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Dennis Kucinich on the "Fiscal Cliff": Why Are We Sacrificing American Jobs for Corporate Profits?

"We’re creating our own economic vice here that is entrapping tens of millions of Americans," says the out-going Representative.

Dennis Kucinich



JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Obama and congressional Republicans remain at an impasse over the Republicans’ refusal to allow tax hikes, even for the wealthiest Americans. If an agreement is not reached in time, $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases will go into effect on January 1. But the tax increases would not necessarily be permanent. The new Congress could pass legislation to cancel them retroactively after it begins its work next year.

AMY GOODMAN: While the so-called fiscal cliff has dominated the news headlines, the Senate is also preparing to vote today to continue a controversial domestic surveillance program. In a blow to civil liberties advocates, the Senate rejected three attempts Thursday to add oversight and privacy safeguards to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or  FISA.

Joining us from Washington is Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich. This is his last week in Congress after serving eight terms. Since 1997, Kucinich has been a leading progressive voice on Capitol Hill, introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He voted against the  PATRIOT Act and advocated for ending the war on drugs. Dennis Kucinich ran for president in 2004 and 2008, vowing to create a Department of Peace. He’s also former mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.

Congressmember Kucinich, welcome back to  Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Your term would be over, except you’ve been called back on Sunday, is that right, the House, to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff?

REPDENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I’ve been in Washington waiting to see if Congress would be called back into session, as it should be. And there really is no reason, no legitimate reason, why the country should be facing serious tax increases for middle class and also spending cuts that will further slow down the economy. You know, Amy, we’ve made all the wrong choices. We should be talking about jobs, having more people involved in paying taxes. We should be talking about rebuilding America’s infrastructure. China has gone ahead with high-speed trains and massive investment in their infrastructure. Instead, we’re back to the same old arguments about taxes and spending without really looking at what we’re spending. We just passed the National Defense Authorization Act the other day, another $560 billion just for one year for the war machine. And so, we’re focused on whether or not we’re going to cut domestic programs now? Are you kidding me?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Congressman, the recent election was seen by many as a mandate from the electorate to finally begin to tax the wealthiest Americans to deal with some of the deficit. Your sense of whether President Obama and your fellow Democrats in the Senate and the House will stay the course on this or will eventually compromise in a way that many progressives would regret?

REPDENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we have a divided government. President Obama’s election sends one message; the election of a Republican House of Representatives sends another. The—actually, you know, working at odds here. You have Republicans who will not raise taxes for anyone who’s making more than a quarter million a year, and they’re looking at entitlement cuts. You have Democrats who say, let’s have any tax cuts that come up for those who make under $250,000 and no cuts to entitlements. You have a force here that isn’t movable right now.

Again, I want to say that we’ve been going in the wrong direction here. Why haven’t we been talking about stimulating the economy through the creation of jobs? We’ve seemed to accept a certain amount of unemployment as being necessary for the proper functioning of the economy, so that for corporations it will keep wages low. That is baloney. We’re creating our own economic vice here that is entrapping tens of millions of Americans, and I just find it unacceptable. It’s like this whole fiscal cliff thing is a creation of people who are unimaginative and locked in by special interests.

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