Street Journal Presidential Democratic Candidate Debate
Thursday, September 25, 2003 at Pace University's downtown campus, New York, NY 4:00-6:00 p.m. ET.
Transcript Provided by and Reprinted with Permission of NBC
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Main
WILLIAMS: We are back from the campus of Pace University in Lower Manhattan, the presidential debate with all the 10 declared candidates in the Democratic Party for president.
Just one housekeeping note: Fairness is enormously important to us. We are running a clock on all answers, all rebuttals, and it is our -- we will do our level best that everything come out on time and even at the end of this evening.
We'll resume the questioning with Congressman Gephardt.
You have a lot of union support, Congressman. They put a premium, it is said, on not just creating new jobs but protecting old ones. This week your spokesman called Senator Kerry a knee-jerk supporter of free trade. Is that fair, Congressman?
GEPHARDT: Well, the fight for labor unions and working families is in my bones. My dad was a Teamster and a milk truck driver, and I'm very proud of what he stood for and represented in my life and in my family's life. And I'm proud to have the support of working families.
This administration has declared war on the middle class. They've lost more jobs in the last two and a half years than the last 11 presidents put together. He's lost more jobs than Herbert Hoover, almost. This is a colossal disaster for the president and for the country.
We need to have a policy to build new jobs in this country. Part of it is fair trade, not just free trade.
Everybody here -- most everybody here voted for NAFTA, voted for the
China agreement. I did not. I led the fight against it.
That's the kind of trade policy we need that globalizes with fairness and
standards around the world so work, wherever it's performed, is given a
fair wage for their hard work.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
Senator Kerry, you have accused Governor Dean of playing on workers' fears and advocating protectionism and saying that under him it threatens to throw the economy into a tail spin. It that fair?
KERRY: Yes, it is fair, because Governor Dean, on a number of occasions across the country, has said very specifically that we should not trade with countries until they have labor and environment standards that are equal to the United States.
That means we would trade with no countries. It is a policy for shutting the door. It's either a policy for shutting the door, if you believe it, or it's a policy of just telling people what they want to hear.
I think there's a middle ground that's smart for America. No president can shut the door to globalization and no president should.
President Clinton traded. We created 23 million jobs in the 1990s, we balanced the budget, we paid down the debt, we brought more women into the workforce than at any time in American history. We lifted a hundred times the number of people out of poverty of Ronald Reagan.
We can do that again, but we have to enforce trade agreements. We have to be fair in our trade.
And I intend to sign no trade agreement that doesn't have adequate labor
and environment standards. I'm going to raise the enforcement
level. But I'm not going to shut the door, because that would depress
the economy of our country.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, thank you.
Governor Dean, you have said that the senator from Massachusetts lacks an understanding of the job loss in this country. You have heard the accusation from him.
DEAN: I think that's true.
You know, to listen to Senator Lieberman, Senator Kerry, Representative Gephardt, I'm anti-Israel, I'm anti-trade, I'm anti- Medicare and I'm anti-Social Security. I wonder how I ended up in the Democratic Party.
I'm not a new entrant to the Democratic Party. I've been here a long time.
I voted for -- I supported NAFTA, I supported the WTO. We benefited in Vermont from trade.
But I have spent a lot of time in the Midwest in the last couple of years. Our manufacturing jobs are hemorrhaging. We have to go back and revise every single trade agreement that we have to include labor standards, environmental standards and human rights standards.
And if we don't, the trade policy that we seek to help globalize and help workers around the country and the world is going to fail. I want a successful trade policy, but I'm no longer willing to sacrifice the jobs of middle-class Americans in order to pad the bottom lines of multinational corporations.
Trade has to be fair to workers, not just multinational corporations.
And I think Senator Kerry is insensitive to the plight of workers -- American
workers who have lost their manufacturing jobs.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, rebuttal time, and then perhaps Congressman Gephardt.
KERRY: Well, I gave a speech in Detroit several days ago which reflects an economic policy that I've laid out over the last years that will address the manufacturing loss.
I'm not insensitive to the jobs. I'm desperately concerned about those jobs. But you don't fix them by pandering to people and telling them you're going to shut the door. You have to grow jobs.
We need to increase our commitment to science in America, to venture capital, to the kinds of incentives that draw capital to the creation of jobs.
Democrats can't love jobs and hate the people who create them.
KERRY: We need to encourage job creation and trade, but fair trade,
and I've shown how that can happen.
WILLIAMS: Time is up on that, Congressman. We'll try to get to you.
The questioning continues with Gerry Seib.
SEIB: I'd like to turn this question of job loss to Senator Graham, if I could.
What would you do as president, if anything, to either discourage of maybe even punish American companies that take jobs overseas? Or to deal with allies such as Mexico that have lower labor, environmental standards, that make them attractive places for American factories?
GRAHAM: I am the jobs candidate. And I'm not only talking about what I will do, but what I have done.
While I was governor of Florida, when the state had a population of approximately 12 million people, I presided over the creation of 1.4 million new jobs in Florida, new jobs that resulted in, for the first time in our state's history, the per-capita income in Florida being above the national average; resulted in Florida for three years in a row being recognized as the state that had the best climate for economic development.
I also am the candidate who has the most comprehensive economic plan,
Opportunity For All, which lays out the pillars of creating new jobs in
America: balancing the budget; making our tax program more fair and
progressive; third, investing in America by rebuilding America. If
we can afford to rebuild the bridges, the roads, the schools and electric
system of Iraq, we can afford to invest in rebuilding America.
WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, thank you.
Before Gerry continues, just been told by our timekeepers, again, another reminder, when the bell sounds, we must stop talking. We're getting sloppy and over on time. It'll have to come out at the end.
SEIB: Senator Edwards and Reverend Sharpton, on this question of job loss, you've both had a fairly tough line.
I think, Senator Edwards, you've talked about withholding tax credits from companies that move jobs overseas.
Reverend Sharpton, you've talked about punishing companies that move overseas to dodge American taxes.
Isn't that, though, a message that builds walls between the U.S. and the rest of the world economy on which our own prosperity has become so dependent?
SHARPTON: No. When I say that we should punish companies that go and have offshore corporations to duck taxes, that doesn't affect our standing with any other country. That affects people like Enron, that had 3,000 offshore companies deduct taxes. That doesn't hurt other countries, in terms of our enforcement.
I think what we should say to other countries is the way that we can develop them in proper relationships is to, first, have a strong country here.
We're on an island right now that, one side trades trillions on Wall Street; the other side, you have people in Harlem and Washington Heights trying to choose between rent and prescription drugs. We have a responsibility to those citizens and we need to make that responsibility our priority before we try and help to accommodate companies that don't want to stand up for their responsibilities.
We're told the responsible thing to do is serve the country. But
if you're a multi-billionaire, the responsible thing to do is to duck taxes
and to try to down-size employment. That's ridiculous.
WILLIAMS: I'll take a 30-second rebuttal here from General Clark before we continue with Gerry.
CLARK: Well, I think that American business is the source of jobs and opportunity in this country. We need to look very carefully at how we create positive incentives for business. And we need to go right at the jobs problem in this country.
I've got a better job plan in eight days than George Bush had in three years in this country, and it will work, it's significant, and we need to concentrate on creating jobs here.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, General.
Gerry, your question for the senators.
SEIB: Senator Edwards, I'll come back to you. How do you draw the line between building walls to protect jobs and building walls that create isolationism economically?
EDWARDS: Well, we should start by saying this is not an academic discussion. Over 3 million Americans under this administration have lost the self-respect and the self-dignity that comes with a paycheck and a job. That's the starting place. This president doesn't understand that.
I think what we ought to do is have a tax system, to answer your question, that's fair, that values hard work in the middle class over wealth. We, in fact, ought to have trade agreements that have real protections in them that allow our people here at home to compete.
But we also ought to close down loopholes in our tax code that give American companies an incentive to go overseas. In fact, I think we ought to go further than that: We ought to give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs right here in America.
But I think we have to do another thing -- that's to protect the jobs we have. We have to create jobs. And in order to create jobs, we ought to identify those places in America where job losses occurred and say to new business, "If you'll start there, we'll give you the seed money with a national venture capital fund"; and second, to existing businesses and industry, "If you'll locate in an urban area, in an inner city, in a rural area, we will give you incentives to go there."
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
Questioning continues with Ron Insana.
INSANA: Thank you, Brian.
I would talk to you about a tradeoff between jobs and trade. I'd like to switch the conversation a little bit to the budget priorities of the Democratic Party and jobs.
Senator Lieberman, Ambassador Moseley Braun, you seem to have different priorities in these issues.
Senator, you tout jobs as the main portion of your economic program.
Ambassador Moseley Braun, you suggested a balanced budget is the utmost priority.
Senator, first, which should be the priority of the Democratic Party, balancing the budget or creating jobs?
LIEBERMAN: We can do both, but the priority has to be to create jobs.
I've got an aggressive, constructive economic plan which I am confident will create 10 million jobs in the first four years instead of losing 3.5 billion as George Bush has already done.
For the details I would forward folks to my Web site, joe2004.com.
But -- you can imagine how happy I was the day Joe Biden announced he was not running for president of the United States.
But fiscal responsibility, paying down the debt is a critical part of creating confidence again in our economy.
And incidentally, so, too, is trade. I'm for trade because trade creates jobs. You cannot build a wall around America and create one more job. The last president to try to do that was Herbert Hoover, and it led to the Great Depression.
Bill Clinton understood that trade creates jobs.
LIEBERMAN: One in five jobs in America today is dependent on trade.
I want to increase trade, I want to enforce other countries to play by
the rules and that'll create more jobs.
WILLIAMS: Thanks. Fine.
Ambassador Moseley Braun, would you balance the budget first in order to create an environment where the economy is on better footing so jobs can be created?
MOSELEY BRAUN: You have to create jobs and you have to get the economy going to create the economic -- the robustness in the economy that will produce the revenue to balance the budget. I mean, balancing the budget is a priority that will come when we create jobs.
And I thought, Joe, you were going to say something about, you know, the party of fiscal responsibility; we've already done it. When Bill Clinton became president, we balanced the budget and created jobs and had this country on a good economic foot and the people were doing well. We were in a time of prosperity.
This administration has not only had a job hemorrhage, but sent us into record deficits. Their policy of borrow and pass the buck has just simply shifted the responsibilities not only to state and local governments and tax payers but to our grandchildren, and that's wrong.
We, as the Democratic Party, stand for getting this economy back on
track and preserving the promise of the American dream that we will pay
our bills as we go.
WILLIAMS: Ambassador, thank you.
INSANA: General Clark and Congressman Kucinich, Congress has in the past bailed out industries like airlines, like autos, in order to save jobs. There are some in Congress who are worried that there's a looming financial disaster among these government-sponsored entities that provide home mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and that should something terrible happen there, in the wake of an interest rate problem in this economy, we could see a systemic financial problem that destroys jobs.
How would you deal, General Clark first, with a potential problem at a place like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?
CLARK: Well, I think we do have to recognize that home ownership is critical in this country and we're sustaining our economy right now off the refinancing proceeds of the American family. I've refinanced my home. I'm sure many other people here have and most of my family has.
But we don't want anything to happen to these mortgage agencies, because they are the ones who are helping to facilitate home ownership. So we really do need to investigate this.
This is an area where the way the process works is that if there's a sudden rise in interest rates these institutions will be in jeopardy. It's time to relook again the real meaning of the federal guarantee or whether or not there is a federal guarantee behind them.
But one thing I would do as president, I'm going to assure that every
American has the right to own a home and will maintain his home ownership
no matter what might change and what might problems there might be in these
institutions. We'll fix this.
INSANA: Congressman Kucinich?
KUCINICH: It think it's important to do some analysis as to why people have lost their homes, because unless we have economic policies that are aimed at savings jobs and stopping the loss of jobs and creating new jobs, you could talk about Fannie Mae and other agencies and it will be for naught.
I'm the only one up here on this stage -- and I'm, frankly, surprised at my Democratic colleagues that they won't take a firm stand and recognize that NAFTA and the WTO have hurt this country.
KUCINICH: I've said very clearly that we need to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO, and that would be my first act as office.
And it's not a choice between trade or no trade. You return to
bilateral trade, conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment,
and unless you address that issue -- there's a $435 billion trade deficit.
Unless you address that issue all of these other issues about creation
of new housing won't mean an awful lot, even though it's well intended.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
BORGER: Congressman Gephardt, still on jobs, you proposed a $200 billion a year health care plan, and you say that that plan is going to pump money into the economy, and that's the way you're going to provide jobs in this economy.
Yet Senator Edwards says that it's a terrible plan, because it depends on companies getting tax credits, and they will then provide the insurance to their employees. And he says by depending on these companies it's like telling employees, quote, "They're in good hands with Enron."
You're somebody who is very pro-labor. Can you tell us what makes you so convinced that corporate America is going to fulfill the role you envision for it?
GEPHARDT: Because my bill makes them do it. We don't just hand out tax credits, we say, "You've got to pass it along to the employee so they can buy the plan that they want to buy."
Let me tell you something: We're never going to solve the economic problems in this country until we solve the health care problem. We have 50 million people without health insurance.
GEPHARDT: These are middle-class Americans who cannot get access to the health care that they need.
My plan is the best plan. It's the only plan that helps everybody.
We did an economic study. A reputable economic forecaster said that we'd put $312 billion of stimulus into the American economy.
Further than that, I help average families more than the Bush tax cuts. I give them between $2,500 and $3,000 a year. Bush gives them a paltry $700 a year.
I got to ask everybody a question: How many jobs do Americans have to lose before George Bush loses his? That's the question we ought to be asking today.
WILLIAMS: Gloria Borger?
BORGER: Senator Kerry, you were shaking your head, and I'm wondering whether there's a rebuttal from you.
KERRY: Well, I agree completely with John Edwards.
First of all, no one is going to find $228 billion to put into health care. Nobody believes it's there, and it can't be found, number one.
Number two, it is given to those companies without any demand on the cost of health care in the country.
I've offered a plan which costs about $75 billion a year but which controls costs by pulling all the catastrophic cases -- any case $50,000 or more we take out of the system and that reduces premiums across the country.
KERRY: There's no command and control. It's not a government plan.
WILLIAMS: Out of time.
WILLIAMS: Gloria, continue the question.
BORGER: Again on jobs to Senator Graham and Reverend Sharpton, one way you both want to create jobs is by -- through public works projects. You spoke about that just a moment ago.
But what's the evidence that you have that Washington spending our tax dollars is going to do a better job of creating those jobs than private employers could do hanging on to those same tax dollars?
First to you, Senator.
GRAHAM: Gloria, I believe in the rather radical idea that if you want to create jobs, you create jobs, and you use those jobs to build a stronger economy.
Would anyone here question the fact that we are in a nation where our basic systems that support not only our lifestyle but also our economy, from the electric grid to our transportation systems to the enormous water and sewer needs across America, are all in serious distress?
What better way to add to the economic strength of America, not only
today, through the 3 million people who will be employed in this great
state/federal partnership patterned on President Eisenhower's interstate
highway system, where the state and the federal government working together
will create a new America, a stronger America and 3 million jobs?
BORGER: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: Not only did Eisenhower, but Roosevelt had a public works program.
What I've proposed is a five-year, $250 billion infrastructure redevelopment plan. $50 billion a year rebuilding highways, roadways, tunnels, bridges and, in the name of homeland security, ports. If you look at the ports in this country, we are in disrepair.
Not only does it create jobs, it does what is needed because we need to deal with the infrastructural decay. And if we do not create jobs, we can have all of the recovery we want in production, we are not going to have consumers to buy it.
We are going from a threat of inflation to a threat of deflation.
SHARPTON: And unless we have someone to deal with these times -- President Clinton did a good job, but we had a technology boom then. We don't have that now.
I mean, I know that within the next hour we'll say that Bill Clinton walked on water. The fact is there was a reason the economy was strong then.
We don't have that reason now. We must invest in job development.
That's how you bring the economy back.
WILLIAMS: Reverend, thank you.
And we'll go to break shortly.
But Senator Lieberman -- a strict 30 second rebuttal -- is what we're talking about here really a modern-day WPA?
LIEBERMAN: Well, that could be part of it.
But, look, the way we're really going to grow the economy is to invest in people, to invest in innovation, to have the federal government put money in the kind of research that will create the new high-technology, bio-technology industries that will create the millions of new jobs.
And one of the ways we do that is having the federal government partner with business, give business tax incentives to invest and grow and create jobs. And then, use public money to give lifetime opportunities for training and retraining to America's workers.
That's the way we are going to do it.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
We're at Pace University in Lower Manhattan. All 10 declared Democrats in the race. Two hours, many issues to come.
Our CNBC-Wall Street Journal debate continues.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back, campus of Pace University in Lower Manhattan. All 10 declared candidates, two hours, largely on the subject of the economy and all that that entails.
WILLIAMS: So many topics yet to come. We have done some tabulating on time. We know who is running ahead and behind, in terms of questions, answers and rebuttal. It'll be reflected in our questions here in this next segment.
Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun to you: What do you believe happened between the Clinton -- ambitious Clinton health care proposal and where this country is today in terms of affordable health care for all?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, there's no question in my mind but that every American wants to have universal coverage. But the only way we can get there is with, in my opinion, a single-payer system that is decoupled from employment, that's to say, doesn't depend on employment.
The Clinton plan attempted to reconcile the public and private systems that we have now. They are simply irreconcilable. You cannot bring it together and make it make any sense without a whole lot of bureaucracies.
So if we go to a single-payer system, we will give our export sector, our multinationals, a competitive boost in the international markets, because right now they're carrying the cost of health care. We will give the middle class a boost in terms of their -- and working people a boost in terms of their paychecks. We will give small businesses a real boost because they can't afford it.
And we can do it without spending a dime more than we are presently paying at the highest level of any industrialized country in the world.
A single-payer system really is the only way to go. And if we take it off the payroll tax, we will provide working people with opportunity for health care.
WILLIAMS: Let's continue our questioning with Gerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal.
SEIB: General Clark, Congressman Gephardt has described for us here his ambitious health care program: $200 billion a year.
SEIB: Others of your colleagues have smaller programs on the table. You're the newcomer here. Let me ask you, what would you do to improve the health care situation, to provide health care coverage, and specifically to give prescription drug benefits to Medicare recipients?
CLARK: Well, I think in this country we have to recognize we are in a health care crisis. We've got 41 million Americans uninsured, we've got more dropping out of their insurance programs as they lose their jobs. Even the people who have health insurance today are insecure about keeping it.
I've been in the race about nine days, so I don't have a complete package of health care proposals, but here's what I would do. I think as we move toward this, we need to take the existing programs, we need to build on the existing programs, we need to take the states' child health insurance program an stretch it. We need to raise the limits on Medicaid. We need to look at the 55 to 65 age group and help them. And we need to look at the substance that's in those proposals.
We should be doing much more with preventive and diagnostic care. We need a comprehensive preventive medicine program for this country. We call it executive fitness in the Army. It's an executive wellness program. Why isn't it an American wellness program?
So we'll come out with our health proposal. We'll move it that way.
WILLIAMS: General, thank you.
SEIB: Senator Graham, any conversation about health care in this country these days turns to the price of prescription drugs. The average price of a prescription rose 4 percent in 2002, 10 percent of 2001, 9.2 percent before that; all well above the rate of inflation.
SEIB: As president, do you think the government should and would it under your leadership impose any kind of price controls on prescription drugs?
GRAHAM: Well, I can tell you this: There will be nothing done about the price of prescription drugs as long as George W. Bush is president. He is literally in bed with pharmaceutical companies and has made a pact to even avoid in the proposed new federal expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs anything that can be construed as holding down prices.
I think what we need to do is, first, we need to open up competition in the pharmaceutical area through things like making it easier to get generic drugs to market, a reasonable reimportation plan. We need to also have a plan that will assure that access to life-saving drugs are available to all Americans.
And we can do that, among other things, by relieving the states from some of the pressure of prescription drugs for their older citizens, rather than the Republican plan, which is to stick it to the states first.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator.
BORGER: Well, talking a little bit more about prescription drugs -- and this is for Congressman Kucinich and Senator Lieberman.
A very big issue on Capitol Hill, as you well know, is the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. The drug companies say you should not be able to do this because the industry needs the money in this country for research and development. The Food and Drug Administration also says that these drugs might be unsafe.
BORGER: Senator Lieberman, you first: Are you for the reimportation of drugs from Canada?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, I have supported measures to allow for the reimportation of drugs with an FDA approval that it is safe.
We've got a crisis here and there's something unfair happening. Look, the American pharmaceutical industry has presented us with drugs that are keeping people alive and well a lot longer than they otherwise would be. But they're asking the American people, and the American people alone, to finance the research that leads to those drugs. That's not fair.
We've got to ask the Canadians who have price controls, the Europeans who have price controls, to begin to pay part of that cost.
And, of course, the best way to give prescription drugs to people at an affordable cost is to cover prescription drugs under Medicare and to cover the 41 million Americans who don't have health insurance today, because it's they who get whacked by the cost of prescription drugs, not the people who have health insurance.
WILLIAMS: Let me jump in here just for a second.
Thirty-second rebuttal to Dr. Dean. You're the only one here on the panel who has examined a patient, as far as we know.
Respond to what the senator said.
DEAN: In all due respects to all the candidates here, any of whom would be better than George Bush as president, these folks have been in Washington a long time and talked about health insurance for a long time, and we have very little to show for it.
DEAN: In my state, 99 percent of the kids that are eligible for health insurance who are under 18, 96 percent have it. Everybody under 150 percent of poverty, all our working poor people, have health insurance. And a lot of seniors have prescription benefits.
This does need to be a system that's built on what we have. We've done that in Vermont. I'd like the opportunity to do that for the whole country.
WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you.
Back to you, Gloria.
BORGER: Well, Congressman Kucinich, we'll give you a chance to answer the question on the importation of drugs from Canada.
KUCINICH: Of course, there ought to be reimportation. But that's beside the point.
The pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies control our health care system. And I'm the only one on this stage who's actually introduced legislation, with Congressman Conyers and McDermott, that provides for a totally new change; that has health care for people, not for profit.
It's called Medicare For All. It's a single-payer program. And it's financed by a 7.7 percent tax paid by employers. And it covers everything. It covers all medically necessary procedures and a wide range of benefits.
And it's kind of surprising to have people on this stage who have plans, including Dr. Dean, that would leave 10 million Americans out. I think it's important that all Americans be covered. And I think that it's important that people receive the ability to have complementary and alternative medicine, to have a prescription drug benefit, to have vision care and dental care and mental health care, to have long-term nursing care all covered under one Medicare For All, single-payer program.
I'm the one who has that plan. I'm the one who's offering it. I'm the only one on this stage who can say that.
And I want say, with the doctor advocating that, I think it's time to get a second opinion.
(LAUGHTER) WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
So many doctor puns, so little time.
Gloria, you may continue.
BORGER: This is for Reverend Sharpton.
Governor Dean has called this prescription drug plan that is now pending in Congress, quote, "a political trap for Democrats."
BORGER: He says that it could make the Democrats look bad if they vote against a bill that they really view is a bad plan.
Would no bill getting out of Congress be better for senior citizens than the prescription drug bill that is now pending?
SHARPTON: I think that we must -- again, this process is about what we are going to say to the public we stand for. And I think that we've got to quit the compromising on the principles that the party should stand for.
So in this particular case, I agree with Governor Dean. I have supported single-payer plan. I think the only way you're going to solve these problems is you've got to have a national single-payer plan for everyone.
I think that we've got to stop going with half a loaf. I would rather have no bill and fight for something real than to continue to give people something that I think is a diluted version of what we need to have.
Plus, I don't think that the bill in any way covers the areas that we need, in terms of giving relief to the senior citizens that we would try to address this to.
So in this case, I think he's right, I think that we've got to stop acting as though everyone in the party agrees. We must define policy, and this is one of those areas we must define it.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Reverend.
To Ron Insana.
INSANA: General Clark and Senator Edwards, if I may switch to a different entitlement program, Social Security, a lot of the people, General, make their money just a few blocks from here at the New York Stock Exchange, and there was great talk many years ago about allowing Americans the opportunity to invest some of their retirement money into the stock market.
INSANA: However, Senator Graham has referred to the stock market as a -- simply as a lottery. Do you share that view, or do you find an appropriate role for stock market investments in the Social Security retirement program?
CLARK: George Bush said that he would protect Social Security, but all he's done is present tax cuts. His tax cuts total three times the amount of money needed to make the Social Security system solvent for the next 75 years.
I'm a believer in Social Security. I think you need to protect that system, I think you need to put the resources into it, I think you need to assure that it's solvent. And I'll tell you why.
First, it's right. It's right because when people work in this country, the wealthiest country in the world, they have a right to be assured that in their elderly years they will have a minimum standard of income.
Secondly, I think it's good business practice, because in the economy we're facing in the future, we want people to move between jobs and job, we want people to move between skill and skill. We want them to have retirement security, so they can take a chance.
For both reasons, we need to sustain Social Security.
WILLIAMS: Ron, I'll give you an extra 30. Did you get the answer you wanted?
INSANA: Not at all.
General, would you allow, or do you favor an individual's being able to invest?
CLARK: Let me be more explicit. I think it's great if individuals invest in the stock market, but not as a substitute for ensuring the solvency of Social Security. We're going to get Social Security right first.
And then, we're going to put in place the measures so that individuals can save and invest on top of Social Security.
And I'm in favor of individual investment and taking care of ordinary working families. When I was in the United States Army and I was trying to save $100 a month, that savings was important to me.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, can the stock market be a component of the Social Security retirement system?
EDWARDS: No, I don't believe it can.
I think we have to do a number of things. One is, in order to lengthen the financial viability of Social Security, the single most important thing is to get away from this deficit spending that this president has put us in and move back to fiscal responsibility.
Which means, in my judgment, what I would do as president is stop President Bush's tax cuts for the top two income tax brackets -- people who make over $200,000 a year -- close a whole group of corporate tax loopholes to generate revenue that will get us back on the path to fiscal responsibility.
I think we also ought to actually raise the capital gains rate for those who earn over $300,000 a year, so that the rate is more in line with the income tax rate paid by people who work for a living.
But we have a train wreck coming. We have the onslaught of the baby boomers coming. We have government that's in deficit, getting deeper into deficit. What we ought to do is help people save.
EDWARDS: We have one of the worst private savings rates in the world. I would match dollar for dollar the savings of middle-income families to allow them to save privately to help us address this problem.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
All of the candidates who would use too much time in previous segments are discovering rapidly who they are.
Gloria Borger, do you want to continue the questioning?
Well, Senator Edwards talks about a train wreck that is coming -- and this is for Congressman Gephardt and Ambassador Moseley Braun -- because whenever the future of Social Security is talked about, the issue of retirement age has always been put on the table. People now live longer and they work longer than they did when the retirement age was set at age 65.
So, Congressman Gephardt, why not raise it?
GEPHARDT: Well, I was a leader of the effort in 1983 to make sure Social Security was sound out into the future. And as part of that legislation, we raised the retirement age -- and that's in the law today -- to 67.
I'm not for taking it higher than that. I think we really create problems for people if we do that.
But let me go back to the point that really needs to be made. We are never going to solve Social Security until we get this economy straightened out.
There's no longer a mystery of how to do this. We did it. I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in 1993. We got it through. We didn't get a Republican vote in the House, a Republican vote in the Senate.
GEPHARDT: It created 22 million new jobs. It made our unemployment go down to 3 percent. We took a $5 trillion deficit and turned it into a $5 trillion surplus. Why wouldn't we want to go back to that?
BORGER: Well, back to the retirement age...
... Ambassador Moseley Braun?
MOSELEY BRAUN: You know, I think if we are actually going to accept our generation's responsibility, that's going to mean that we give our children no less retirement security than we inherited from our parents.
To me, that means keeping Social Security safe, that means not raising the retirement age, that means not putting on additional restrictions that would give people less upon which to fall back and retire than we inherited.
I would point out that I was actually surprised at the first question, because, frankly, I have not heard much conversation about privatization of Social Security since Enron. And you ask any employee from that company and what they'll tell you is that in the absence of a safety net that government guarantees, you might be finding yourself 87 years old, unable to work and unable to have any -- to take care of yourself.
We have a responsibility to protect Social Security and retirement security. As the only woman -- the first woman in history to serve on the Senate Finance Committee, I worked hard for retirement security and for women's pensions.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Ambassador.
A question for Governor Dean: What is your position on raising the retirement age?
DEAN: We shouldn't do it.
You know, Dick Gephardt, earlier in his career considered means testing Social Security and Medicare both, something that I have never considered. I considered raising the Social Security age possibly to 70, possibly to 68.
DEAN: I've rejected that. I think Dick has since rejected means testing Social Security.
What we're trying to do as Democrats is save Social Security and Medicare both. And I think we've succeeded in doing that. In fact, many of the things that I suggested in 1995, which Dick Gephardt has attacked me for, were actually incorporated into the Clinton plan to save Medicare and Social Security, and has resulted in the savings of over $200 billion.
So my view is, we do not need to raise the retirement age above 67. We do not need to means test Social Security or Medicare.
If we need to do anything, we may need to raise the cap on earnings in order to make Social Security solvent.
But Social Security is solvent today, and it will remain solvent if we can turn this economy around, and that's what we're all trying to do here.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Gephardt, we would be remiss.
GEPHARDT: Howard and I just have a basic disagreement. He said in, I think, 1993 that Medicare was the worst federal program ever. He said that it was the worst thing that ever happened.
He also supported, at our darkest hour -- when I was leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America, he was shutting the government down -- Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare.
Now, you've been saying for many months that you're the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you're just winging it.
This is not the view of Democrats, in my view.
This program has been under attack from the Republicans since the beginning. And we need a candidate against George Bush that can take the fight to him on it, not someone who agreed with the Gingrich Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Governor Dean?
DEAN: That is flat-out false, and I'm ashamed that you would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be compared to Newt Gingrich.
DEAN: First of all, I did say that Medicare was a dreadful program because it's administered dreadfully.
I've done more for health insurance, Dick Gephardt, frankly, than you ever have, because I've delivered it to a lot of seniors and a lot of young people. And I'll stake my record on health insurance against anybody up here.
Of course, we're not going to get rid of Medicare, and you are wrong to insinuate so, but we're going to run it properly because we're going to have somebody that actually is taking care of patients running Medicare and Medicaid in the FDA so we can get the things that we need to get to patients.
To insinuate that I would get rid of Medicare is wrong, it's not helpful, and we need to remember that the enemy here is George Bush, not each other.
WILLIAMS: Reverend Sharpton, you were wanting in here, I'm going to allow you a 30-second rebuttal.
SHARPTON: Again, I think that we can only solve this if there's a commitment to health care, generally, under a single-payer plan. And I think that the danger of all of these programs is that it doesn't cover all of us.
And you can get on my Web site, Al2004.com. I'm a different Al than you hung out with before, Joe, but I'm going to win.
But the other thing is, I agree. I hope we don't, in our distinguishing, make George Bush the winner tonight. I think all of us have disagreed. I think clearly we need to make sure we don't give George Bush the night by getting too personal, Hilda (ph) Howard.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
(LAUGHTER) Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.
And to Congressman Kucinich on what needs fixing in health care.
KUCINICH: Well, first of all the Social Security money belongs to Main Street, not to Wall Street.
KUCINICH: It needs to be said very clearly here that privatization is off the table. There will be no privatization when I'm elected president. I'll block any effort.
Furthermore, none of the other candidates has addressed the real issue here, and that is that people are retiring earlier. They're retiring at age 62. And so we ought to take the retirement age back to 65, take the retirement age back to 65. The money is there.
Right now, the Bush administration is using the surplus to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.
And Social Security, as a matter of fact, is a better investment now than the stock market. There's a higher return. There's guaranteed cost-of-living increases. Privatization you have to worry about the value of your account.
I'm saying that Social Security right now, the retirement age ought to go back to age 65. I challenge every one of my Democratic colleagues to look at the record, look at the trust fund, it's solid through the year 2041, get that money back to workers who are retiring earlier.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Congressman.
Our questioning will continue with Gerry Seib of the Wall Street Journal.
SEIB: Let me switch to a different subject, which is energy and energy security, and address this question to Senator Kerry and Senator Joe Lieberman.
Just yesterday, OPEC announced a production cutback and the price of oil jumped immediately. How can you say on one hand that there is a paramount economic and national security need to reduce dependence on imported, and specifically Middle Eastern, oil, while on the other hand oppose drilling in one section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska?
Senator Kerry, you first.
KERRY: Because the Arctic Wildlife Refuge won't provide a drop of oil for 20 years.
KERRY: And because the total amount of oil, if it were to come through at the level that some people in the oil industry predict, will amount to about a 1 to 2 percent reduction in the total dependency of the United States on oil.
We only have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, Gerry. There is no physical or metaphysical way for the United States of America to drill its way out of this problem. We have to invent our way out of this problem.
And the sooner that we have a president who understands that and begins to commit America to the science, the discovery, to the alternatives, to the renewables, to begin to press America toward the great journey toward energy independence, the better off America will be, the better our health will be, the more effective our economy would be and, frankly, the better our national security will be and the better world citizen we will be.
I think the OPEC rise yesterday absolutely underscores the danger to the United States of this current dependency. We need to commit ourselves to energy independence now.
SEIB: Thank you, Senator.
Senator Lieberman, you see any other alternatives?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I sure do.
Look, there's been a widespread loss of confidence in George Bush's economic policies. And the OPEC decision to cut the supply of oil shows that even George Bush's buddies in OPEC have lost confidence in his economic plans, because they based that cut in supply on a projected cut and demand because they see America in a jobless recovery.
LIEBERMAN: It's going to take a Democratic president to begin to create jobs again.
And one of the ways we're going to do it with a declaration of real energy independence, so no matter how strong we are, we can't have our strength be compromised by the countries in OPEC.
I am for increasing the average fuel efficiency of our vehicles to 40 miles a gallon. That's critical. I'm for investing billions of dollars in creating new, alternative renewable energy technologies and giving tax credits to people who buy them.
We can get together and make ourselves energy-independent and stronger economically.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Senator.
We'll go over to Ron Insana.
INSANA: Senator Graham, the energy problems in this country don't extend only to petroleum and petroleum production. On August 14th of this year, this area of the country and much of the rest of the East Coast suffered an enormous power blackout.
The Bush administration wants to give more control of the electrical grid to the states. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would like to see the federal government solve the problem.
Two questions: Who do you think should solve the problem, or has jurisdiction, if you will; and how should the problem be solved?
GRAHAM: This is another example that one of the recurring themes of the Bush administration, is to divide Americans, not bring us together.
We've just been talking about the issue, the future of Social Security; that's a division between generations in America.
The issue of who's going to pay for the cost of rebuilding our electric system is a regional conflict within America.
GRAHAM: We need to be looking at ways to solve problems as Americans, not as subgroups of Americans.
The way we ought to deal with this electric grid program is through a combination of the companies, and their customers, and the federal government and the state.
In the plan that we have presented, Opportunity For All, we provide the funds for the federal share of a massive rebuilding of not only our electric system but also our other critical transportation and urban systems upon which we and our economy are sustained.
WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, thank you.
A brief note: I've been asked to ask the audience again to limit applause.
And to Gloria.
BORGER: This is to Senator Edwards, back on trade: You know that President Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel last year. Reports are that the administration is now considering rolling back those tariffs.
If you were president, what would you do?
EDWARDS: I supported the tariffs as the time. I think they were important, given the surge of steel that had come into the United States. I think it was the right thing to do. I supported it at the time.
We've just gotten a new report, which we're in the process of looking at -- we're examining right now.
My reaction to what I've seen so far is it may be time to ease off on the tariffs. It may actually be the right thing to do, given the result of the report.
I also want to say something about the exchange that took place just a few minutes ago. We need to be really careful that our anger is not directed at each other.
The reason I want to be president of the United States is to change the course of America, to make sure that everyone in this country gets the opportunity that they're entitled to, no matter where they live or what they color of their skin, what family they're born into. That's the America I want to be build as president.
EDWARDS: And I think those of us on this stage have an obligation, not just to the Democratic Party, but to the American people to make sure we do that.
WILLIAMS: Let me hop in for a quick rebuttal from Governor Dean.
What do you think about internecine warfare here among Democrats?
DEAN: I don't think we should ever have internecine warfare. And I promise never to have internecine warfare.
WILLIAMS: How about little flashes of anger?
DEAN: Well, little flashes of disagreement are going to happen from time to time.
The truth is that we have fundamental policy disagreements here. And what we really need to do is confront George Bush with what he's done to this country.
But I do think it's important that if folks are going to talk about us being like Newt Gingrich, that we're not going to stand for that. There is nobody up here that's like Newt Gingrich, and I think we have to understand that.
WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, I'll give you 30 seconds, and then we really do have to...
KERRY: Well, in defense of Dick Gephardt, I didn't hear him say he was like Newt Gingrich, I heard him say that he stood with Newt Gingrich when we were struggling to hold on to Medicare. That's a policy difference.
It's also a policy difference when Governor Dean says that we could balance the budget by cutting veterans' benefits, cutting Social Security, cutting defense. "It'd be tough," he says, "but we could do it."
Now, I think these are policy difference that we need to discuss, and it's perfectly fair.
WILLIAMS: Our discussion of policy differences and plain old policy will continue from the Lower Manhattan campus of Pace University. Still a lot to go. We'll talk about trade when we come back.
Copyright 2003 Eric
M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.