Meredith Vieira to GOP Young Guns: What's So Good About Tax Cuts?

NBC's Meredith Vieira, on Tuesday's Today show, demonstrated just how out of touch she is on the Tea Party and the economy as she questioned GOP House members, "Are you worried about the influence of the Tea Party?" and even doubted the positive effect tax cuts can have on creating jobs as she questioned: "What's so good about them?" [audio available here]

On to promote their new book Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders, Republican Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy were on hand to school the Today anchor, with Cantor having to explain to Vieira that "the last thing you want to do in an economy like this with 9.6 percent unemployment is have a big tax increase on small businesses," as seen in the following exchange:

VIEIRA: One of the key issues also heading into the midterm elections, is this expiration of the tax cuts, Bush's tax cuts. Over the weekend, your leader I guess, your boss, Minority Leader John Boehner said that he would support tax cuts for just middle income earners, if that was his only option. Yesterday he took that back, he did an about-face. Why?

CANTOR: I think sort of fundamental to everyone right now watching this show, whether it's a working mom, a small business owner, or an investor, I think none of, none of those type of people, no American really thinks that raising taxes is a good idea, especially in a recession. And I think that's what John Boehner was trying to say. And the Republican position has always been and will be - we don't believe there ought to be tax hikes. And so I do think, Meredith, you're right. That's going to be a critical issue over the next several weeks, as we go back to Washington today.

VIEIRA: And yet these tax cuts have been in existence for quite a while, these Bush tax cuts. If they were designed to stimulate the economy and to create jobs, they didn't succeed. So what's so good about them?

The following is the full interview as it was aired on the September 14 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Speaking of the House, Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia is the House Minority Whip, Kevin McCarthy of California is Deputy Whip and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the ranking member on the House Budget committee. And together, they have written a new book, Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders. Gentlemen, good morning to all of you. 

[On screen headline: "'Young Guns' New Generation Of Conservative Leaders"]

REP. PAUL RYAN: Good morning.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Good morning.

VIEIRA: Before I get to the book, I want to talk about the Delaware primary. You have Mike Castle, the moderate versus Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate whose views, as Kelly just pointed out, on social issues may not sit well with swing voters. Castle has said if O'Donnell wins today, this primary, then the Republicans will lose the seat in November. Eric, do you agree with that?

CANTOR: Meredith, what's going on now across the country is obviously people are very upset with Washington. They're tired of politicians who made promises that they just can't keep. And so we're, we're seeing across the country some very active primaries. And, you know, what we have done here is we've gotten together a couple of years ago and we put together an effort in search of candidates who could actually respond to that very issue.

VIEIRA: But do you agree with Castle? That if O'Donnell wins and, I'll ask you this, well, that, that in fact, the Republicans will lose the seat?

RYAN: No, not necessarily so. I think things are shifting in politics these days. The, the conventional wisdom in politics is not going to be what's going to happen in 2010. So I would not necessarily say that, that the seat is gone. It's probably going to be more challenging, more competitive. But Delaware voters, voters all over America are really upset with the fiscal direction of this country.

VIEIRA: Are, are you as, who are not members of the Tea Party, worried about the influence of the Tea Party?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: No. You look what's happening here is, the Tea Party is organically grown. It's individuals getting out, frustrated with where this country is going, not seeing solutions out of Washington. It's a real challenge for anybody who's an incumbent. So that's a tough part for Republicans in a primary. Come November, it's gonna be a very difficult part for the majority party, the Democrats. That's why the House is even in play. It brings intensity for individuals to turn out.

VIEIRA: And in this book you talk about the failings of the Republican Party-

RYAN: That's right.

VIEIRA: -the reason why they lost control of the House. So is that part of the reason why you're in the situation that you are right now?

MCCARTHY: Yes. We were fired in 2006. And part of what this is about, Young Guns, is finding candidates that will run on ideas and actually solve problems using the conservative beliefs. And I think that's a fundamental difference you'll find in this election.

VIEIRA: One of the key issues also heading into the midterm elections, is this expiration of the tax cuts, Bush's tax cuts. Over the weekend, your leader I guess, your boss, Minority Leader John Boehner said that he would support tax cuts for just middle income earners, if that was his only option. Yesterday he took that back, he did an about-face. Why?

CANTOR: I think sort of fundamental to everyone right now watching this show, whether it's a working mom, a small business owner, or an investor, I think none of, none of those type of people, no American really thinks that raising taxes is a good idea, especially in a recession. And I think that's what John Boehner was trying to say. And the Republican position has always been and will be - we don't believe there ought to be tax hikes. And so I do think, Meredith, you're right. That's going to be a critical issue over the next several weeks, as we go back to Washington today.

VIEIRA: And yet these tax cuts have been in existence for quite a while, these Bush tax cuts. If they were designed to stimulate the economy and to create jobs, they didn't succeed. So what's so good about them?

CANTOR: Well Meredith, first of all, remember half of all small business income will have a huge tax increase in January, 70 percent of our jobs come from small businesses. So the last thing you want to do in an economy like this with 9.6 percent unemployment is have a big tax increase on small businesses which is the engine of job creation in America. That is not good policy. The problem with this January tax increase is it's followed up by another tax increase in 2013. So we think the fiscal direction of this Congress, of this country is in the wrong way. That's part of the reason we wrote this book, is to say look, when we were in the majority last time, we didn't do things right. We need to own up for that. And we want to have a fiscally conservative majority, if we're given the opportunity to lead, and that is the whole point. Raising taxes in this kind of economy is a bad idea.

VIEIRA: Kevin, let me ask you, 49 way days away from the election, if you look at the polling, Republicans, a generic ballot against Democrats hold about seven-point advantage. And that's without any grand plan like the Contract with America back in 1994. In fact, a lot of people see you, continue to see you as the party of no. So was it good enough, this time around, just to say no, we're not Democrats. Is that good enough to win?

MCCARTHY: No, it's not. And we've had a lot of ideas out there. I mean we produced our own stimulus that focused on private sector jobs, where they went out and produced one on public, where it costs a trillion dollars with interest, Keynesian view. You ask the American public, more people today believe Elvis Presley is alive than the stimulus created jobs. But you're gonna find, in less than two weeks, we will come out with a full new agenda that lays out things that we can do right now, to create jobs, cut the spending and reform the culture of Washington itself.

VIEIRA: Well congratulations on the book, by the way, Young Guns. How old are you guys?

(Laughter)

CANTOR: Listen, we want, we want to take the opportunity to do the promotion here. Thank you, thank you for that. So-

VIEIRA: Answer? Not answered. Congressman Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan. Thank you all.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.