I missed this portion of CNN's The Situation Room during the week but caught the reair this weekend. I know our politicians have to be careful with their words because they don't want anything they say used in some political ad against them later, but I really wish Jan Schawoksky had felt she had the freedom to tell David Gergen to stick his “political cowardess” remark where the sun doesn't shine during this segment. I'd like for Gergen to explain how our budget being balanced off the backs of the poor and the middle class and elderly is somehow responsible instead of asking the rich to pay their share and balance the budget.
Nothing like seeing three on one from our supposed “liberal media” ganging up on someone who's trying to do the right thing as a member of President Obama's Catfood commission. David Gergen and the other "serious" Villagers in our sorry excuse for a mainstream media are never going to have to worry about whether the sacrifices they're asking other Americans to make are going to make any difference in their lives. Gergen and his ilk could care less if some coal miner, or janitor, or electrician, or carpenter or garbage collector has to work until they drop dead. Nor does he care that they drop dead because they don't have a job and no one will hire them because they're too old if they're unemployed and they're too young to collect Social Security if the age gets jacked up.
Raise the rates on the upper earners and your problem with Social Security is solved. I'd like to see the cap lifted completely and the rate reduced for everyone. We'll never see that happen as long as the wealthy are controlling our political class and our talking heads in the corporate media.
BLITZER: We're joined by Democratic congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, of Illinois, along with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger and David Gergen. Congresswoman, let me start with you. You hate these proposals, and you're a member of this commission, why?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I'm a member of the commission. We were told from the beginning that nothing would be done to Social Security that would affect current beneficiaries. And, of course, the proposal does exactly that. It changes the cost of living adjustment, the way we calculate it. That would affect current beneficiaries. And of course, in addition, does raise the age of retirement that will effect future beneficiaries as well.
That's a non-starter. It's just not going to happen. And in terms of Medicare, which takes an increasing bite out of Social Security, we see that the proposal increased cost sharing for seniors who are already spending about 30 percent of their income on health care. So, you're going to see absolutely a firestorm of opposition from older and near-older Americans against this proposal.
BLITZER: Why did they release these recommendations publicly today because it caught all of us by surprise, congresswoman?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you're not the only one. We went into the meeting today thinking that this was going to be the co-chair's proposal, and that's what we got. And until the very end, about an hour and a half into the meeting, we thought that it was going to be just a closed meeting and that we would reconvene next week to talk about those proposals.
All of a sudden, it was suggested that why don't they release it publicly, and sure enough, at 1:00 press conference was called, and that was that. I objected to that, but here we are. So, we were surprised as well.
BLITZER: Let me bring in David Gergen and Gloria to this conversation as well. David, you know these two co-chairman, Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming and Erskine Bowles of North Carolina. He was Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff at the White House. If you're going to deal with the national debt and cutting that national debt, you're going to have to bite the bullet and make difficult decisions on Social Security, Medicare entitlements, national security spending, and taxes. There's no other way, is there?
DAVID GERGEN: There's just no other way. And I must say, look our political leaders, with the support of the American people have put us on a road of bankruptcy. And now is going to take acts of leadership and courage to get us off and to get us to much better place and in my judgment the proposals that have been put forward are sensibly and you can disagree with the aspects of them, but there's no other way you're going to get there without a package like this.
And it was an act of political courage for Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs to put this forward this set of proposals today. And for those who will reject them out of hand, I think it's an act of political irresponsibility and deep political cowardness.
GLORIA BORGER: You know, I would like to ask --
BLITZER: Hold on. Gloria, hold on. I just want the congresswoman to respond and then I want to bring you in. Go ahead, congressman.
SCHAKOWSKY: All of us agree that we're on an unsustainable path fiscally, but we also, there are certain aspects of this that are just not acceptable. When Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson announced the proposal, they said that about 70 percent to 75 percent is coming from cuts and about 25 percent to 30 percent come from revenue. Well, some of us think that is not a good balance.
And in terms of Social Security, they claim that 57 percent comes from cuts, but the Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee says, actually, it's closer to 76 percent of the changes in Social Security come from cuts.
BORGER: But congresswoman, with all due respect, don't you have to start somewhere? The American people just had an election. They said they want the deficit taken care of. They wanted fix. This is not a proposal to privatize Social Security in any way. It's a very gradual raising of the retirement age. So, why not say, instead of being reflectively negative, why not say, OK, let's talk about this if we also talk about X, Y and Z.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, first of all, let's talk about $700 billion if we do extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, the same people who seem amendable to the cuts in Social Security want to see us extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. We are concerned that for older Americans who have an average income of about $18,000 a year, and by the way --
BORGER: But there's a safety net in this for the poorest on Social Security in the chairman's mark.
SCHAKOWSKY: Again, the committee staff of the Social Security Subcommittee says that, in fact, it will increase poverty, not decrease poverty, because the qualifications for getting the benefit that increased benefit -- look, of course, we need to discuss this, and of course, we need to make cuts there.
There are cuts that we agree on. And I think that we may come up with an agreement, maybe not a totally comprehensive one by December 1st. I agree with that. We should go with that.
GERGEN: Congresswoman, can I just ask you this? Gloria points out, there is a safety net here, and there are also tax increases on the affluent in this package. And the real question is going to be, are you willing to say if the Republicans will agree to raise taxes which, so far, they've been resisting, are you willing to do a serious entitlement reform?
If both sides, if the Democrats refuse to do, to cut Social Security and Medicare and Republicans refuse to raise taxes, why are we and the rest of the country is to conclude anything but that you all can't govern?
SCHAKOWSKY: We can fix Social Security in a very simple way. Look, the proposal --
BORGER: We can?
SCHAKOWSKY: Yes, we can. The proposal was not, by the way, to use Social Security as deficit reduction. That's a good thing.
BORGER: But it's not. They're not. The money is going back into Social Security.
SCHAKOWSKY: I just said that. I just said that. It was not.
SCHAKOWSKY: That is a good thing. It is for the long-term solvency of Social Security, but to do it 76 percent from benefit cuts, no. That is not acceptable. And we need to take a different look at it.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, you know these 18 commissioners. You're one of them. You need 14 in order to send these recommendations to the House and the Senate as legislation. Do you think 14 members, a super majority, will agree on a package to send to Congress?
SCHAKOWSKY: The question is how comprehensive that package will be. I think there are number of things t we can agree on. For example, there is a large consensus around the defense cuts. There is a consensus around some of the tax expenditures which are just the same thing. Those are tax breaks that are the same things as spending.
GERGEN: What tax expenditures are you willing to agree on?
SCHAKOWSKY: I think that we could agree on taking a look at how much value of the home that gets exempted from any kind of taxes we could look at.
BLITZER: Mortgage interest and deductions.
SCHAKOWSKY: But not to eliminate the mortgage interest and deductions. I think that is a non-starter for the committee.
BLITZER: But congresswoman, most of these Republicans and a lot of the Democrats say no new taxes. They will resist anything that feels like taxes are going up.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I'll tell you what, if they talk to the Republicans about that, and that includes, by the way, their resistance to the top 2 percent getting taxed right now. And they want to extend the Bush tax cuts.
BORGER: But you know, the Republicans have not come out and said we don't like X, Y, and Z. They have held their fire. So, I guess, my question is, why not hold your fire until you meet as a committee and perhaps can try a commission and try and present something to the United States Congress? SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I think, certainly, we're going to come up with a proposal and I believe that we can come up with a proposal that reaches the $250 billion mark by 2015. But I think it is important to lay some ground rules that Social Security and Medicare certainly as proposed by the two co-chairmen is just not going to hold. That it's a non-starter for many of us.
BLITZER: Jan Schakowsky is the congresswoman from Illinois. Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in. We'll continue this conversation.
SCHAKOWSKY: I look forward to it.
BLITZER: And thanks to Gloria and David as usual as well.