Morning Joe
updated 1/7/2013 12:50:13 PM ET 2013-01-07T17:50:13

The Monday must-read opinion pages, including Andrew Samick, E.J. Dionne and Mark Bittman


The federal budget deficit is the difference between outlays and revenues, and has averaged $1.2 trillion over the past two years. Revenues of $2.4 trillion, depressed in the wake of the recession, have covered only two-thirds of the $3.6 trillion in outlays. And while Republicans would have you believe that this spending was dreamed up in Obama’s Oval Office, that’s simply incorrect. What costs the government the most, by far, is the $2 trillion of mandatory annual spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health, retirement and insurance programs.These are the facts about the budget. Everyone knows them. Yet the two parties have continued to pursue their dangerously parallel approaches to the debt: Democrats pretending that minimal tax increases that spare the middle class can save us, Republicans generally pretending that spending cuts that exempt defense and tip-toe around Medicare and Social Security are sufficient.With apologies for the mixed metaphor, going over the cliff would have helped bridge our new, perhaps permanent, fiscal canyon between the government we all asked for and the government revenue we’re generating to pay for it.


…A changed tone alone may not do enough to smooth over the very real disagreements in the Republican Party. And it is not clear how the intraparty combatants can meet in the middle. For example, while some Republicans argued that the tax vote last week enshrined almost all of the Bush-era tax cuts into permanent law and should be seen as a victory, harder-line fiscal conservatives called it a shameful departure from the party’s two decades of successful opposition to tax increases.


The Afghan Army and police forces have taken responsibility for securing larger and larger swaths of the country, but the Pentagon has admitted that only 1 of 23 NATO-trained brigades can operate without American assistance. The recent alarming rise in fatal attacks by Afghan forces on their American military mentors has crushed whatever was left of America’s appetite for the costly conflict. Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade.


It is entirely true that in the wake of two budget agreements, in 2011 and the just-passed deal on the “fiscal cliff,” we have not reduced the deficit enough. The issue is: How much is enough? …We could put the deficit on a sustainable path for the next 10 years with one more deficit-reduction package equal to about $1.2 trillion, plus the resulting interest savings. … We could then shelve our deficit obsession for a while and confront the problems that should be center-stage over the next few years: restoring shared economic growth, spurring the creation of good jobs, dealing with gun violence, reforming immigration laws, improving our education system, and taking steps on climate change.


Two things can slow down this machine: anti-tobacco-style legislation and public opinion. Because for the beneficiaries, the current system is working great: every aspect of the media industry that can pull in soda money is happy to take it, and Pepsi will undoubtedly enjoy something like 110 million viewers of the halftime show. (Last year, Madonna drew more viewers than the game itself.) Whether Knowles really believes in Pepsi’s public statement about what it stands for, about its “unique commitment to sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet” (Pepsi’s words, obviously) is impossible to know. (Her publicist did not respond for a request to comment for this piece.) In a statement she gave to the The Times upon the announcement of the deal, Knowles said: “Pepsi embraces creativity and understands that artists evolve. As a businesswoman, this allows me to work with a lifestyle brand with no compromise and without sacrificing my creativity.”

Video: Scarborough: Democrats have to come forward with real cuts

  1. Closed captioning of: Scarborough: Democrats have to come forward with real cuts

    >>> all right. welcome back to " morning joe ." at 47 past the hour. we have time for a couple of "must-reads." this one's from the "daily news" yesterday. the fiscal grand canyon by andrew samwick , a professor of economics at dartmouth. he was on the council of economic advisers in 2003 . he says this, in part. "these are the facts about the budget . everyone knows them. yet the two parties have continued to pursue their dangerously parallel approaches

    to the debt: democrats pretending that minimal tax increases will spare the middle class -- that spare the middle class can save us , republicans generally pretending that spending cuts that exempt defense and tiptoe around medicare and social security are sufficient. with apologies for the mixed metaphor, going over the cliff would have helped bridge our new, perhaps permanent fiscal canyon between the government we all asked for and the government revenue we're generating to pay for it." he argues that at this point maybe it would have been better to go over the cliff.

    >> the solution to the fiction was, in the words of pat buchanan , a big fat nothing burger.

    >> absolutely.

    >> nothing got accomplished rather than america got deeper in debt.

    >> and got a chance to see how stupid the process is with a bunch of clowns doing nothing.

    >> and again, nothing happened of any significance.

    >> exactly.

    >> and i've got to say, what strikes me is the president of the united states tells john boehner he's getting sick and tired of hearing that it's just a spending problem? well, it is. just if you look at the math, it's a spending problem. and i find, andrea mitchell , that now that democrats have their tax increases, they haven't moved on to start talking about entitlement reform. they're talking about more tax increases because they have no second act here. and as this op-ed says, tax increases aren't going to fix our problem. that tax increase paid for five days of government next year.

    >> and in fact, until the democrats get their arms around the reality that they have to deal with entitlements and that this white house has to deal with entitlements, there's not going to be a conversation with the hill. and you're right about the fiscal cliff being a nothing burger, but the next one is going to be a lot more serious because defaulting on the debt is a completely different animal.

    >> so the question is how to get the two parties to seriously talk about spending. and you know, the president --

    >> do you mind if i interrupt here for one second, mika ?

    >> sure.

    >> you say to get the two parties to talk about it, let's look at what's happened. paul ryan put a budget out. what did we hear about paul ryan 's budget after he put it out in the house of representatives ? how savage it was, how cold it was, how cruel it was. what did democrats put out in the senate, which was their constitutional requirement? nothing. they haven't put out anything for years. they haven't proposed cuts. they keep saying generally the president's proposed cuts. nobody can tell you what those specific cuts are. i've been very critical of republicans , and we've seen quite a few tense showdowns where republicans came on and said they aren't going to have to raise taxes. they are. we're in james madison 's washington, and so taxes had to be raised. but democrats have to come forward with real cuts. and when is harry reid going to do that? when are the democrats in the senate -- how long's it been? how many thousands of days? 1,000? 1,100 days since the democrats have produced a budget in the senate? and why isn't the media talking about this?

    >> well, the president's going to have to put out a budget and give his state of the union address .

    >> okay. where's the democrats ' budget in the senate, john heilemann, and why isn't the press talking about this?

    >> it's a mystery, joe. i don't know.

    >> i'm dead serious. republicans would never be allowed to be this reckless and irresponsible. and the media still is going to keep turning to republicans and attacking them when democrats haven't put out a budget . they refuse to propose any real significant cuts. and they're just sitting there going, we're going to wait for the republicans . taxes have been raised. that card has been taken off the table.

    >> finally.

    >> what do democrats do now?

    >> i think democrats are going to have to, if they want to avert another crisis when we come up to the next cr on the debt ceiling, democrats will have to do that. i agree with you, i think it's irresponsible on reid's part. the president has been much more responsible. the president has met his constitutional responsibilities. he's put out a budget every year. he's the leader of the democratic party . he's done that. harry reid has not.

    >> is it true that the president's budgets get zero votes in the senate?

    >> yes, but that's not the president's fault. i mean, the president has laid out his spending and cutting priorities. he's tried to make deals with boehner where he's put forward significant changes to entitlement programs . the president couldn't get votes for those things.

    >> what does that say about democrats in the united states senate ? they run the united states senate , andrea mitchell . they refuse to put out a budget . and when the president, as john heilemann said, the leader of their own party, puts a budget out, he gets zero votes year after year after year. who are these senate democrats , and why does the mainstream media continue to give them a free ride?

    >> it's a very good question because they could just continue to point to john boehner and blame everything on the house. but they have taken no responsibility for any kind of fiscal solutions here.

    >> yeah.

    >> when are they going to do that, mika ?

    >> when the president passed on taxes the last time, you all hammered him. he had to do what he had to do here. and these republicans need to look at why they got nothing.

    >> wait. wait, mika , wait. are you so partisan that you can't admit the obvious, that republicans passed a tax increase?

    >> you interrupted me on the point i was making, you went off completely in a different direction and brought up a very good point. but back to today, if you look at what happened and you look at where we're going and why we're not talking about spending, it's because the president got rolled on taxes last time around. he got hammered for it. he had no choice but to make this happen the way he did. and quite frankly , boehner, cantor, mcconnell, the most difficult people on the face of the earth is what we've learned by watching the sausages being made. could anyone negotiate with them and get anything done?

    >> well, actually, yes.

    >> oh, really?

    >> joe biden could.

    >> yeah, he got what he wanted. and that's about it.

    >> taxes --

    >> cornered them.

    >> -- taxes were increased in the house of representatives . the republican house passed tax increases.

    >> mm-hmm. they had to.

    >> when is the senate, led by democrats , going to be responsible, put out a budget and go to the spending cuts?

    >> i think we need to talk about spending. that was the question i was answering.

    >> when are democrats going to do their job?

    >> okay.

    >> what?

    >> i was going to say something, but i was told we have to go. i'll say it during the break.

    >> mika , can you answer when democrats are going to do their job?

    >> i have two words for you, joe scarborough . i thought i'd never say it, roll tide.

    >> roll tide! there you go. that gets me off the subject.

    >> andrea, thank you.

    >>> coming up, "forbes'" 30 under 30 list. the editor takes us through the young leaders that are changing the world. that's ahead. we'll be right


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