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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.

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AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, the issue of Medicare and Social Security, what it means for President Obama to so-called compromise on these issues, can you talk about this?

REPDENNIS KUCINICH: Well, there’s no reason whatsoever to bring Social Security into this discussion. And the fact that the White House has done it on numerous occasions should give everyone pause for concern. If Social Security has a problem down the road—we’ve already talked about this—you raise the caps on the income that’s accessible to Social Security. But you don’t talk about cutting benefits. You don’t talk about cutting cost-of-living increases through this chained CPI, which is just a way to force seniors into a lower standard of living over the long haul. We need the White House to stand up for Social Security and Medicare. And, you know, unfortunately, we’re looking at a situation where, because Republicans want entitlements, you know, as they like to call it, in the mix on any budget discussions, the White House has yielded. Now, that may not happen in these negotiations in the next couple days, but you have to watch what’s happening in the 113th Congress.

So, you know, this is—we really have to decide who we are as a nation. We’re spending more and more money for wars. We’re spending more and more money for interventions abroad. We’re spending more and more money for military buildups. And we seem to be prepared to spend less and less on domestic programs and on job creation. This whole idea of a debt-based economic system is linked to a war machine. And it’s linked to Wall Street’s concerns rather than Main Street’s concerns. We need to shift that. We need to get government—give government back the ability to create jobs. Private sector is not doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about  Dean Baker, the economist’s comments, we had on a few weeks ago. He said this whole fiscal cliff issue is way overblown, that come January 1st, yes, we’ll be subject to higher tax withholding rates, but not a lot of people are paid on January 1st. "If there’s a deal worked out somewhere in the first, second week of January," he said, "we’ll probably never [see anything] extra deducted from our paycheck, and even if we do, [we’ll] get it back in the second paycheck." What’s your response to that, Congressmember Kucinich?

REPDENNIS KUCINICH: Well, Dean Baker is right, as he often is about these things, you know, but let’s be clear about one thing. You know, if the White House understands one thing, it’s behavioral economics. They’ve basically cut their teeth on behavioral economics in coming in and trying to induce people to believe that things are better than they are when they’re not. Well, this whole fiscal cliff discussion, as—while it might have its imaginary dimensions, does have a real effect. You’re already seeing a decline in consumer confidence, in investor confidence, that there is going to be a slowdown in the economy. Now, it is true that we can—that the country can cobble together a deal in the new year, but in the meantime, there will be a lag in which you’ll see an economy that’s already weak further weaken.

But I just want to go back to something, Amy. We have to start creating jobs. This debt-based economic system, where we’re having the—the next discussion is, we’re at $16.4 trillion, and so are we going to go not only over the cliff, but are we going to go into default? Wrong discussion. Why aren’t we creating jobs using the government’s inherent power under Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, so that we spend money to rebuild the infrastructure, put millions of people back to work. You create new taxpayers. You don’t have to worry so much then about unemployment benefits, which are due to expire, that we have to worry about if you’re not creating jobs. It’s the wrong discussion we’re having.

 
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