party willing to do nothing, absolutely nothing. That's the vice president talking. Are you offering anything different other than complete opposition to what the president wants to do?
REP. RYAN: Well, look, I suppose that's good politics, but it's not factually accurate. We've passed over a dozen pieces of legislation, jobs legislation, that are all sitting over in the Senate. We passed a budget to pay off the debt to get the economy growing. We passed energy reform. We passed regulatory reforms, small business tax relief. We have passed so many different jobs bills throughout this year that are sitting over in the Senate. Here's the deal: we have a difference of opinion with the White House on how best to create jobs. We don't think doubling down on failed stimulus policies, which have already proven to fail, is the right way to go, so we want to work with ideas that have proven to work. That means helping small businesses grow. That means getting certainty in our policy, regulations, taxes, debt, so the small businesses can grow. Temporary stimulus, sort of sugar-high economics, are not what businesses are telling us they need to create jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Aren't, aren't tax cuts, with no eye toward tax increases as part of spending cuts, isn't that sugar economics as well? Sugar-high economics?
REP. RYAN: So...
MR. GREGORY: If you refuse to budge on the tax question?
REP. RYAN: So what we're getting from the White House are temporary tax policies, stimulus, which didn't work when President Bush tried it, and spending increases with permanent tax increases. Let's look at the permanent tax increases they're not talking about. In 15 months' time the top tax rate on small businesses goes to 44.8 percent. Now they're going to throw another tax increase on it. We're going to be taxing small businesses at about 50 percent. According to the Treasury Department, 80 percent of small businesses, 80 percent of businesses file as individuals. Sixty percent of the businesses in this country file their tax rates as individuals and will get hit by this new tax that goes to 50 percent in 15 months. Why would we do that? In Canada--overseas in Wisconsin, we usually refer to Lake Superior. Canada, they're lowering their tax rate to 15 percent. Ireland's at 12.5 percent, China 25 percent. And we're going to be taxing our successful small businesses, where more than half our jobs come from, at 50 percent? Why would we want to pass that?
MR. GREGORY: What do you do in an economy where there is no demand? When the only ideas are tax cuts and spending cuts, when we have seen--you've seen it in Great Britain. The debate is roiling Europe now. Austerity alone, when there is not demand in the economy, does not appear to be the answer. You know that tax hikes and tax cuts have a neutral effect on economic growth, if you look at the Clinton and the Bush years. Demand has got to come from somewhere.
REP. RYAN: So, so the idea that we can borrow and spend more in Washington, create more demand in economic growth, has already proven to fail. We just--we've done trillions of dollars of stimulus spending already from both administrations. It hasn't worked. And so what businesses are telling us they need is more certainty. They have no idea how much higher their taxes are going to go in 15 months. We have a slew of new regulations coming out of Washington that's making it really hard for them to create jobs. And so I would say policy certainty from Washington, which is the kind of leadership and the pro-growth agenda we've been trying to pass in the House, is really what is necessary to create jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about politics and class warfare. You've seen the protests, the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country.
REP. RYAN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: Your leader in the House called them mobs. Herman Cain, on the presidential campaign trail, was asked about it, and this is what he said this week.
MR. HERMAN CAIN: Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself.
MR. GREGORY: Is that the Republican message?
REP. RYAN: Look, I don't disparage anybody who protests their government for better government, no matter what perspective they come from. Look, I came down from Wisconsin, that's a state where protest is sort of the new normal, and I think we're going to see a lot of it from now on through the 2012 election.
MR. GREGORY: But is that the Republican message, what Herman Cain said?
REP. RYAN: No, the Republican message is, the Republican message is we want to lower the barriers against Americans who want to rise. We want to make it easier for people to have upper mobility, economic opportunity. And we don't want to put new barriers in place for Americans who want to rise. And we want to go back with proven ideas that work to grow this economy.
And I would say, on the class warfare, there are a few points I would simply make, if you'll allow me. Number one, the math just doesn't work. Raising all these taxes on small businesses doesn't work. It's not just taxing the movie star, the baseball player, the Wall Street person. You're taxing the engine of economic growth, small businesses. If you took all the income from every millionaire in America today, it would run the government for about four months.
Second, I have a better idea. Instead of job-killing tax increases, why don't we just stop subsidizing wealthy people? I mean, let's go after the crony capitalism, the corporate welfare in the tax code, in spending. And why don't we income adjust our spending programs so that we don't subsidize wealthy people as much. I think that's a better idea to get more savings in the budget, get our debt down without doing economic damage.
And third, I think this divisive rhetoric is fairly--is divisive. I think it's troubling. Sowing class envy and social unrest is not what we do in America.
MR. GREGORY: You think that's what the president's doing.
REP. RYAN: I think the president is doing that. I think he's preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and anger, and that is not constructive to unifying America. I think he's broken his promise as a uniter, and now he's dividing people. And to me, that's very unproductive. That's not who we are in America.
MR. GREGORY: But Herman Cain says, "Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the banks. If you don't have a job, blame yourself." Is that the Republican message?
REP. RYAN: No, I think--Herman's speaking for himself. I think we all want to actually see a climate of economic growth, of entrepreneurialism. And we don't want to pit Americans against each other. That's not who we are, and that's not the kind of society that we want.
MR. GREGORY: Aren't you vulnerable to the charge that Republicans are just looking after the rich? Isn't that divisive?
REP. RYAN: Well, people make the charge. What I would simply say is, I don't worry about people who are already rich. I'm worried about getting people to become successful, removing those barriers so that people who've never seen success before can actually become successful. And when you keep raising all of these tax rates, all of these regulatory barriers on successful small businesses, how are we going to get the jobs of tomorrow? This redistribution idea, of pitting people against each other does not work. It's divisive, and it hardly gives us the kind of attitude we want for businesses to take risks so they can succeed in the future.
MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. Chairman, thanks very much.
REP. RYAN: Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: Good to have you.
And coming up, a special look at the state of the race. Now that Palin and Christie are officially out, who is up and who's down?
Plus, how Vice President Biden sees the race and the Republican Party. I spoke with him this week. My interview with the vice president.
And our political roundtable: Time magazine's Mark Halperin, Vanity Fair's Bethany McLean, and two Illinois congressmen, Democrat Luis Gutierrez and Republican Aaron Schock. Right after this break.
MR. GREGORY: We are back, live from Chicago with our political roundtable. Joining us this morning, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Republican Congressman Aaron Schock, Vanity Fair contributing editor and co-author of "All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden Story of the Financial Crisis," now out in paperback, Bethany McLean, and senior political analyst for Time magazine Mark Halperin.
Welcome to all of you. Mark flew in. Everybody else is more or less local here, so we appreciate you being here.
I want to talk about the economy, the president's prospects, and I spoke this week to Vice President Biden about all of the above, particularly this issue of how they're going to deal with Republicans, with your party in this climate. This is what he said.
MR. GREGORY: Your view, as you talk about whether the jobs bill is going to be passed, is that this president does not have a partner among Republicans on Capitol Hill.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: I think he does have a partner in the bulk of the leadership, but they are seriously hamstrung. Look, I can tell you without in any way violating any confidence, I think John Boehner would tell you, I think Eric Cantor would tell you, we had a much bigger proposal that I was personally negotiating with them as to how to deal with the debt crisis, and they could not sell it.
I'm just telling you as straight--I have a bad habit of saying what I believe.
MR. GREGORY: I don't want to get in the way of that now.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Look, guys, I--this is just Joe Biden's impressions. I truly believe if Eric Cantor, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, John Boehner were allowed to settle a deal in the room, we would've had a deal...
MR. GREGORY: But that's not how it works.
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No, it's now how it works. We should take...
MR. GREGORY: Then they're not strong enough leaders to get it passed. Is that your view?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: No. My view is that their party is not the Republican Party that we all know. One of the worst things that has happened to us, in my view, is we need a strong Republican Party. We need a Republican Party that's united. We need a Republican Party you can sit down with and say, "OK, this is the deal, can you deliver? Can you deliver on the deal?"
MR. GREGORY: Is it strong enough of a Republican Party for its nominee to beat this president?
VICE PRES. BIDEN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's strong enough to beat both of us. It's strong enough--look, look, no, no matter what the circumstance, at the end of the day, the American people right now are--many of them are in real trouble, an even larger percentage are--have stagnant wages, and a significant majority of the American people believe that the country's not moving in the right direction. That is never a good place to be going into re-election. Whether it's your fault or not your fault, it's almost sometimes irrelevant. But what I'm counting on, I'm counting on what I read out there, this judgment of the American people to decide, they know the hole we're in, they know how far we've come out. They're dissatisfied how fast we're going, and they're going to have to choose whether or not the path we have set the country on is the path that we should continue to go or we should go back to liberating the economy.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Schock, what do you hear from the vice president? Is that political vulnerability?
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R-IL): You know what, I hear a lot of negativity. And what, what strikes me is disingenuous it all--is all the attack on Republicans as do nothing. As someone who's in his third year now in the United States Congress, I will tell you last year was the first year since 1974 that a Democratic House failed to pass a budget. We got a majority this year, and we didn't just criticize what the president rolled out in his budget, we actually did our own budget, as a Republican House, that did entitlement reform, something that was the unthinkable, that bent the cost curve, that put us on a projection towards balance as a country. And guess what, David, it got more votes--Republicans and Democrats voted for that budget--than any budget that passed the Congress in the last 10 years. And, in addition to the budget, we've passed 100 bills in the House that are sitting in the Senate waiting for action. And so to hear the vice president say that he doesn't have an equal partner or that somehow the House and the Republicans are just do-nothing is not only a political statement, it's just not factually correct.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Gutierrez, has the conversation stopped in Washington? Are we effectively in the campaign argument right now?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-IL): I think--look, when I got to Congress, I wanted to change it, so I put legislation to freeze every member's pay. That was one thing to change it. I think we have a new set of congressmen that have come really to burn the House down, and I think that that's unfortunate. Let's talk about this partnership. So we passed healthcare reform. They want to call it Obamacare, it's healthcare reform. We didn't get any help. We had to restructure Wall Street and go after Wall Street to make sure that our financial system was safe. We didn't get any help. When it came to our environment and energy policy, we didn't get any help. And I'm sorry, but we keep hearing--I mean, it's simple to be a Republican these days because there's two answers to every question, blame Obama, and if not that, cut the budget, until it comes to cutting for the rich oil producers here in this country, there's no cutting. Or cutting the military.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Look, we need to have a conversation about putting Americans back to work. And we need to have that sense of urgency that there are people hurting out there.
MR. GREGORY: Look, this is the debate, Mark Halperin, that's playing out on the campaign trail now. And we're going to turn to you to get a sense of where this Republican race is here at the end of this week. First, this is the way the field looks right now. According to the new CBS News poll, it's Romney, Cain, and Perry, 17, 17 and 12. Herman Cain in the top tier week after week. New Hampshire is the early primary state, even--we don't know exactly when they're going to be voting next year. Romney has a more commanding lead there, 37 percent, Cain at 12. Look at Perry down at 4 percent. Christie is out of the race. Palin is not going to run. Where do things stand?
MR. MARK HALPERIN: There's the same dynamic that's existed going through Christie, going through Palin, going through all the people who decided not to run. The same dynamic exists in this race as it existed from the beginning. Mitt Romney's going to be a finalist. And then there's a question of who fills that vacuum? Republicans want someone who's tough on the president, they want someone who can get elected, and they want someone who will promise fundamental change in the economy.
MR. GREGORY: And, and your take here, Romney is up. How do you see him at the end of the week?
MR. HALPERIN: Well, he's still the strongest in the field by far. He's still raising money, he's still checking off different constituencies. I think he's found his voice at the Values Voters event in Washington over the weekend. He's found his voice on being an anti-Obama spokesman pretty effectively. What he still lacks, though, is the broad appeal that Republican front-runners in the past have had.
MR. GREGORY: Rick Perry a draw at this point.
MR. HALPERIN: He's got to define himself better than he has. He's been defined by his position on immigration in Texas, by his position on Social Security, not by his position on jobs and the economy, which he's going to talk about on Friday, finally, in, in Pennsylvania, and, and defined by his personal story. The country doesn't really know Rick Perry. And so far, so far, he's not been as strong as candidate as he thought he'd be. But Rick Perry's advisers and Mitt Romney's advisers agree, Rick Perry will be back. He will have a second chance. He needs to define himself better.
MR. GREGORY: Herman Cain is an up arrow.
MR. HALPERIN: He is filling that vacuum, the anti-Romney vacuum. As strong as Romney is--he's clearly the strongest--there is a huge hunger in the party for somebody else. And until somebody steps up, besides Herman Cain--he's specific on the economy, he's got a tax reform plan, he's got a strong anti-Obama message, and he's, he's promising that fundamental change. His problem's electability. It's very hard for him to get over that hurdle.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about, Bethany McLean, the political economy. Here was the Wall Street Journal headline this week as these Occupy Wall Street protests are here in Chicago, they're in New York, they've been in Los Angeles. This is how the Journal puts it: "Democrats' Populist Puzzle" is the headline. "The Democratic Party grappling with the promise and peril of the anticorporate populism the Occupy Wall Street movement, seeking to tap its energy without opening the party to charges of class warfare." I won't play this particular sound bite from the vice president from our interview this week, but he said, "Look, there is this broken trust between the middle class and between the haves on Wall Street who are, who are much healthier in this economy." How do you see it?
MS. BETHANY McLEAN: There's a lot to protest. You can pick your economic statistic to show that we've degenerated into a society of haves and have-nots. There's no question about that. But the problem is our economy has been broken for a long time. The credit bubble just masked problems that have been growing for decades. We need--we need a way to tackle this over the long term. And you can look at the protesters and say they're chaotic, they're disorganized, and the great irony is, is, is Washington really much better? And a lot of this populism, whether it's bank-bashing or, or taxing millionaires, it distracts from the fact that we have a really hard road ahead. We need a long-term plan for the economy that we want that's going to work for wide swaths of people. It's not going to be easy. So little Twinkie-sounding sound bites are, are unsatisfying in the end.
MR. GREGORY: You made a point about the banks when we talked this week which is, we got to decide what we want our banks to be. We got bank fees that are driving people crazy now, and the bankers say, "Hey, wait a minute, you passed financial regulation that made it more restrictive for us to make money here. We're still going to try to make money because that's what we do." We have to make a decision, in your view.
MS. McLEAN: Right. If you're mad at the banks and you want a different financial system, then let's talk about having a different financial system. But let's not just do this sort of mixed message of business as usual plus, plus, plus populist bank-bashing that, in the end, it's like a Twinkie. It, it sounds good at the time, it's really--tastes really good, but it's ultimately really unhealthy. It doesn't get us anywhere.
MR. GREGORY: Why is demonizing Wall Street the right approach right now? It may be a political strategy if the president can harness it. Is it really the right thing to do for the economy?
REP. GUTIERREZ: Well, here's what I think, with all due respect to everybody's opinion, there were $700 billion in TARP. I was there. The money got to the banks. They were on their knees. I don't remember anybody from Goldman Sachs or JPMorganChase saying, "Don't do it, Luis, don't do it. We really don't want the money." No, I saw the secretary of the Treasury come down there each and every day begging and imploring us. You know what, they got their money. And what did we get? We got a bill for $5 if you want to access your money. So let me, let me just say it's not bashing, it's looking at the reality. And I think that's part of the frustration and the anger of people who can't send their kids to school, who can't send them to college, who don't have a job, who are losing their mortgages.
So all I want to say is, I take on my own Secretary Geithner this week, and I said, "Mr. Secretary, we put $50 billion, we gave the banks $70 billion." Guess what, they got their money. We sent $50 billion so that people could modify their mortgages and reduce their payments. Guess what, 2 percent of that money went out to consumers in America. So, yeah, people are angry because government is dysfunctional and it's not working.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But, but here--but here's the reality, the protests, Congressman Schock, are also about the fact that the middle class is not getting any better, not getting healthier.
REP. SCHOCK: You're exactly right.
MR. GREGORY: I mean, middle-class wages are stagnating. What is your party doing to deal with that disparity?
REP. SCHOCK: Well, first of all, I'd like, I'd like to say Bethany made an excellent point. Everyone's focusing on whether you support the protesters or don't support the protesters. Why are they protesting? It's because we have failed to implement economic policy that allows more opportunity for more Americans and for the pie economically in this country to grow. And what we have to have is pro-growth policies. To your point, what are Republicans doing in the House? We've been doing a whole host of things. First of all, passing a budget that deals with entitlement reform, that bends the cost curve, so there's more confidence in Washington, D.C., that we're going to deal with our debt crisis as a country.
Second, passing over 100 bills that are waiting for action in the Senate, things that are regulatory reform, reining in some of these EPA changes, one just this week on cement companies that would put nearly 20,000 Americans out of work that are currently working if the EPA is not stopped from this regulatory change.
MR. GREGORY: Mark, Mark Halperin, let me ask a political question as well on both sides of the aisle. The president's calling himself an underdog, the vice president has spelled out in my interview the vulnerability. David Axelrod, the president's communications adviser, said this will be a titanic struggle for re-election. When I asked Mayor Emanuel what's he do to get his swagger back? Because this is not the guy who, who talked about "yes, we can" and, and had people crying, you know, when he was elected because there was such great expectation. People feel let down.
MR. HALPERIN: Well, look, it's a false choice to say he's just going to go for the base and reject the middle or vice versa. He needs to do both if he's going to get re-elected. He needs his base to be energized. He needs people in the middle to like and respect him. He needs more of the business community, including in the banking sector, where they're very mad at him now, to be at least open to his re-election. He must wait for a Republican opponent. The, the--these are two well-meaning public servants, but they're talking past each other, as is the conversation in Washington likely to be except for that supercommittee you talked about with Rahm Emanuel. There needs to be--and, and Paul Ryan--there needs to be some dialogue because we can't wait till 2013 to address the concerns of both the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street.
MR. GREGORY: We'll take a break here. When we come back, I also want to follow up on whether religion is a new issue in the GOP primary. We'll do that. We'll take a break here. But I also want to tell you about Press Pass and our two extra MEET THE PRESS conversations that you can find online on our blog presspass.msnbc.com. First, author Michael Lewis whose book "Moneyball" is now a hit movie starring Brad Pitt, we talk to him about the film, but also about his new book, "Boomerang," on the global financial crisis. Plus, I sit down with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. We discussed his new PBS film on prohibition, some fascinating lessons from history. His thoughts on civil discourse and politics, and, of course, baseball.
We'll be right back here with our Trends and Takeways. What are the hot politic stories trending this morning? We're back with our roundtable after this.
MR. GREGORY: We're back in Chicago with our roundtable. Let's go to our trend tracker, the top stories that are trending this morning. Perry campaigning in Iowa, trying to get his campaign back on track right up there. Those protesters, anti-war protesters really, who almost closed down, did close down the Smithsonian for a period of time. Both stories getting some traction.
Mark Halperin, quickly, the other issue here is the issue of Mormonism in the race with Mitt Romney. Rick Perry had a pastor introducing him, Pastor Jeffers, who talked about the need for a real Christian in the race, and he talked about Mormonism being a cult in the view of evangelical Christians. Is this issue finally coming up in the race?
MR. HALPERIN: Big issue in 2008. The Romney campaign knows he's going to take hits on a range of issues, including this one. He's never been comfortable talking about his faith. Clearly, less of an issue than last time, but I don't think he can get the nomination without a confrontation on this issue.
MR. GREGORY: And do you think that Perry needs to do something to step up to say, "Look, I got to create some distance here."
MR. HALPERIN: Well, he, he created a little distance, but not, not enough. He's not really--he's not talked to reporters yet about his view on that. Clearly, there are going to be allies of Rick Perry who raise this. The question for Rick Perry is accountability. The question for Mitt Romney is how he handles it.
MR. GREGORY: We're looking at the primary calendar, when the voting actually starts, and all the shouting stops and the voting begins. But it's so unsettled. We think, talking to folks, that we could see the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, but we know that Florida has moved up to January 31st, South Carolina the 21st. Nevada now on the 14th. When is New Hampshire?
MR. HALPERIN: I think they'll have to go in January. If they go back to the December, force Iowa into December, they risk undermining what they want, which is their big influence in the process. I think the secretary of state there, who has unilateral authority here, will find a date in early January that will work out. It's still not ideal right up against New Year's, but better than voting in, in this calendar year.
MR. GREGORY: Well, why do you think it's tough for Republicans right now to arrive at a consensus choice, if you look at this top tier, Romney, Cain, Perry?
MR. HALPERIN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: What's going on?
REP. SCHOCK: I think Republicans are, are flushing out who the strongest candidate will be to win. I don't think competition is a bad thing. I'm reminded of the Democratic primary last time when Obama and Hillary Clinton went back and forth. I think, at the end of the day, that was a good thing for Democrats. Is...
MR. GREGORY: Right. Who's toughest to beat Obama in your judgment?
REP. SCHOCK: You know, I haven't chosen a candidate yet. I, I, I like the idea of them competing and, and seeing. But I think when you have over half of the country saying they're looking at somebody new, the longer that conversation takes place among our candidates, the more people that are going to get engaged. And I think, at the end of the day, what's important, David, is our party get behind whomever that candidate finally is.
REP. GUTIERREZ: I think the president, the president of the United States is getting ready, and I have a lot of faith, and I'm happy to come back here. I hope you can come back here after the election when he's re-elected president of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: All right.
REP. GUTIERREZ: Because I think people are going to see his complete record.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to leave it there. Thanks to all of you very much.
MS. McLEAN: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Also want to thank the terrific folks here at the Museum of Contemporary Arts for hosting us in Chicago this morning.
A programming note before we go. This Friday afternoon we're going to be doing a special live edition of our Press Pass conversation with our partners at Facebook as a lead up to our Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. That's the weekend before their primary, whenever they figure out exactly when that will be. We will talk about all the presidential debates, the strategies and the highlights, with a special panel, including the moderator of so many of those historical debates, Jim Lehrer. You can watch and participate. Let me underline that. You can participate in the conversation on our MEET THE PRESS Facebook page, facebook.com/meetthepress.
That is all for today. We'll be back in Washington next week. We're going to have an exclusive 2012 debate between Romney supporter and former candidate himself Tim Pawlenty and Perry supporter Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.