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Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D).


Johnson County Democrats honor Ike Skelton (D) (April 2, 2011)

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D): Johnson County, April 2, 2011 (April 3, 2011)

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the keynote speaker at a dinner last night in Warrensburg honoring former Congressman Ike Skelton (D) for his years of public service. At the end of the event Congressman Cleaver took some time with us to answer a few questions:

Show Me Progress: So, congressman, in the negotiations for the, uh, continuation of the budget, um, we’ve been seeing reports that the, the Republicans are sort of, keep raising the bar and, and kind of renegotiating. Uh, what are the prospects of, of getting the, the budget situation settled in, in the fashion without getting, having things shut down?

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D): Well, I think we have a fifty fifty, uh, opportunity to, uh, succeed in getting a budget. It’s going to be extremely difficult because of the president will only, uh, accept us so deep a cut. But, uh, and the, uh, right wing of the, uh, Republican caucus in Congress is demanding, uh, extremely deep cuts. The president is not gonna accept it. And keep in mind Ben Bernanke, who’s hardly a, uh, liberal, uh, warned Congress on three separate occasions that to make severe cuts in the budget right now could, in fact, trigger, uh, some kind of, uh, second act, uh, to the great recession. And, uh, what he has said has been repeated by Goldman Sachs, uh, when they hired an independent analyst, uh, who, who came back and said, uh, if you make the cuts that, that you are planning to, to, uh, put forward it will cost the United States about seven hundred thousand jobs. And so, as people are out cheering for these deep, uh, and cavernous cuts I don’t think they realize that it could very well cause the much feared double dip [recession].  And, uh, I think that, that, you know, right now, we are in trouble because of the, the leadership of the Republican Party, I don’t think, uh, is, uh, going to, uh, have a great following with a, with one component of their party on the budget. Uh, when we had the first CR [continuing resolution] keep in mind three of the freshman voted, three of the freshman republicans voted against it because the cuts were not deep enough. And keep in mind that more of them now are saying that they’re going to vote against the budget unless it’s, uh, uh, much, much deeper. And it means that, that, uh, is, is at the same time calling on the president to, uh, uh, dip his veto pen in the ink…

SMP: One of the things that we hear the, uh, Representative {Eric] Cantor [R], the rhetoric on Social Security, uh, they keep saying that Social Security contributes to the budget … [interruption]

…so that the, uh, so that the rhetoric in, in, they keep trying to tie in, uh, Social Security in, in to the budget deficit.

Representative Cleaver: Well, look, I,  every time I hear this discussion about Social Security and the deficit, uh, I would laugh but for the fact that it’s so serious. The reason Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uh, attached Social security to the payroll tax is because he said, they will never touch it because people won’t allow it ’cause they’re paying money into it. It, when we, when people receive their Social Security check that’s not a gift from the government. Uh, that, that represents a lifetime of paying six point two percent of payroll tax on every pay check. And, uh, people are simply getting back the money that they invested. So, uh, the, it is the only designated spending in the federal budget. So, I, I think when you start talking Social Security sometimes it is to, to create fear. But Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. It, it, it’s not impactful on the deficit, on the deficit at all. It’s a, it’s a, it’s an entirely different issue.

SMP: Right, and, and, but the Republicans keep beating that, that it is something that contributes to the deficit.

Representative Cleaver: But, but Social Security contributes nothing to the deficit. I would challenge anybody, uh, I mean, I don’t care if they went to Harvard or Cambridge, it doesn’t matter, uh, on this issue of Social Security and how it, it’s, it somehow, uh, involved with the deficit.

SMP: So, how do we educate voters about this?

Representative Cleaver: Well, I, that’s the whole issue. Most voters don’t, don’t understand, you have people who get their Social Security, uh, checks, don’t have a good understanding of what, of the process and the system. Uh, they don’t realize that they pay six point two. Their employer pays, matches it with six point two every month. And it has been do, they’ve been doing that lo these many years. And, uh, that Social Security, even if it’s not repaired, uh, is probably going to be solvent for, uh, twenty or thirty more years. Not, not only that, but I think another part that we need to understand, unlike Medicare that is in a lot of trouble and will take some, uh, some, uh, severe work to, to repair that, uh, Social Security can easily be tweaked, uh, just as Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did back in the eighties. Uh, you simply move the age up, uh, to, for recipients, uh, and that, uh, alone creates additional revenue or, or it keeps, it reverses the process that we’re gonna go into shortly where those paying, uh, into the system, uh, are outnumbered by those receiving.

SMP: But, it, also, another possibility is to basically raise the, the salary cap.

Representative Cleaver: Well, you could raise the salary cap from a hundred six thousand, uh, uh, to a hundred seventy-five thousand. Uh, that, uh, uh, but you only get paid on, uh, that which, which goes to a hundred seven thousand. Which means that everything above that, uh, goes back into the Social Security pie. And, uh, look, uh, we’ve all been blessed to live in this country. So, why would I, uh, uh, object to paying more money if I were making that kind of money? I mean, it was like, it, it’s like people who, who are, who are millionaires complaining, complaining, uh, about the estate tax. Gimme a million dollars, I’ll pay the estate tax every month. I, I don’t, I mean, I don’t understand it.

SMP: Yeah, and, and we, we’ve noticed in, in some of our coverage some interesting rhetoric from people that, when, when two hundred fifty thousand dollars, when they wanted to renew the Bush era, uh, tax cut, uh, two hundred fifty thousand dollars wasn’t a lot of money. But now we’re hearing rhetoric that teachers making fifty thousand dollars, that’s way too much money.

Representative Cleaver: Yes, that, that, it’s unbelievable. And the, the, uh, if you look at the, the disparity between the rich and the poor in this country it’s widening. And the people who are allowing that to happen are the people on the lower level of the, uh, economic, uh, realm. Which, which, in, in and of itself is confusing. Uh, but, teachers making fifty thousand dollars is a bargain. Teachers making a hundred thousand dollars is a bargain. And I don’t understand how people can go out and fight against the people educating their kids. And then, uh, cheering people, uh, uh, earning a million dollars a year. I don’t understand it.

When, when, uh, when the government approved the eight hundred fifty billion dollar tax cut just before Christmas, uh, for the two, the, the, for two percent, of the richest people in the country, uh, they
had no idea that what they did was earth shattering. Listen to this. All of the combined budgets of the fifty states equals six hundred fifty billion dollars. So the eight hundred fifty billion dollars tax cut that we gave, I voted against it, but that was given could have funded every state in the Union with money left over.

SMP: Thank you very much for your time, congressman.

Representative Cleaver: Thank you.