MSNBC's Mitchell: 'How Does Extending Tax Cuts for Millionaires Help the Unemployed?'

During her 1PM ET show on MSNBC on Friday, host Andrea Mitchell decried President Obama showing willingness to extend all the Bush tax cuts: "We got the big hint from Robert Gibbs yesterday that that is now on the table as far as the President's concerned. How does extending tax cuts for the very – the wealthy, the millionaires, how does that help the unemployed?"

Mitchell directed that question to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who expressed opposition to extending the tax cuts: "Well, in my opinion, given our analysis, it's not going to be a job creator. We can look back at what happened in the previous decade and we know that that's not true." Mitchell interrupted her, demanding to know why Obama would give in on the issue: "Then why is the President willing to negotiate that away now? Is it because he's negotiating from weakness?"

Solis responded: "I wouldn't say that. I would say to you that the President, again, re-emphasizes. We have to keep our focus on the middle class. That's where the strongest number of folks that have been impacted by this recession, so that's why we have to continue to give them the tax breaks. And let's start from that premise first." She later took a shot at Republicans: "I think the real debate's going to be whether the folks on the other side of the aisle will sit down and really work with us to help put families, working families first."

At the end of the interview, Solis called for an extension of unemployment benefits: "...we have to make extensions for unemployment insurance. For those people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, we have, I think, a moral obligation to provide assistance to those people." Mitchell seemed pleased by that: "You're drawing a line in the sand, I think, on the unemployment extension."

In addition to challenging Secretary Solis from the left, Mitchell did wonder about the major Democratic losses in the midterm elections: "You're a former member of Congress, you saw a lot of your fellow Democrats, people you'd worked with every day, go down to defeat. How did it get so badly off track for the White House?" Solis replied: "Well, I think that the economy, the job loss, really had a lot to do with it." Mitchell never questioned whether Obama administration policies contributed to those job losses.

Mitchell followed up: "Well, when you look at the results from this election, independents went 56/38 for Republicans, so the President lost independents and David Brooks points out in his column in the New York Times today that 'Democrats got destroyed in the Midwest'....Looking forward to 2012, how do you recover from that?" Solis again attacked the GOP: "...putting the economy back so that it's working for everyone. And that doesn't mean just the top 2% of the very wealthy....that's what the difference is between this administration and some of the folks that want to come in and actually slash some of the assistance that is direly needed."

Here is a full transcript of the November 5 interview:

1:00PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Too little too late. The latest unemployment report shows twice as many jobs were created last month then were expected, but it came too late to help Democrats. The President admits the shellacking at the polls was all about jobs. Today's jobs report shows the largest monthly gain in private sector jobs since April. More than a million private sector jobs created so far this year. And the unemployment rate is holding steady at 9.6%. Here with us now is U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Well, good news/bad news. You've got the jobs – the private sector job growth. You've got a good expansion in the extent of employment, weekly job employment, but you still have 9.6% stagnant unemployment number.

HILDA SOLIS: Right, it's still very high, and we know that we still have to keep focused, as the President said, to create more jobs and continue on this path to recovery. But I will say that last year in October we were suffering from 10.1% unemployment, so it's been for the last two, three months now at 9.6%, which is still very high. We know we still have to deal with the 14 million people who are still looking for work. But one of the things that we have to keep in mind, too, is that at the end of the month if the Congress does not come back in the lame duck session to extend unemployment insurance or benefits for people, we could see close to 2 million people not receive assistance well into the holiday season, which could have a negative impact as well because that money, as you know, helps to pay for gasoline, utility bills, and groceries.

MITCHELL: Let me show you a statement from the presumpive Speaker John Boehner on this jobs report, he said, 'Any job growth is a positive sign, but stagnant and stubbornly high unemployment makes clear why permanently stopping all the looming tax hikes should top Washington's to-do list this month. Stopping these tax hikes and cutting spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels would help eliminate the uncertainty gripping small businesses and show Americans asking, where are the jobs? That Washington is finally on the job. I'm hopeful that the President is willing to work with us on these priorities when he returns from his trip to Asia.' So their top priority is extending the Bush tax cut. We got the big hint from Robert Gibbs yesterday that that is now on the table as far as the President's concerned. How does extending tax cuts for the very – the wealthy, the millionaires, how does that help the unemployed?

SOLIS: Well, in my opinion, given our analysis, it's not going to be a job creator. We can look back at what happened in the previous decade and we know that that's not true. We need to, however-

MITCHELL: Then why is the President willing to negotiate that away now? Is it because he's negotiating from weakness?

SOLIS: I wouldn't say that. I would say to you that the President, again, re-emphasizes. We have to keep our focus on the middle class. That's where the strongest number of folks that have been impacted by this recession, so that's why we have to continue to give them the tax breaks. And let's start from that premise first. Let's make sure that we give money and help and assistance to those people that get good jobs, that are going to use that disposable income right away. They're also going to help to create those jobs in our communities at a quicker pace than the 2% higher income level that we've heard about so much. I think the real debate's going to be whether the folks on the other side of the aisle will sit down and really work with us to help put families, working families first.

And I have been working on this for a long time. We want to have better job training programs, opportunities to help jump-start small businesses and also keeping in mind that, you know, it's only been 18 months for some of us who've been in this administration. And to look at the past ten months, we've created 1.1 million jobs. Two years ago we were losing jobs, hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs. Now we're actually adding jobs and then they refigured the amount from last month and that went up a bit. We need on average, about 125,000 jobs per month to keep up rate with the population. So we know we have to do more, but I truly believe we're on the right path.

MITCHELL: Madam Secretary you were at that cabinet meeting yesterday. I can only imagine the atmosphere in there. You're a former member of Congress, you saw a lot of your fellow Democrats, people you'd worked with every day, go down to defeat. How did it get so badly off track for the White House?

SOLIS: Well, I think that the economy, the job loss, really had a lot to do with it. This is the worst severe recession we've ever faced in our lifetime, and it took a long time to get here and it's going to take a little bit more time to get out. But I do believe that the folks that served us in the remainder of the last year and helped to provide support through the Recovery Act, we did actually help to reduce the higher rate of unemployment that would have happened had we not provided assistance through the Recovery Act.

And 3 – more than 3 million people benefitted from that. When I was out throughout the country, that's what I was hearing, that people actually had jobs on infrastructure projects through ERA funding. So I know these things work and a lot will coming through. And just this job report of this last month, I can see in the area of health care and education, business and professions, as well as in the mining industry, those areas continue to grow. So we just have to keep a steady course, continue to make the investments, as the President says, more investments in infrastructure, so that means more high-speed rail, transportation projects, and also giving relief to small businesses. And I mean immediate tax relief so that they can hopefully have some confidence to be able to spend out money to hire new people for jobs.

MITCHELL: Well, when you look at the results from this election, independents went 56/38 for Republicans, so the President lost independents and David Brooks points out in his column in the New York Times today that 'Democrats got destroyed in the Midwest. They lost five House seats in Pennsylvania and another five in Ohio. They lost governorships in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Republicans gained control of both state legislative houses in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota. We're talking about the heartland, we're talking about the big ten. Looking forward to 2012, how do you recover from that?

SOLIS: Well, I'll tell you that I think that one of the items that we're going to be focused in on is to see how far we can get in terms of putting the economy back so that it's working for everyone. And that doesn't mean just the top 2% of the very wealthy. That means spreading that hopeful recovery to all the middle class people that really had to bear the burden and brunt of this recession. And that's what the difference is between this administration and some of the folks that want to come in and actually slash some of the assistance that is direly needed. For example, we have to make extensions for unemployment insurance. For those people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, we have, I think, a moral obligation to provide assistance to those people. That money then goes right back into our community, and they still have to continue to job search.
                    
MITCHELL: Hilda Solis, you're drawing a line in the sand, I think, on the unemployment extension. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.

SOLIS: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC