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CNBC "Street Signs" Interview with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL); Subject: Democratic Priorities and the Midterm Election


Location: Unknown


MS. BURNETT: Now, in an election where every vote counts, Democratic Senator Barack Obama is working the campaign trail to help his party win control of Congress. We spoke with Senator Obama to find out exactly what it means to be a Democrat.

(Begin videotaped interview.)

SEN. OBAMA: A belief in opportunity for all people, a belief in upward mobility, a belief in shared prosperity. And you know, I think specifically in this election that means dealing with a health care crisis that continues to burden not only individual families, but also businesses and makes us less competitive.

People want to see a long-term energy energy plan not only because of pocketbook issues, but because people recognize that sending $800 million a day to some of the most hostile nations on Earth is probably not good for our national security. And certainly the use of fossil fuels is something that we're going to have to deal with in terms of our environment.

MS. BURNETT: If Democrats control the Senate after this election next week, what will be your personal number one economic priority?

SEN. OBAMA: Health care is an economic issue because I think that if you see the enormous strains that the health care system is placing on businesses and competitiveness as well as individual families, if we can create a more efficient health care system, make it portable so that families feel that they can change jobs without losing their health care, then what you're going to see I think is a lot of energy released in our economy, and we're going to be able to export more and import less.

MR. HARWOOD: Senator, let me ask you a question about an issue that is both a retirement security and an economic issue. That has to do with Social Security.

The president crashed and burned with his plan for partial privatization two years ago. When you all come back in the next Congress -- the last two years of his term, when he's trying to figure out what his legacy is going to be -- are you going to be able to make a deal with the president on that issue? And if so, would you acknowledge that the only way to make a deal is to slow the increase in benefits?

SEN. OBAMA: I think the Democrats should be open to sitting down with the president and essentially crafting the same kind of commission and discussion that Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan put together in 1983.

Here's the critical principle, and that is we want to maintain Social Security as part of the social security framework rather than privatizing. I think there's one areas where the Democrats will not negotiate.

MS. BURNETT: Senator Obama, we short on time, but I do want to ask you about the tax cuts of '01 and '03. Would you roll back those tax cuts, or would you vote to keep them permanent?

SEN. OBAMA: I would preserve those tax cuts that reduce the burden on low-income families, on working families. I would preserve the child tax credits, elimination of the marriage penalty. What I would do is to take a look at those tax cuts that impacted the top 1 percent --

MS. BURNETT: Capital gains and dividends, then, you don't keep those two?

SEN. OBAMA: Capital gains and dividends, I think -- if you recall in the 1990s, the stock market was booming, wealthy people did very well under the old regime of capital gains and dividends. If we want to make sure that we're passing on a stable economy to our children and our grandchildren, then those of us who are in the best position to sacrifice should in fact make those sacrifices, and I include myself in that category.

(End videotaped interview.)

MS. BURNETT: Senator Obama, the only Democrat we've got so far to say that he would roll back the president's tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

Now, we did ask him if he was running for president in '08, and he said we'll find out when he decides to tell us.


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