Joe Scarborough Begs Obama to Gain Perspective, Stand Up to GOP on Tax Cut Compromise

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough slammed President Obama Tuesday for not standing up to Republicans but rather compromising over extending the Bush tax cuts. Scarborough called the tax cuts for millionaires "inefficient" and agreed with co-host Mika Brzezinski that the Republicans are "complete hypocrites" when it comes to dealing with the deficit.

The deal includes an extension of the Bush tax cuts for all income brackets, including millionaires. In return, the Democrats get the extension of unemployment benefits that they were pushing for.

"Ideologically, I've always voted for tax cuts," Scarborough claimed, recalling his tenure as a Republican congressman from Florida.

"But when we are this deep in debt, and we have this many people unemployed, and we need to get working class people back to work, I can't imagine a more inefficient way to spark a recovery than giving tax cuts to people like myself who will put it in the bank and feel better about myself because I'm saving some money."

In a Politico column written just before the deal was struck between the president and Republicans, Scarborough implored Obama to survey the situation and realize that he could still fight the GOP. Obama's concession, he argued, would be harmful to America.
 

"If the president of the United States really believes that he is in such a weak position that he cannot stand up to a party that wants to give tax cuts to millionaires while cutting benefits for unemployed families at Christmastime, I fear not only for the Democratic Party but also for America," Scarborough lamented.

Scarborough even argued that the tax cuts for millionaires, which would reportedly add $900 billion to the deficit over the next two years, amounted to a second stimulus bill. "Barack Obama couldn't get a second stimulus package," he remarked. "He's got it now with tax cuts that aren't going to be paid for, and unemployment benefits that aren't going to be paid for."

Time magazine's Mark Halperin disagreed, saying that Republicans have four months to address the deficit, especially when they write the 2011 budget.  "I think in the short term, we don't need deficit reduction. We need the economy to grow," Time's senior political analyst argued.

At the end of his Politico column, Scarborough referenced the '80s movie "St. Elmo's Fire" and quoted one of the characters "It's our time at the edge."

Scarborough concluded, "This is your time at the edge, Mr. President. How are you going to respond?"

A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on December 7 at 6:04 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You know what I don't get is – I don't get why the President didn't take the high ground and say, "I'll tell you what, we're going to give you cuts up to a million dollars, but we're not going to give millionaires tax cuts the same way the deficit commission came out and said we're going bankrupt."

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I agree completely. I also think we need to hold the Republicans accountable for being complete hypocrites –

SCARBOROUGH: Oh yeah.

BRZEZINSKI: Complete hypocrites.

SCARBOROUGH: (Looks at his shirt) Do I have an "R" here?

BRZEZINSKI: Seriously? Steaming pile of garbage? We've got another one, sitting –

SCARBOROUGH: Actually, you know, it's funny you say that. Because I talked about the steaming pile of garbage that the Stimulus was – well Andy, you know what this is? This is Barack Obama couldn't get a second stimulus package. He's got it now with tax cuts that aren't going to be paid for, and unemployment benefits that aren't going to be paid for. And by the way, for the record, a Bush commission study came out this week from the Labor Department – for every dollar you pay in unemployment benefits, two get generated in the economy.

(...)

BRZEZINSKI: Alright, e-mail from the White House, then you go to Halperin. I mean, this was their choices they say: let taxes go up for everyone, or try and find a deal. Option one would have been very bad for the fragile recovery, blah, blah, blah –

SCARBOROUGH: No, that's a false choice. I mean, I keep hearing "Oh, the White House like liberals, poor liberals – most of them are disgusted by what the White House has done, but the few remaining holdouts still on Iwo Jima ten years after the war ended, right, Ike's in the White House – what they're saying is "Well you know, we tried this, we tried it and he failed." That's like my son coming to me and saying "I can't do this equation, I quit math." No! You keep after it!

HALPERIN: Let me speak in defense of this deal for a moment, leaving aside the complaints of the liberals. Number one, I think in the short term, we don't need deficit reduction. We need the economy to grow. There's no way to reduce the deficit without a third to a half of the deficit reduction coming from economic growth, and in the short-term we need stimulus and the economy, and in the short term this does it in a way that's got bipartisan support. Number two –

SCARBOROUGH: Can I stop you on number one, and then I'll let to go to number two? I-I've been saying for a year, do not raise taxes on small businesses and people making 250,000 and above, because that-that does throw a wet blanket on recovery. I agree with that completely. That being said, giving tax cuts to people making over a million dollars is not the most stimulative use of your money. I mean, I'm a guy that's been attacking the steaming pile of garbage of a stimulus package because it wasn't narrowly-focused. Maybe you can give tax cuts up to a million dollars and then, for that 300 billion dollars that you were going to give to millionaires, put it in the payroll tax cuts.

(...)

BRZEZINSKI: Okay, but any Republican who was saying the stimulus and all these other policies that Obama put in place was too much spending, was just too much spending, they are complete hypocrites and it's complete BS.

HALPERIN: They are...and they will have to confront it next year when they have to write a budget in the House that they control.

SCARBOROUGH: Mika, how many Republicans have we had on over the past two weeks that will say they won't – they won't extend unemployment benefits because they aren't paid for, and in the next breath say that they're not going to take care of the revenue that the CBO says will be lost by tax cuts. And again, tax cuts for millionaires. Again. (...) But I want to make sure people know, ideologically I've always voted for tax cuts. I believe ideologically that every dollar you can keep away from the federal government is a victory for individuals and individual freedom. I do. But when we are this deep in debt, and we have this many people unemployed, and we need to get working class people back to work, I can't imagine a more inefficient way to spark a recovery than giving tax cuts to people like myself who will put it in the bank and feel better about myself because I'm saving some money.

(...)

BRZEZINSKI: The proposed cost would be 900 billion dollars over the next two years, and financed entirely by the national debt.

SCARBOROUGH: Look! That's how much the stimulus cost us!

BRZEZINSKI: (Sarcastically) I'm sure the Republicans care about this deeply, and really are worried about it and are scurrying around right now looking for ways to pay for it.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: I cannot believe that he gave up before the opening bell. I would love my opponent – I would love my political opponent to take the position we're going to extend tax cuts for millionaires that even the CBO says is not going to create new jobs. And yet they're going to cut off unemployment benefits for families at Christmastime. Please, please. That's – seriously? That's like Muhammed Ali in 1971 fighting against Princeton's boxing champ Allen Merriweather. I mean it's just – it's an easy battle!

HALPERIN: But there wasn't a single Republican who was afraid of that fight.

SCARBOROUGH: Guess what? Because they didn't – hold on, hold on a second, look. Mark, Mark – we weren't afraid of Bill Clinton in January of '95, February, March, April, we made fun of him in May, June, July, August, September, October, November. And by December, when finally after a year people started calling us, saying we're going to kick – you just started (Unintelligible) him – this "bubba" has beaten us. This President hasn't even tried –

HALPERIN: Big difference – he has tried. There's too many differences –

SCARBOROUGH: No he has not.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: I don't think this President's ever been backed against the wall. I think he's backed against the wall politically, and he doesn't know how to fight out of the corner. I mean, you keep acting – seriously, I am stunned – you keep acting like December 7 – happy Pearl Harbor Day, by the way – like December 7 is going to be the reality for the next two years. It's not.

HALPERIN: I think it's pathetic the Democrats lost this fight. On the merits, they should have won it. But they lost it. And this is not a bad thing for the economy, and it's a great thing for people who want to realize the only way anything's going to get solved in the next two years is if the parties can get in the room and negotiate. And they did that here.

SCARBOROUGH: They didn't negotiate. The President caved in.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014