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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. GREGORY:
Good morning. Happy Easter and happy Passover . A quite holiday weekend on the campaign trail as Republicans ready for the next big showdown, the Pennsylvania primary in two weeks. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has canceled campaign events tomorrow in order to spend time with his hospitalized three-year-old daughter Bella , who suffers from a rare genetic disorder. And this morning on the issues, a disappointing snapshot of the economy . On Friday it showed employers adding only 120,000 jobs in March, half the number of February and the unemployment rate fell, but only slightly, from 8.3 percent to 8.2 percent, with analysts attributing the decline to people actually abandoning their search for a job. Here to debate the way forward , give us a preview of how the economy and other issues will factor into the fall campaign , assistant majority leader and Democrat of Illinois , Senator Dick Durbin ; and Republican governor, as I mentioned, of swing state Ohio , John Kasich . Welcome to both of you. Once again, happy Easter .

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):
Happy Easter .

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH):
Happy Easter .

MR. GREGORY:
I want to start, Senator Durbin , with talk of the economy . And some of the press accounts I read over the weekend of the job number on Friday asked this question, whether this dip, slower hiring, represented a momentary stumble or another bad turn for the economy . What do you think it is?

SEN. DURBIN:
Well, I think we're moving in the right direction. We've had, I think, seven straight months where the unemployment rate has either gone done or not gone up. We've had 26 months of economic growth . We're on the right track. Like the president, we want this to move more quickly, and of course we want to see more jobs created. The good news for Ohio and for Illinois is that more manufacturing jobs are coming online. As Senator Sherrod Brown , my colleague from Ohio has been one of the most outspoken champions for manufacturing jobs being created, particularly in the automobile industry . And it really gets back to this presidential campaign because President Obama said we're going to stand by the automobiles companies and in doing so, we're going to put people back to work. We know it's happened in Ohio , where one out of eight jobs are in the automobile industry . You'll remember that Governor Romney , at the same time, said if we did that, if we helped the auto industry , then the whole auto industry was going to virtually disappear. He was wrong and the president was right.

MR. GREGORY:
Governor, the president took on the reality of our job situation when he talked about the jobs report on Friday. I want to play a portion of that for you.

PRES. OBAMA:
Our economy 's now created more than four million private sector jobs over the past two years, more than 600,000 in the past three months alone. But it's clear to every American that there will still be ups and downs along the way and that we've got a lot more work to do .

MR. GREGORY:
The ups and the downs the president talks about, certainly Ohio is part of the ups here, unemployment at 7.6 percent, it was 9.4 percent when you took office. Do you view this as sort of shared credit between the work that you've done and the work that President Obama has done on the national level?

GOV. KASICH:
Well, look, first of all, the credit goes to the people that invest. All we've done in Ohio is to create a better environment. And, David , when I took office, we were 48th in the country in job creation . And in February, working with my partners in the legislature, we were the number one job creator in America and we're number four today. But let me tell you, our success here is not based on industry . In fact, in the auto industry , and we're thrilled to see auto jobs coming back, that has not been the greatest growth. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics , we've created 1600 jobs in the auto industry , but 23,000 in health care . And what we're doing in Ohio is we're moving from a basic manufacturing economy to one that's diversified, including energy and health care and agriculture and IT. I mean, the fact of the matter is, Ohio 's coming back because we set a clear path, we cut taxes , we balanced our budget , we got credit upgrades when the whole rest of the world , including America , was being downgraded.

MR. GREGORY:
Mm-hmm.

GOV. KASICH:
And at the same time, we've, we've deregulated or made regulation have more common sense . And we've created an environment and an atmosphere for job growth in Ohio . What's happened in the country is there's so much uncertainty, David . Are they going to raise taxes ? How many more regulations are going to be piled on? And uncertainty really affects small business . It affects all job creators in America . And so this recovery, while we -- I feel good about the fact that we're moving in the right direction, at the federal level , is too anemic. And frankly, what I get concerned about is I've got wind in my face. Ohio 's doing what it can do, but I wish they'd get their act together in Washington .

MR. GREGORY:
Well, let's talk a little bit about that, Senator Durbin , because as we focus on the economy and on the budget , on the question of taxes in Washington , we really do have a general election campaign that is shaping up with two distinct visions of the country . The debate this week, as the president talked about, about the congressional Republican budget , about efforts to take on Medicare , as the Paul Ryan plan does, taxes , cutting and spending. This is how the president talked about the Ryan plan.

PRES. OBAMA:
For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle down economics. Now the problem for advocates of this theory is that we've tried their approach on a massive scale. The results of their experiment are there for all to see. Prosperity sure didn't trickle down.

MR. GREGORY:
Let me actually start with you, Governor, first on this. This was a shot across the bow , philosophically, ideologically, and it has to do with the broader economy from the president.

GOV. KASICH:
Well, look, David , let me tell you what we've done in Ohio . We cut taxes , we had an $8 billion hole, we balanced our budget and we didn't play politics. We have been praised by the AARP for our work in Medicaid . We've been praised for the people who have been advocates for the mentally ill. There are ways in which you can modernize your, your entitlement programs and come out with better results at lower prices. The problem is in Washington , they just play this politics. And what we've done out here is provide a clear path for business to create jobs without overregulating them. We have reduced taxes on small business and at the same time, we've balanced our budget . I mean, what we've done here, we're exploding in Ohio with these, you know, with the, the largest amount of growth in jobs in February and number four in the country . We were 48th over the last four years. So if they would just follow the formula, it's common sense . It's not trickle down economics. The problem that the president has is that he's rudderless on the economy . I mean, he doesn't quite know what to do. It's a wake-up on Monday and try to figure it out. It takes time to turn a supertanker, so you need to know where you need to go. And that's what we've done out here.

MR. GREGORY:
All right.

GOV. KASICH:
My partners and I in the legislature, we've moved it in the right direction. They should learn from this in Washington .

MR. GREGORY:
Senator, are -- is that -- do you agree with that? Should you learn?

SEN. DURBIN:
Listen, there's a lot we need to learn across America , but let me tell you, I was a member of President Obama 's bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. That commission, of course, ended up with 11 or 18 of us voting in favor of it. That included Senator Tom Coburn , a very conservative Oklahoma Republican, and myself. It was a bipartisan statement that we need to combine -- put everything on the table and combine revenue with spending cuts. Now look at the Paul Ryan budget and let me start by saying Congressman Ryan voted no on the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan deficit commission. The Ryan budget , which Mitt Romney called marvelous, ends up giving a tax break to the wealthiest people in America of $150,000 a year. Governor Kasich , we can't do that. We have got to use that money to reduce the deficit, we've got to cut spending, and put everything on the table. I think Governor George -- Governor Mitt Romney 's approach to this thing, sadly, is a return to the same economic policy we had under President Bush that brought on the worst recession since the Great Depression . We don't want to go back to those economic policies .

GOV. KASICH:
David , David , I will say this, I, I think we can have some tax reform , but that doesn't mean tax increases. We ought to make the, the rates flatter. We ought to get rid of a bunch of those loopholes. I want to commend Senator Durbin because I know he did hard work with a number of people on both sides of the aisle in the Senate . But the fact of the matter is is that we got to stop this whole class warfare business. We can in fact close loopholes, lower rates, provide more incentives. We -- you know, our, our corporate tax rates are the highest in the world. Look, all I'm interested in in Ohio , and I think Dick is interested in America , is you got to create jobs. It's a moral issue, it helps families, it keeps marriages stronger, it lifts kids out of poverty. That's what we're all about, and they got to get their act together. And in states where people have got their act together, they -- we've seen significant progress, and that's what has to be learned from it. When I was in D.C. , by the way, you know, I was there 18 years, we balanced the budget in 1997 without a tax increase. The fact is they just want to keep spending in that city. And it's not going to get us where we need to get to, and that's not political rhetoric , it just gets down to cold hard facts.

MR. GREGORY:
Senator Durbin , I want to ask you one more on these competing visions for the country because to me as I look at this, it really does come down to competing views about the role of government , what role should government play to try to, as you might describe it, level the playing field in terms of taxes , that's how the president might describe it, Republicans would describe that differently, or creating new entitlements like health care . Or as Republicans might say, "Hey, deal with the fact that our entitlement state is too big, it's affecting our ability to help people get into the middle class or go on from there." This is how Mitt Romney described it, Governor Romney , when he won his primaries on Tuesday night. Let's watch a portion of that.

FRM. GOV. ROMNEY:
There is a basic choice that we're going to face. The president has pledged to transform America and he spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government -centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of an opportunity society led by free people and free enterprises.

MR. GREGORY:
As you know, Senator, Governor Romney 's on to something in that a lot of Americans distrust big institutions, including government , to deal with some of the more -- most pressing problems, what Governor Romney calls the government -centered society.

SEN. DURBIN:
I can tell you this, David , Governor Kasich makes mention of making the moral decision. The moral decision for working families in Illinois and Ohio is to make sure that as they work hard they have an opportunity to succeed. We have seen working families falling further and further behind and Mitt Romney promises more of the same. In terms of the role of government , let me mention this, 10,000 people reached the age of 65 today and yesterday and tomorrow and for the next 18 years, these men and women who have paid into Medicare and Social Security are now reaching retirement. The obvious question of Mitt Romney is what would you do with those people? I know what the Paul Ryan budget would do, it would basically say Medicare 's going to be a different program, it's going to be a support program, we'll hand you a check and good luck finding health insurance in the open market. That to me does not give people security in their retirement, it is not a, a boost of confidence for their children. Government has an appropriate role to do those things we can't do by ourselves, whether it's...

MR. GREGORY:
But don't we also have an obligation in government , Governor, to say to the citizens, "You have to understand reality. Even though we've made a promise, there is a fiscal reality to this program that can't be sustained"?

GOV. KASICH:
Well, let me, let me tell you, in our state with Medicaid , for example, we provided a provision to let moms and dads stay at home if they, if they could rather than be in a nursing home at a fifth of the cost where they're healthier and happier. You see, I believe that you can reform these programs, modernize them into the 21st century , save money and provide more customer or taxpayer satisfaction. What's happened here is with the name-calling and all the politics, they're unwilling to look at 21st century approaches because government clearly has a role in, in the area of health care , you know, in Medicare and in Medicaid and Social Security , but we need to modernize the program and we need to do it together. And if we do that, we can get ourselves on a better fiscal track. Look, we don't want to be Greece , we don't want to be places where people are rioting because we waited so long to get things fixed, we're pulling the rug from under them. We need to start on it now. And unfortunately, David , the parties are so much at war in Washington that they're -- they seem unable to agree on anything, and that's tragic. You know, my girls are 12 years old. I want them to have a strong America and I think we can have it all. I think we can modernize these programs, I think we can make things simpler, I think we can reduce taxes ...

MR. GREGORY:
Mm-hmm.

GOV. KASICH:
...have tax reform and we can do it . Look, I was part of it in '97, the first time we balanced a budget since man walked on the moon. We have done it in Ohio , the results have been good, we got a long way to go but the results have been positive for families. The -- you got to learn the lessons of where it works...

MR. GREGORY:
OK.

GOV. KASICH:
...and it's working here.

MR. GREGORY:
I've got just a couple minutes left. I'd like to hopscotch around a couple of different issues. And, Senator Durbin , I'll start with you. This controversy about the General Services Administration , the head of which stepped down after a big boondoggle with a lot of money spent out at a conference in Vegas , and then this week a video that pops up as part of this. One of the employees of GSA doing a rap about how they could excessively spend and the office of inspector general would not even notice. Well, in fact it was the inspector general that investigated all of this. The question that's come up is how could this go on when there was an interim report submitted to the administration ? Did the administration react too slowly to it?

SEN. DURBIN:
I can tell you, I'm glad that the GSA administrator left, it's one of the agencies I have responsibility for under the Appropriations Committee . We are going to have a hearing as to what actually happened here. It's an absolutely outrageous expenditure of taxpayers' money. The White House made it clear that the group in charge was going to be dismissed and resigned, and they did. So we've got to say, whether it's Democrats , Republicans , whether it's the state of Illinois , Ohio or Washington , that kind of misuse of taxpayers' funds is totally unacceptable.

MR. GREGORY:
Governor Kasich , I want to ask you about the Republican race. And at this point- -you're on record as saying that there were a number of candidates that you hoped would get in the race that ultimately did not get in the race, and you have not endorsed anyone. Do you think the fight for the nomination is over?

GOV. KASICH:
You know, I, I, I want to say this to you, David , you don't want to judge that. These people, they work their tails off trying to get to be president, and trying to judge it and handicap the horse race is not what I'm comfortable with. Let it take care of itself. I, I haven't endorsed -- I said everybody I either endorsed or was for either dropped out or didn't run, so I'll wait till we have a nominee. And, and listen, the party will get its act together, it will be very competitive in the fall. And, and let me also say it's good to be on with my friend Dick Durbin . And I will tell you this, those folks at the GSA , they're going to get an awakening from Dick Durbin . He's been a friend of mine for a long time and, Dick , it's good to be with you this morning and good to be with you , David . And what a, what a day of hope in our lives with Easter and the opportunity for us to think about what we can do to spread the, the word of the Lord and be kind to people and be part of a new creation.

MR. GREGORY:
Amen to that. But still one follow-up, which is do you have any concerns about Governor Romney as the standard bearer , as the nominee of the party in carrying your state of Ohio , which as we know, will be so important in the fall?

GOV. KASICH:
Oh, it's going to be close. It'll be, you know, tight as a, as a tick out here, David , it always is. Ohio is a battleground state and it's those independent voters and whoever can tell them...

MR. GREGORY:
All right.

GOV. KASICH:
...whoever can tell them that they're going to improve this economy , create jobs for families, will be the winner.

MR. GREGORY:
I'm going to leave it there. Governor Kasich, Senator Durbin ...

GOV. KASICH:
Thank you.

MR. GREGORY:
...thank you both this morning.

SEN. DURBIN:
Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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