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Yesterday, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington's 9th District, was interviewed by left-wing radio talk show host Stephanie Miller. They discussed the proposed tax cut deal at length. I've transcribed part of the interview, because I believe it is worth reading. According to Rep. Smith, he will "absolutely" vote no when the deal is presented to Congress. He went on to say that he believes there is "an excellent chance" that other Congressional Democrats will ultimately oppose the deal.

Rep. Adam Smith has served fourteen years in Congress and his voting record speaks for itself. (Details regarding his voting record can be found here: http://www.votesmart.org/... ) No one could reasonably accuse him of being callous or lacking empathy for the poor and the unemployed (though I'm sure some will).

It has been suggested that those opposed to Obama's deal don't understand realpolitik, and therefore, don't realize the necessity of supporting this deal. The same cannot be said of Rep. Smith. Whether or not one agrees with his position, presumably, after more than a decade in Congress, he knows exactly how things are done in Washington, D.C.

The transcript is below the fold.

Source: Hour 1, Dec 7, 2010 podcast of the Stephanie Miller Show. Unfortunately, I can’t post a link to the podcast, you have to be a subscribing member to listen, but there are other Steph fans at Kos who could certainly verify that the conversation I've transcribed occurred, if need be. The interview began at the 20 minute mark on the podcast.

Rep. Smith:  You know, I’m truly upset about this whole tax deal. You know, I think it’s unbelievable on a couple of levels. I mean, number one, you know, we just all spent the last year listening to Republicans lecturing us about how we had to have a Republican Congress, because the Democrats were fiscally irresponsible, and they weren’t going to get the deficit under control...

They never once said anything other than the fact that they wanted to cut taxes to increase the deficit by three trillion dollars. But you know, now, here we are, the Republicans cutting a deal that’s going to add almost a trillion dollars to the deficit. And there is no way to be fiscally responsible and extend all the Bush tax cuts. It’s simply impossible. You know, and I understand the difficult position the White House is in. You know, they don’t want to be, you know, raising taxes come January - but, you know, there are a lot of difficult positions we’re all in. You gotta make tough choices, and this certainly was not one of those tough choices we need to make.

Miller: Congressman, but for those of us that just, you know, may not understand all the inner workings of Congress, is there a way to stop this? ‘Cause I know it seems that the jury’s out today on what’s going to happen with Democrats. I mean, obviously, Bernie Sanders has said he might filibuster. There – uh – I don’t know, is there a chance Democrats aren’t going to support this?

Rep Smith: No, I think there’s an excellent chance that Democrats aren’t going to support this. I mean, you – you know, the unemployment extension, I guess, is the main thing that Democrats are concerned - with the unemployment rate being higher -

Miller: Yeah. It’s unconscionable that poor unemployed people –

Rep Smith: I know.

Miller: - got held hostage by the Republicans, in this whole – uh – situation, isn’t it?

Rep Smith: No - I mean, when you think about it – I’m not sure exactly what the numbers are, the details are just coming out, but I think it’s safe to say that 90%-95% of the money on this is going to the tax breaks, and just a tiny, tiny, little bit is going to the unemployment insurance. And, you know, so it’s – it’s not a good deal on that level...

Miller: So, Congressman – uh – you know, the problem is what now? I mean, I know that – that people, many people have said, you know, everybody has advice for the President, obviously. Like, “Oh just let ‘em expire.”

Rep Smith: Yes -

Miller: But then aren’t we in a weaker position? Then what happens in January? Then a lot of people go without their unemployment insurance, ‘cause Republicans really don’t care about that. Right? They’re not playing chicken. They’ve already let the unemployment benefits run out. So then what happens in January? Then we try to pass – the – the Republicans are never – they’re going to be in a stronger position, and they’re never going to let, you know, tax cuts for just the - the you know, the middle class pass, are they?

Rep Smith:  Well look, it’s quite possible that we won’t be able to extend the unemployment benefits if the Republicans are completely unwilling to do it. But you know, there is a point at which, you know, you have to make the best deal that is available or you have to live with the situation you’re in. And I just don’t think, you know, giving away, you know, two years of tax cuts is worth the “get” in this case. I think the answer is - we stand firm. And I’ll tell you, this is incredibly important for the future of the economy.

You know, I voted against the Bush tax cuts back in 2001, and – and I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done during my time that had a more devastating impact on our economic future then that tax cut package, and here we are, talking about extending it further. I mean, keep in mind, not only do these tax cuts go overwhelmingly to the people at the top end of the scale – who, by the way, did just fine in the 1990s – the numbers are so great they drive the deficit higher, they also create the must unbelievably complicated tax code in the history of the world. So that we have an insufficient, wasteful tax code, that doesn’t even collect as much revenue as it could have – I mean, it’s just, it’s bad on top of bad, and I just think we just have to stand up and say, “No.” Now come January, if the taxes go up, then you can talk about doing tax reform in January and February and March, and if we want to make some of it retroactive, uh, to protect people, we can do that.

Miller: Right.

Rep. Smith: But we don’t need to cut this deal right now...

I mean, we’re not going to get a better deal, um, in some senses - if you look at the spending side of it, we’re not going to get a better deal in terms of helping the unemployed. But we absolutely can get a better deal in terms of what, you know, what our tax laws are going forward. And you know, we’re still going to control the Senate – we’re still going to control the White House. And everyone’s running around Washington, D.C., acting like the Republicans have taken over. Well, they haven’t...

Miller: Congressman Smith, so are you a “No” vote?

Rep. Smith: Uh, absolutely, yes.

Miller: Um hmmm. And -

Rep. Smith: Yes, I’m a “No.”

Miller: (Laughter) Yes, I’m a “No.” Um, you know, the thing you hear though – I mean, again, I’m certainly not a top economist, but you hear that, you know, economists are telling the President that this would hurt the larger economy. That’s basically how he framed this, right? That this is going to allow – make us backslide at a time that’s obviously very fragile. Do you buy that?

Rep. Smith: Well, I don’t’ buy it in the following sense – this is an argument I’ve had about, you know, the stimulus and everything else. Look, if you cut taxes, if you spend more money, in the short term it helps the economy, okay. That’s one of the things that drove me crazy about this last election was people saying “Oh, the stimulus didn’t work!” Look, you spend 800 billion dollars, it helps. I’ve heard all these jokes, “Almost - even if you just threw it off the top of a building in New York City, it would help, okay.” The question is what is the long term impact versus the short term gain? And we have got to build a sustainable economy, not an economy based on debt. That is what got us into this problem in the first place. Government debt, individual debt, business debt, people borrowing and spending to spend more money than they had, to artificially prop-up the economy in the short term – that was never sustainable. Okay? So yes, okay, sure, if taxes were lower it would help us for a few months, but it’s also going to drive the debt through the ceiling and maintain a tax code that full-bore bad for the economy – point number one.

Point number two, we have to have an honest conversation with the American people about this. I mean, everyone complains about the deficit and the debt, then it’s like “Well, you know, cutting that spending would hurt, increasing that tax would hurt.” Yes, but if you care about the debt, you have to confront those realities. And here’s a reality for you – there is no way to get the deficit under control without increasing taxes. It is utterly and completely impossible...

Miller: I’ve even – I even had a lot of listeners write and say “I don’t care – I don’t care about my lousy $600 tax cut, I’m happy to give it up.” So that rich people have to pay theirs, too, you know?

Rep Smith: Right. These are the choices we have to make, and we’re still running around acting like there’s an easy way out of this. There’s not. It’s fourteen trillion dollars, going up by almost a trillion a year going forward. There’s no easy way out of this. This – this deal sort of represents thinking from the late ‘90s, when the debt was coming down, and we could cut deals like this. That’s not where we’re at.

Miller: But Congressman, I guess, part of my point is, are you – you know – are you – uh, I guess, this is a moral dilemma. Are you okay with letting, uh, you know, people run out of the unemployment benefits, that’s run out at Christmas, in order to make our point, you know, politically?

Rep. Smith: Well, let me put it to you this way. I’m not – you know, I’m not “okay” with it, but if the price is eight hundred billion dollars in tax cuts, what sort of programs are going to be available for people three, four, five years from now? You know, when all of this money goes out the door. Think about unemployment benefits right now - that they’re going to run out for some people. Okay, well, what about Medicare? What about Medicaid? What about education? What about infrastructure? What about unemployment benefits in the future? If we give away all of the money now, we are going to be hurting vastly more people in the long run then we’re going to be helping in the short run. That’s the way to think about it.

He makes a valid point. As liberals we may be tempted simply to view this issue in empathetic terms; none of us wish to see two million people suffer. Still, we must seriously consider the long term ramifications of the deal Obama is proposing. Smith posed a very pertinent question, just what sort of programs are going to be available to help the needy "three, four, five years from now" if we extend the Bush tax cuts? We are being told that two million people will suffer if we reject this deal, but how many people will suffer in the years to come if we agree to it? We must consider this, no matter how callous it may seem, because our nation's economic well-being depends upon our congressional representatives making the correct decision.

As for the suggestion that the tax cuts will be allowed to expire in 2012, if we agree to the deal, I find that belief absurdly optimistic. If the Bush tax cuts aren't allowed to expire now, they will likely remain in place for many years to come. The Republicans know the odds are in their favor and (with a few notable exceptions) they are currently celebrating what they view as a victory.

As debate rages in Washington over the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of this year, the Bush administration officials who initiated the steep tax cuts are celebrating what they see as an apparent victory, since signs point to a temporary extension of all the cuts. The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz interviewed Dan Bartlett, Bush’s former communications director, and Andy Card, Bush’s former chief of staff, among others, and they were pleased at how the expiration debate has played out:

“We knew that, politically, once you get it into law, it becomes almost impossible to remove it,” says Dan Bartlett, Bush’s former communications director. “That’s not a bad legacy. The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”

“[Democrats] are definitely on the defensive,” Card says. “The fact that the 10-year clock ran out now had a big impact on the election.”

Originally posted to AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 05:25 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  While the poor and the middle class... (7+ / 0-)

    are being held hostage, the Democrats are being asked to choose between extending tax cuts that will add to the crushing national debt, or rejecting a deal that could provide two million unemployed Americans with at least a tiny bit of relief. Meanwhile, an additional four million unemployed Americans (the 99ers) are being offered nothing. And the Republicans? The rank-and-file might be mad as hell, but I imagine this video better illustrates the current mood of the GOP's leadership.

    All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be ~ Michelle Obama

    by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 05:20:42 AM PST

    •  seems like more dems (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SuetheRedWA, AuroraDawn

      would use that fact to make the case for a new bill.
      One that actually helps them all.

      Obama clearly knows, but doesn't appear to care.

      Yeah, I'm pitchfork mad like that.

      by lisastar on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:33:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Apparently, Obama won't be getting... (0+ / 0-)

      Rep. Brian Baird's vote, either. I was just catching up on my KPOJ Portland morning show podcasts. It seems that he also stated his opposition to the deal yesterday morning. Brian is my Congressman. He's a Democrat representing Washington's 3rd District. He's retired and will be leaving DC in January. There is really nothing they could offer him to induce him to vote for this. And no one could accuse him of being a starry-eyed "purist". Brian's a moderate through and through.

      His exact statement, when asked if he believed Obama could muster up enough votes for his deal in the House:

      Well, they're going to have to marshal up a whole lot of Republican votes, uh, because they don't have my vote on it. I'll guarantee you that, at least.

      You know, I've said on here, I understand people are hurting, but - and I understand it very well - we have high unemployment - but that's the question I have. If you have high unemployment, why are you giving tax breaks to the richest people in the country, instead of investing in repairing our schools, in paying for these wars, in - in supporting small businesses and some other ways? I'm totally mystified by this.

      Thank you, Brian. I'm equally mystified.

      First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Gandhi

      by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 08:11:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the transcript (5+ / 0-)

    it is good and heartening to see Democrats speaking out

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 05:28:38 AM PST

    •  You're welcome. I couldn't agree more. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, Major Tom, neroden, lisastar, SuetheRedWA

      I'm not from Adam Smith's district, but as a fellow Washingtonian, I was very proud of him yesterday. I intend to leave a very short message at his local office thanking him for taking a principled stand on this issue. He must know that the opposition will try to paint him as heartless for opposing this deal.

      O/T: I enjoyed your current diary a great deal.

      All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be ~ Michelle Obama

      by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 05:36:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Concessionist Argument Makes Me Sick (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden, lisastar, AuroraDawn

        Over and over again, I hear the argument: Obama has to do it so that the unemployed and the middle class won't suffer.

        You know, the Republicans have REPEATEDLY said that they would agree to extend all Unemployment Insurance benefits, if they are paid for with the remaining TARP money which, by the way, is just sitting there and doing nothing.

        Yet, we really do not have to use that ace in the hole right now. How about keeping Congress in session until they concede these rightful and necessary benefits? You know, the Republicans have caved on this very issue five times already. If it were me, I'd force a vote on the extension of unemployement benefits on Christmas Eve, and then every day thereafter, if it still were necessary (which I would doubt). Or how about making them really filibuster through Christmas day until New Years, if need be?

        So please, let's not hear anymore concerning that stale Strawman argument. This latest Obama appeasement is essentially about a tax redistribution from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy and nothing else.

        Finally, how can we agree to this when the 99ers are being left out in the freezing cold? How are they going to feed their families and pay the rent? Also, please spare me with: "Half a loaf is better than nothing." Folks, INCREMENTALISM kills.  

        •  Yes, the argument regarding the two million... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ivan, Major Tom, neroden

          unemployed rings hollow when you consider that the Administration, apparently, has no problem allowing twice that number to go without aid of any kind. Are they not worth rescuing?

          Yet, we really do not have to use that ace in the hole right now. How about keeping Congress in session until they concede these rightful and necessary benefits? You know, the Republicans have caved on this very issue five times already. If it were me, I'd force a vote on the extension of unemployement benefits on Christmas Eve, and then every day thereafter, if it still were necessary (which I would doubt). Or how about making them really filibuster through Christmas day until New Years, if need be?

          So please, let's not hear anymore concerning that stale Strawman argument.

          Your ideas are excellent, but we're going to keep hearing that false argument. It's the only one the Administration's got. Insinuating that anyone opposed to this lousy deal is heartless, and hates the unemployed, is a low blow, but it could prove effective. Without the threat of two million people suffering if this deal isn't passed, what else do they have? What else could they use as a selling point for this deal? The Administration clearly knows how to play dirty when they choose to.

          All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be ~ Michelle Obama

          by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:10:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  interesting humanitarianism (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AuroraDawn

          we should all step up to help the unemployed except NOT the 99ers

          Yeah, I'm pitchfork mad like that.

          by lisastar on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:30:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  will do that too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AuroraDawn

        I hope Inslee and McDermott follow suit

        Yeah, I'm pitchfork mad like that.

        by lisastar on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:28:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  For a Harvard man, Obama sure has no idea (4+ / 0-)

    where real politics end and common sense begins.

    Clings to Music and Yankee Baseball.

    by Mro on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 05:47:22 AM PST

  •  They must recognize difference between compromise (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, neroden, AuroraDawn

    ...and capitulation.  The Administration's constant quest for the appearance of bipartisanship with an uncompromising opponent has led to serial "compromises" where the Democrats give far too much in return for getting far too little.

    A tough and talented negotiator leaves the negotiation with both sides feeling that they got a fair deal.  A poor negotiator gives up too much in return for too little just to maintain an illusion of "compromise".

  •  Appreciate the transcript! I'm deaf (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, lisastar, AuroraDawn

    so that was helpful.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:17:31 AM PST

    •  You're welcome, Slink. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, neroden, lisastar

      Thank you so much for all of the work you've done these last few years. You aren't thanked often enough. As someone with a "pre-existing condition," I deeply appreciate your efforts regarding HCR.

      All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be ~ Michelle Obama

      by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:22:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  WHOA! This is A BIG DEAL! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AuroraDawn, princesspat

    Adam is one of Obama's biggest supporters in the House, and was his campaign chairman for WA in the 2008 election. He works tirelessly for all Democrats, up and down the ticket.

    He represents the District adjacent to mine. I have volunteered in his campaigns and have contributed to them.

    This is great news, and Adam's constituents should tell him they have his back. I certainly intend to.

    Tipped and recommended, and THANK YOU for bringing this to our attention.

    "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

    by Ivan on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:37:08 AM PST

    •  You're welcome, Ivan. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan

      Adam is one of Obama's biggest supporters in the House, and was his campaign chairman for WA in the 2008 election.

      Yes, he was. Which is why I felt his remarks should be transcribed and posted online. It's one thing to have Bernie Sanders opposed to the deal. That's predictable. But to have Adam Smith speak publicly against the deal? That's a bit more surprising. He's always been principled, but I wouldn't have expected him to speak out so strongly in public (at least not so early on).

      All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do - that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be ~ Michelle Obama

      by AuroraDawn on Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:49:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i'll believe it when I see it (0+ / 0-)

    Simply participating in a kabuki dance should not earn anyone any respect

    Democrats have no credibility to do what they say they're going to do

    If he does, it's probably only because Pelosi has allowed him out of a tough vote because they already have the votes to ram it down our throat.

    Altho the Dems are so screwed up, I'm wondering if, the fact that Obama is FOR this now means it doesn't have a chance in hell of passing

    that's how far Obama has fallen, & once you're at this level, you're toast

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