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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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SMERCONISH: Congressman Meeks, for how long should we continue down this path of extending unemployment benefits?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Look, we have got to fix the economy. We agree that those two million people who are out of work, they want to work. And this is just a short-term pain for long-term gain.

And so what we want to do is extend it so that they can make their monthly payments for their rent and buying food. But we want to fix and create jobs. And I think that"s what we have got to do. And I think that we"re going to move this economy. In fact, under the Obama administration, we have been moving. We are--we have been creating jobs, not enough.

And I think as we start to deal with infrastructure and we start dealing with exports, where we"re exporting more--and the president has been talking about an export agenda--we begin to create the jobs, more unemployment begins to go down, and then you don"t have to worry about extending employment.

But, right now, people are hurting.

SMERCONISH: But, Congressman--

MEEKS: We have got two million--two million--two million Americans who the holiday season will be dependent on.

SMERCONISH: Are we at some facilitating dependence? I guess that"s my question. If we continue this in perpetuity, aren"t we building into the system dependence on the system?

MEEKS: No, because what it sounds like, people are saying that unemployment is like giving someone welfare, for example. There"s two different things.

Unemployment is an emergency situation that individuals, because of the economy--and, by the way, a lot of the individuals, when you talk about the upper 1 percent of individuals that get those tax cuts, they helped destroy this economy.

But, because the economy"s so bad and unemployment is so high, we"re talking about a temporary, we"re talking about a short-term situation, what I said, short-term pain for long-term gain. We want these people to go back to work. They"re not dependent. They don"t want unemployment. They want a job.


MEEKS: Number one, 97 percent of Americans--well, actually, all Americans will receive a tax cut under what is proposed, because I think that one of the things that"s not clear, when you talk about the $250,000 per family, it"s a middle-income tax cut, so everybody up to $250,000 will get a tax cut.

So, if you"re a millionaire, up to that first $250,000, you get the same tax cut. If you"re a family under $250,000, that means everybody gets that tax cut. You can deduct your entire tax cut for the entire salary.

ISTOOK: We wouldn"t be having the--this argument if that were true.

MEEKS: But it is true.


SMERCONISH: How is it not true, Congressman Istook?

MEEKS: It is true.

ISTOOK: Well, he"s trying to say everybody gets the same tax cut.
That"s not his case at all.


MEEKS: No, what I"m saying, up to $250,000.


SMERCONISH: Well, I mean, he"s saying everybody gets it on the first $250,000.


MEEKS: Everybody gets it on the first $250,000.


ISTOOK: You want to raise taxes on the people who are already paying the majority of the personal income taxes in the country.


MEEKS: Listen, everybody--

ISTOOK: They"re already paying the majority of personal income taxes.


MEEKS: Everybody up to the first $250,000 gets a tax break. And we are also concerned about the deficit. And we"re also concerned about you how to pay for it.


ISTOOK: Then stop spending so much.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Meeks, I want to talk about the debt.

Congressman Meeks, I would like to talk about the debt.



SMERCONISH: If the recommendations of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson were to come before you to vote on, Congressman Meeks, could you vote yea on that?

MEEKS: I can"t vote on everything, but there are parts of it. And fact of the matter is that along with my staff, we"re going through it now and trying to see what I could vote on because there are some items that we have to take serious reference to reducing the deficit. But we"ve got to make sure we"re not doing that on the back of seniors. We"re not doing that that"s going to be, you know, damaging to one segment.

And that"s why I"m saying that even now, as you"re talking about the taxes are concerned, we"ve got to be sure that we"re not just giving multimillionaires an additional tax break and hurting some of the average every day Americans and hard working seniors. One of the things that we"re going to see real soon, because--you know, when you"re campaigning, it"s one thing. But when you have to govern or something else, is I want to see what the Republicans would do when you have to raise the debt ceiling. And that"s, you know--and that"s something that"s going to really come up very early in the 112th Congress.


Respond so that if you would, Congressman Meeks.

MEEKS: Well, I think that now we"re going to really see about government. I mean, a lot of these same people when they were campaigning campaigned against raising the debt ceiling. But the United States government does have obligations. And we would now see when it"s not campaigning time, when it"s actually--are you going to shut down the government, are we not going to pay our obligations, are we going to raise the debt ceiling?

The other thing that I just want to say because I can"t let him get away with what he said, this administration inherited a huge debt. It wasn"t created by--

ISTOOK: Made it worse.

MEEKS: -- it was created by this administration. We were in the worst recession since the Great Depression due to eight years of the prior administration.


ISTOOK: And it got worse under your policies.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen--

MEEKS: No, no, no, it would have been worse if we didn"t do what we did.

SMERCONISH: I appreciate both of your time. Congressman Gregory Meeks, former Congressman Ernest Istook, thank you.

ISTOOK: Good to be with you, Congressman Meeks.

MEEKS: Good to be with you. Good to see you again.


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