We are beginning to read more and more that mainly because of the oil spill, the President—as Maureen Dowd said—has lost his narrative and this Administration is looking a bit like the Carter Administration in the Iranian crisis.
First of all, I don't think they're legitimate criticisms. If there's any mistake made, [it's] that we haven't communicated clearly enough. The first morning after that well blew [the President]...made it clear that every single asset of the federal government should be made available. He talks with such empathy about this being not merely an economic catastrophe. This is potentially going to ruin...the unique bayou culture.
There's an ecosystem at risk.
There's an ecosystem, but also a way of life at risk. And he talks about that.
But has he talked about it in a way that has resonated with the American people?
He talked about it privately with me from the get-go. But here is what he did. He immediately authorized the call-up of the National Guard. He mobilized 20,000 paid personnel for the cleanup. He personally told the Coast Guard to go out and find every [oil containment] boom you can. He has acted swiftly.
The federal government is in charge of this rescue, not BP?
BP is not in charge. The President of the United States is in charge of this rescue.
So characterize BP's performance.
They have responded to almost every request I'm aware of—from going out and putting 20,000 people on the payroll...to beginning to clean up where [the oil has] gone ashore. The one place that they were slow was in characterizing the number of barrels of oil spewing from that pipe.
Done the best they could?
Well, not being an oil man or an expert in this area, I think they have done the best they could.
How do you assess the success of the stimulus program in creating jobs?
Here's the best way I think to lay it out without getting into all the economic terms. When I raised my right hand on Jan. 20 ...we [were] losing 740,000 jobs for that quarter. We had a negative GDP. We were contracting at 6.4 percent. Housing prices dipped for 24, 25 months in a row. Here we are 18 months later...GDP is actually growing. Just in the last two months we've created 500,000 new jobs. We will create over 3.5 million or save over 3.5 million jobs before this is over.
When do you see employment getting back to the level it was before we hit the skids?
It's going to take us several years to get back but...I think we'll create 100,000 to 200,000 jobs on average all the way through this year.
So at 100,000 to 200,000 jobs per month, how long would it take to get to, say, 6 percent unemployment?
The answer to that question is unknowable. We don't know what's going to happen in Europe and what impact that could have on the international economy, the marketplace, and confidence.
I raise this because there's some talk about a new norm.
I do not buy, nor does the President, this idea of a new norm. We have to build a new economy.
Can we do it without taxation?
If you take a look at the Recovery Act, which is a lot of money, $787 billion, do you realize that by the year 2012 that will only add one half of one percent to the debt that exists? Now let's talk about the long-term debt. The biggest piece of long-term debt is entitlements. The biggest piece of that is health care. So forget the justification for the health-care bill as it relates to...people getting access to care. In the first 10 years [after] passage of that bill, we're reducing long-term debt by $130 billion; the second 10 years, $1 trillion.
Why was it so hard to sell?
Because it's counterintuitive to say this bill is going to cost over the next 10 years roughly $80 billion to $90 billion a year...and by the way, you're going to save money.
That would suggest to me that somebody hasn't sold it very well.
Look, we got it passed. Everybody said that there was no possibility of getting it passed. People are finding out that— God love her—Sarah Palin's death panels don't exist. People are figuring out they're not losing insurance.
All of that is true, but there is a thing called the Tea Party.
I got to be careful here because I think an awful lot of the Tea Party people are absolutely earnest. But I would say to the Tea Party people, you don't like federal government? [So] you think we should not be involved in the oil spill? It's private enterprise. Is the federal government not needed?
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