On Morning Joe on Wednesday, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell questioned the entire debate over which government spending programs to slash, asking why the President and Congress are even considering cutting spending in the first place. "I think we've lost a first principle here," he remarked of the situation.
What is this "first principle" O'Donnell speaks of? "Why are we cutting spending in a recession?" he asked. "The recession has not included a jobs recovery yet. I don't think it makes any sense for the government to be downsizing while we don't yet have the jobs recovery." So apparently O'Donnell thinks that in the midst of a recession (which technically ended in June of 2009, although the recovery has been jobless) we cannot afford to cut spending programs, even those outside of Social Security and Medicare.
And at least O'Donnell admitted of no job recovery. As the MRC's Iris Somberg reported today , the major networks largely failed in the last two years to report President Obama's failed promise that the Stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent. Unemployment reached as high as 10.2 percent in the two years and still exceeds 8 percent.
After O'Donnell spoke, co-host Joe Scarborough changed the subject to particular items that have been planned to be cut from the budget. Scarborough lamented that President Obama plans to cut funding for NPR from the budget, as well as assistance to poor people.
"To suggest that this is somehow going to fix our problem when we're only looking at 12 percent of the budget seems to me to be a bit disgraceful," said Scarborough, who has in the past admitted he enjoys listening to NPR.
In addition to questioning spending cuts, O'Donnell also downplayed the concerns of immediate impacts of the deficit. "The deficit never, in fact, never has to go to zero," he claimed. "There's never a requirement to balance it. No one in real life lives that way. We all have mortgages. You know, you don't - there's plenty of things that need to be paid for over time, and then there are things that need to be paid for as immediate consumption."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 16 at 8:29 a.m. EST, is as follows:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: I think we've lost a first principle here - which is why are cutting spending in a recession? This recession has not included a jobs recovery yet. I don't think it makes any sense for the government to be downsizing while we don't yet have the jobs recovery. 2014 is the first place on the calendar where we should be thinking about significant spending cuts in order to get back in balance in terms of the deficit. And the deficit never, in fact, never has to go to zero. There's never a requirement to balance it. No one in real life lives that way. We all have mortgages. You know, you don't - there's plenty of things that need to be paid for over time, and then there are things that need to be paid for as immediate consumption.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: We've been talking, obviously, around this table about long-term structural debt. And it actually said that I have personally been offended that these middle-class entitlement programs that nobody's touching - that everybody's scared to touch, are being pushed to the side while assistance for poor people - for heating oil - is being slashed. NPR is being slashed. Now if you have ideological problems with poor people getting government assistance, you can make that debate. But to suggest that this is somehow going to fix our problem when we're only looking at 12 percent of the budget seems to me to be a bit disgraceful. You need to look long-term at the structural problems. Poor people getting heating-oil assistance - that's not part of the problem.
O'DONNELL: Right, and it is all about choices. To govern is to choose, and the choices are never easy. But when you see someone make those choices, you then understand what their philosophy of government is, and what they think should be protected, and what they think the government's job is. And so that's why Democrats are saying take more out of defense, and Republicans are saying we don't want to do that. That argument is going to go on for a few more years.