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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

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SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): Thanks, David.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D-MA): Thank you.

GREGORY: Good to have you here this morning.

GOV. PATRICK: Good to be with you.

SEN. AYOTTE: Good to be with you.

GREGORY: A-- a lot to get to. Let's start with the issue of taxes. And Mitt Romney's tax returns that he released showing that in 2011 he paid an effective tax rate of 14 percent. He didn't have a job. This was interest income.

Governor, should this end the debate or should there be more?

GOV. PATRICK: Well, you know, I understand people's interest and-- and, in fact, curiosity about Mitt Romney's tax returns. I think it was his dad who said that tax returns should-- for presidential candidate should-- should be produced way back many years and I think he produced 20 years worth of tax returns or more when he was being considered for vice president. But the more, I think, important issue is what is it he plans to do with my taxes and yours and everybody-- everybody else? He has a tax plan out there where he's talking about five trillion dollars in-- in tax cuts, adding to the-- to the deficit, no way to pay for that and no idea about how-- what the impact is on the middleclass and that needs to be told.

GREGORY: So, but you think-- the question of more returns and what some of his overseas holdings were, you don't think that's really an appropriate place to delve into further?

GOV. PATRICK: I-- I think it's perfectly fair question. But I think the bigger question is what is that he plans to do with everybody else's taxes…

GREGORY: Well…

GOV. PATRICK: …and he has not been forthcoming about that.

GREGORY: Ezra Klein, Senator, asks a bigger picture question as well in his column in The Washington Post and I want to put a portion of it up on the screen for our viewers and have you react to it. Here was a headline, "In 2011, Romney made 14 millions dollars while being unemployed." Klein writes, "Compare Romney to a single mother of two who works full-time at Wal-Mart, who takes the Earned Income Tax Credit and whose children get health insurance through Medicaid. Romney says she's not taking personal responsibility." Going back to the 47 percent comments. "He says he couldn't get her to take personal responsibility if he tried. And yet, Romney is someone who doesn't even have to take personal responsibility for earning money anymore. He's beyond all of that. …And he's carried that belief into his policy proposals. His policy platform matches his comments: He won't raise taxes on the rich, but he wants to cut Medicaid by over a trillion dollars in the next decade."

SEN. AYOTTE: Well, David, I think what Governor Romney wants, he wants to make sure that that mother has a good job, a better paying job. And where we are right now with this economy, think about it, we have added 15 million-- billion people to-- to the food stamp rolls-- excuse me, millions during this presidency. We now have 47 million people on food stamps. It's really unfortunate. These people want to get off of food stamps and have those good jobs. But where the economy is right now, so many people have lost hope. In fact the last jobs report show that for every job added four people have left the workforce because the president, let's not forget the president and Democrats were in-charge the first two years. The policies they passed didn't deal with where we're as the economy. Think about the stimulus. His team represented we would be below six percent right now.

GREGORY: I would get to that. I want to talk specifically about tax returns, 14 percent in an effective tax rate. Does that make it harder for Governor Romney to reach out to average Americans and say I get you? I'm empathetic toward what you're going through, vote for me.

SEN. AYOTTE: Governor Romney is reaching out to average Americans with a plan to get people working again because the president's policies have not worked. He tried, but we talked about the stimulus. His team represented we'd below six percent right now. We have had 43 over 43 straight months of over eight percent unemployment. In fact, the lowest labor participation rate, people are leaving the workforce. So what Governor Romney is saying to people, he wants opportunity, he wants that upward mobility for that mother. The opportunity--

GREGORY: All right, but you talked about upward mobility, that's not something that we-- we saw out of his speech that he gave back in July at a fund raiser to wealthy donors. This is where the 47 percent came from and in-- in context here let's play a portion of that to see exactly what his-- what his vision was. Watch.

(Videotape; May 17, 2012)

MR. ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that-- that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing. To you name it. But that's-- it's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: Senator, they see themselves as victims. He now says that he's really for the 100 percent in America. Is anybody going to buy that given that dim vision of half the country?

SEN. AYOTTE: You know, David that certainly was a political analysis at a fund-raiser, but it's not a governing philosophy. He absolutely has a vision for a 100 percent of America and that is very different from this president, really getting our economy moving. We have to look back at the policies of this president and where we are as an economy.

GREGORY: But before-- before we get to that particular argument, do you see 47 percent of the country that receives government dependence, do you think they see themselves as victims?

SEN. AYOTTE: What I see is what the Governor sees. I see 15 million more people on food stamps that don't want to be there. I see 47 million overall Americans on food stamps that want a good job. They want-- they don't want to be on unemployment. But where we are with the policies under this administration, the tax regulatory policies, the more government spending, we have five trillion dollars to the debt. Those opportunities aren't there for them and that's what this election is about.

GREGORY: Governor?

MR. PATRICK: May I just say David that I-- it's just shocking to me that a candidate could aspire to be president by turning his back on half the country. And-- and I-- that's what came-- came through. I think-- I can tell you as someone who grew up on welfare, who-- who spent some time on-- on food stamps, my mother was just the kind of person that I think the senator is describing, who was aspiring to get to a better place, to get herGD-- GED, to get a job, to stand on her own two-- two feet. And the notion that she or we or people like us would be belittled while we needed some help to be able to stand on our own two feet is exactly what I think Governor Romney is conveying and exactly what we should reject in this-- in this election.

GREGORY: Is this really any different, do you think the President Obama has not said to a group of donors, look, there are certain segments in the Republican electorate that are just not going to vote for me? Why should this just be seen as-- as the senator says political analysis and not a governing philosophy.

MR. PATRICK: Actually, I don't think that's at all what the president has said or has ever said. What he has done most importantly is govern for all of the people. And the president has, you know, he's-- he's advanced policies that are not popular with his-- with his base, but he did them because he thought they were important for the future of this country and that's the kind of leadership we need.

GREGORY: Let's talk specifically senator about some of the-- the issues, the 47 percent gets to. This question of government dependence, as you referenced, here are just couple of the snapshots of government dependence nationally that have raised some eyebrows and that indeed Governor Romney has talked about. You talk about food stamps now, nearly, 47 million Americans on food stamps up dramatically from four years ago. And here is a broader picture from the Wall Street Journal and the Census Bureau. Over time, if you go back to the early "80s and you look at that trajectory upward, 49 percent now receiving some kind of government benefit. Is government dependence at a place where it's out of control?

SEN. AYOTTE: Well, David, I think where we are is that too many people have to rely on food stamps or unemployment benefits instead of a good job, I mean, that's really what this comes down to, to think that so many people have left the work force when you look at the August report where every job added four people have left, qith over 43 straight months of over unemployment. And let's not forget the president and the Democrats had two years. What did they do? They passed health care reform where the president represented that premiums would go down, they have gone up. This week we got a report from CBO that six million middle class Americans will get hit by the tax penalties in the president's health care reform. So the policies that he pushed when they were in charge did not address the problems and that's why we need new leadership of making sure that we get people working again and-- and someone who has that private sector experience to turn the economy around.

GOV. PATRICK: I want to agree with some of what the senator has said about the fact that there are more people on food stamps because we're in a terrible economy and more people need a way forward. I would submit that most of those people, if not all, want a job and that we have to be about strengthening this economy. I think adding some 4.6 million private sector jobs in the last two years as the president has more in that time than George W. Bush added in eight years is a-- is a definite and indeed a profound example of the progress that we are making and the policies that are-- are on offer by Governor Romney are policies that have shown themselves to fail. So this notion of benefiting the very fortunate exclusively and letting it trickle down to everybody else is something that has been shown to fail in the past. We should not go back.

GREGORY: Senator, there's a-- there's a-- there's a bigger question and partly this is a political question. I know that you're a supporter of Governor Romney, you're campaigning for him in New Hampshire. But here's the reality--he offered political analysis but policy analysis on forty-seven percent of this country, including a lot of Republican voters, people who see entitlements through social security and Medicare that they paid into and he's talking about this group of people will not take personal responsibility. It portrayed a lack of understanding of how the government works, how America works, the American work ethic, do you think he needs to go beyond saying that this was inelegant to saying that he was flat wrong?

SEN. AYOTTE: Well, I have to say this, David. I fully disagree with your analysis of this. You know, I campaigned with him. I know that he cares about every single American in this country and that he has the vision, unlike this president, where we are today, we are declining. We need to come out of this to think about where we are with forty-three-- this president has more months of over eight percent of unemployment than the last eleven presidents combined. And this-- you think about Governor Romney, he wants opportunity, he wants upward mobility. He-- he wants people to have that good-paying job. And that is what his whole campaign is about. And by the way, think about the policies the last two years, all they brought us is more unemployment. What we need is people to have a good paying job. The right-- I hear from small business every day, the right tax, regulatory policy, these are mom and pop businesses that feel really burdened by this administration instead of wanting to put people to work.

GREGORY: Part of what he was talking about forty-seven percent Americans who pay no federal income tax and who are too dependent on the government. His words, to do everything for them, housing, food, etcetera. You're not really being responsive to that point. But on the tax question, I pose this question in the senate, excuse me, the Virginia Senate debate between Tim Kaine and-- and George, excuse me, and George Allen. And they were talking about whether there should be a minimum federal income tax. And this is how Tim Kaine answered the question.

(Videotape; Virginia senate debate)

GREGORY: Do you believe that everyone in Virginia should pay something in federal income tax?

MR. TIM KAINE: Well, everyone pays taxes. I mean, the-- the-- the statistics that are coming out.

GREGORY: I'm asking about federal income tax?

MR. KAINE: I-- I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax for everyone.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: Would you be open to that, governor?

GOV. PATRICK: Maybe. It's first time hearing about it. But I-- listen, I think--

GREGORY: Should everybody have skin in the game in other words through the federal income tax?

GOV. PATRICK: Well, that's where-- that's exactly-- that's where I was going. I-- I think we go to this question of-- of taxes, tax cuts, tax increases and so forth too fast. We-- it seems to me the first question ought to be what is it we want government to do and not do. And then what's the sensible way and fair way to pay for that. I really believe in this no-- notion just as the president does of common cause and common destiny that we all have a stake in educating our kids. We all have a stake in ensuring that this country is well defended. We all have a stake in investing in the infrastructure that creates a platform for economic growth and-- and opportunity and indeed we all have a stake in the American dream. And we used to come together around that, the kind of sharp, poisonous political discourse that characterizes so much of what goes on in the Congress. I-- I mean no disrespect, Senator, a personal disrespect in-- in-- no disrespect at all, in fact not just personal, in-- in-- in saying that, but I think that the-- the country is hungry for a kind of a conviction base leadership, and frankly the kind of leadership this president has--

SEN. AYOTTE: David, the irony of this, of course, the president ran as someone who's going to unite people. But everything when you listen to the way that he's trying to divide us, you know, whether it's rich versus poor, have versus have not and-- and wanting to bring people together and even just blaming Republicans or blaming at all the problems on other areas or other people. I mean, think about the comment this week about you can't change Washington from the inside. He had two years in charge. I agree with the governor, we do need leadership that unites and we do need leadership of someone who's thinking about making sure that we have those opportunities so that we're not in a position where forty-seven--

GREGORY: You're not see-- you're not really blaming the president for pitting classes against each other after-- after Governor Romney talked about forty-seven percent of the country that are-- are freeloaders who won't take personal responsibility.

SEN. AYOTTE: --well, I have-- I have to tell you, David, I just-- just to hear, well, I just have-- just to hear what the governor is saying here, you know, I certainly respect what he's saying but if you look at what the president has said and what he has done, where we are, this-- his leadership and his policies have failed and he has not been the united force that we need to get things done.

GREGORY: I want to pin you down Governor on-- on one point, if I can on this issue of the president's record and it has to do with high unemployment...

GOV. PATRICK: Mm-Hm.

GREGORY: …and something that caught our eye this week as we were looking. This comment from the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver Congressman of course from Missouri. He spoke to the group on Monday. This is what he actually wrote. "I'm supposed to say he doesn't get a pass, but I'm not going say that. Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus, I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With 14 percent [black] unemployment if we had a white president we'd be marching around the White House." Pretty-- pretty stinging criticism from the chairman of the Black Caucus.

GOV. PATRICK: Well, I respect the chairman of the chairman of the Black Caucus and-- and the fact that there is 14 percent, if that's the right number, unemployment among black people. I can tell you that among-- among young people, the unemployment rate is higher than the national average as well. Nobody is prepared to-- to declare victory. We-- we've had the worst economic environment in a generation or two, since the Great Depression. And that was caused, by the way, by some of the very policies that Governor Romney is urging on the country today. This president has turned that around. This president has shown that he is able to swim against the current and make some change. And so we see more people with health care in this country than ever before, more people-- more private sector jobs in the last two years than in the previous eight. We've seen-- we've seen the automobile industry saved. We've seen the financial industry saved. We've seen the country brought back from the brink of depression. Are we done? Of course not. Of course not. But we're certainly on a better course and-- and pointed in the right direction.
SEN. AYOTTE: David, I guess what I heard was that this president needs more time. But, where we are, if you think about it, this is the worst economic recovery since World War II. And it's been an anemic recovery because when they had full charge of the Congress, they pushed forward a health care bill where people are paying more for premiums. In fact, people are going to be hit, middle class hit with that tax penalty where the regulatory climate for this country, small businesses feel strangled. They're not going to create that job. And the governor has a plan to make sure that we simplify lower rates, make it a better tax climate for everyone-- for everyone and make sure that we get people to work, our regulatory climate where small businesses want to thrive and grow. It's been the opposite with this president. I would say he tried, but his policies failed.

GREGORY Let me end on-- on one issue that's certainly important to us at NBC News that's the issue of education. A big summit that we're beginning, Education Nation Today--

GOV. PATRICK: Thank you for doing that.

GREGORY: And it's-- it's important, we certainly are committed to it. Part of that is a conversation with President Obama that TODAY show's Savannah Guthrie conducted. I want to play a portion of that about where the political debate is now.

(Videotape; TODAY)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Mitt Romney said that President Obama has chosen his side in this fight that you sided with the unions. At another time last spring, he said he can't talk up reform while indulging in groups that block it.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, I think Governor Romney and-- and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher bashing. When I meet teachers all across the country, they're so devoted, so dedicated to their kids. And what we've tried to do is actually breakthrough this left, right conservative liberal gridlock. And that's what my key reform has been all about, race to the top.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: More of that Education Nation interview with President Obama Tuesday and Wednesday on the TODAY show. Plus, a live conversation with Governor Romney at Education Nation that summit on Tuesday. Quickly, from both of you, Governor have we moved beyond this union-- pro-union, anti-union debate in this political discourse?

GOV. PATRICK: We better. We better. We are-- in Massachusetts, our students are number one in the nation in student achievement and have been for each of the last few years. We are in the top three in the world in math and science. And we have the most unionized education system I think in the country. The unions have been at the table with us on reform for more than a decade. And indeed, we moved the build just a couple of years ago to try to close that achievement gap and they were right there with us.

GREGORY: Senator.

SEN. AYOTTE: I guess I would ask Mayor Emanuel whether he'll be on the unions where we are right now. I think this is clearly an issue…

GREGORY: In Chicago. That's true. Yeah.

SEN. AYOTTE: That's still a very important issue with Chicago strike and obviously Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last. But most importantly, I think, where Condoleezza Rice really hit it at our convention that giving parents, empowering parents with school choice in underperforming schools, minority students, poor students, that is a Civil Rights issue of this time. And I think that unfortunately, the president in the areas like DC Opportunity Scholarship turned his back on that. That's really where we need to go and Governor Romney supports that.

GREGORY: We will leave it there. Thank you both very much.

SEN. AYOTTE: Thank you.

GOV. PATRICK: Thank you.

GREGORY: Appreciate it.

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