tv Washington Journal Rep. G.K. Butterfield CSPAN June 26, 2019 1:37pm-2:12pm EDT
oversight committee gavels back in. while we wait for the return, part of today's "washington journal". >> at the table now representative butter field, democrat of north carolina. member of the energy commerce committee. represents north carolina's first district. good morning to you. >> thank you. good morning. >> we asked you to come on and talk about the poverty line in the u.s. we've been reading about proposed changes by the trump administration. and we want to get your reaction to them. can you explain for us what exactly is the poverty line? and what does it mean? >> sure. the census bureau defines what is poverty in the country and it bases it generally on a family of four. for a familyy of four the povery line in 2019 is $25,750. for single individual it's 12 $,490. many government programs are based on the poverty line. free and reduced lunches for
children at scol, for example. children's health insurance, another example. so many of our federal programs are based on the poverty line. and if you fall below the poverty line, you're entitled to the programs. and if you do not, you're not entitled. and so we're getting reports that president trump is determined to redefine the poverty line and he's put it out for comment and june 21st is the magic date that comments have to be submitted to the government. but after june 21st, the president has the authority to redefine poverty. and that is very alarming. it's very alarming for low income families in this country. it's very alarming for many of our seniors who live below the poverty level to know that many of the programs that they depend on may very well be eliminated in their life. >> what's your once -- undetanding of what the president's proposal would do? >> well, the poverty line as we know it now is based on the
consumer price index. the cpi. president trump has a new concept called chained cpi. it's a redefinition of the consumer price index, the cost of goods, and so many other factors. for example, if a family of four is entitled to federal programs, for example, the snap program for their families, we call it food stamps. or if they have their children in head star or if they're receiving a low income heating assistance and it's a family of four, $25,750 is that threshold. but if the chain cpi formula comes into effect, a family who makes that amount may not be able to qualify anymore for assistance, and so it really makes a difference. what the president has in mind is to reduce -- to cut $390 billion over the next ten years
out of government benefits to low income families. that's absolutely terrible for low income families and i just want people to think about that. people who live belelow the poverty line are now going to be forced further into poverty. >> phone numbers on the bottom of the screen for our guests. wel take calls from republicans, democrats and independents for our guest, democrat of north carolina. we'll get to your calls in a couple minutes, and we'll do this until roughly 9:00 eastern time. the official poverty rate in the u.s. according to the census bureau is 12 .3% right now. that means 39.7 million people are in poverty. between 2016 and 2017 the poverty rate for adults 18 to 64 declined. for those under 18, it stayed the same. this is from the census and npr. how important is this issue to your district specifically? >> i have a very low income
district as compared to the other congressional districts across the country. we're in the bottom ten. the census bureau also defines countieses as persistent poverty counties. . it means 20% or more of the population has lived in poverty for the last 30 years. excuse me. that the population, the poverty rate for the county has exceeded 20 %. let me get that right. the poverty rate for the county has exceeded 20% for the last 30 years. that's called a persistent poverty county. 400 of those across the country. 12 in north carolina and 6 in my district. multiple experts say it's likely the administration would use what's called the chained consumer price index which would
update it using a slower growing inflation number. they quote someone saying many economists say the current measure overestimates the issue of inflation. is issue is does it make it sense to change to something that's a more accurate measure of inflation? they say the change has been anticipated since the bush administration. they said one reason it's being considered now is the 2016 tax law changed the method for calculating the tax deductions. he says they've done it on the tax side. doesn't it make sense to start thinking about it on the spending side? >> it's incorrect to say that inflation is not real. inflation is real, and anyone who goes into the supermarket and makes purchases knows that everything in our society, everything in the communities in our communities are being increased from haircuts to be in
a in as to coffee to meats. everything that we consume as families inn america, the cost s going up. and to use the inflation rate as the basis for determining the poverty line is the best way to do it. and to create some type of chain cpi where you selectively decide what is calculated in order to make the formula is disingenuous. what president trump is trying to do is to get poor people off of the social programs that we have in this country. poor people deserve to have a safety net. they're not responsible f for their condition and for the government to pile on like this is very unfortunate. and remember, we just -- congress just gave at the president's insistence a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country. just a year before last when he first came into office.
$1.5 trillion tax cut, but you're going to redefine what is poverty and kick people offf very important programs they depend on. >> i'll get to the call. burt is calling from georgia. hey, burt. >> good morning. how are you this morning? >> good. >> caller: all right. representative butterfield, you say the poverty level is $25,000. that is relative to where you ve at. i live in georgia, and it's probably different for me than somebody who lives in new york or california, somewhere like that. so to me, it's disingenuous. they ought to have a sliding scale. you know? depending on where you live at. here my mother, i don't think she ever made $25,000 working in the textile mill a year, but she had 16 kids, which, you know, is like you say, is not my prprobl.
you know, it was a problem my mother had with 16 kids, but what i want to say is this. do you think socialism is going to fix this situation or how do you feel about that? >> look, the poverty line for a sisingle individual is 12,4 9d . the $25,000 number is for a family of four. and whether you live in georgia or whether you live in san francisco, you cannot meet your needs as a single individual based on $12,000 a year. i acknowledge that the cost o o living varies from location to location, but we've got to make sure that we provide for the least of these in our communities. that's not socialism. that's the american way to provide a safety ynet for peopl who find themselves in poverty. we need to give a helping hand to poor people. that's the american way. we've done it for generations. it's been done in my community. it's been done in your
community, and we're stronger because of federal programs that we have. school lunches. you don't w want children goingo school and not being able to eat. youon't want low income children not having the benefit of child care and head start. and the list just goes on and on. we are a country who cares about the least of these in our community. >> you have said that once the comment period is done and the president can make this decision, is that a unilateral thing he can do or does congress get involved as part of the process? >> it appears he can do it by executive order. june 21st is the date all the comments have to be in. after that date i'm told the president feels he hasas the lel authority to redefine what is yound fellow democrats plan to push back legislatively? >> i don't know. we're going to have to see what legislative authority we have over this issue. i would hope that the congress of the united states would step in in some way and express
itself. if we cannot do it legislatively, at leas we can express a sense of congress that it should not be done. >> are you and how are you preparing your constituents, the ones who said are most affected in the poorer district, as you point out? what are you saying to them right now? >> my job is not only to come to washington each day and listenn and debate and cast votes but to home and educate. every chance i get, i'll go to the 14 counties in north carolina that i represent and talk about the whole concept of chained cpi. that doesn't resonate withh a lt of people. but when you explain that the $12,000 poverty line for a single individual may be reduced to $10,000 which means if you earn $12,000 a year, you will not be able to qualify for anything. that means that your cost of living adjustment on your social security check, for example, will be less in the out years. it's a challeng and we're
going to have to educate the american people so they can see what's at stake. >> let's hear from ricky, democratic caller from michigan. >> caller: hello, sir. >> good morning. >> caller: i realize what you're saying about the poverty line, but you know something? even the republicans, they are taking away our schools. and it's just like when i work at a school, and i see the kids of how many kids get fed, you know, with government subsidies, but -- so that means that they going to take away the kid's school too? the programs where we give kids food to take home and to have lunch during the summertime? >> free and reduced lunches will be on the chopping block for some families. now, keep in mind it will not apply to everyone. but if a child is from a from a family that's right at the poverty line, and the president
redefines what is poverty and lowers that number, then a child who is right at the poverty line now may not be in poverty after the new definition comes into effect. you know, this whole thing stems back to the budget. we spend back to the budget. we spend $4.6 trillion every year in funding our government but we only take in about 3.5, $3.6 trillion. so we're running a trillion dollar deficit. when presidentnt obama was in office it was at half a trillion, and now the deficit a right at $1 trillion. so now what president trump is trying to do is find some way to reduce the deficit and the worst waway has been found, and that to balance the budget on the backs of poor people. while at the same time presiding over a tax cut of $1.5 trillion for the rich and super rich in this country.
it is absolutely unacceptable where, so we're going to fight the concept if it goes forward. >> good morning. donald trump trying to change the poverty line and as a guy and a young man who's come from the slums of detroit, michigan, where there's nothing left we've been waiting on this for years. democrats have raised money and stole and stole and stole. where's the results? you just said you have 12 districts in your state that is poor, poverty stricken. what have you done in your term inin congress to speak up for these people? and that's why i think donald trump actually changing the poverty line will be great because it forces people to get
off their behind and find a job, get out and actually work because if you're a demrat you'll sit there forever. as long as the government keeps feeding you, you give free money and i'll take it. >> most of the people who are at the poverty line and below the poverty line work every day, that's what we need to understand. these are not people sitting home just watching television all day long. poor people work in this country. they work in our hotels and restaurants and clean the streets and engage in construction trades. they work every day. it has been the democratic party down through the years that has fought for low income families. starting with franklin roosevelt back in the 1930s with social security and linden johnson in the '60s with medicare and meld cade. we brought in these programs that are now lifting these people out of poverty. it is the republican party
that's stood for special interests and businesses in our country and trying to grow wealth and create wealth for rich people. but we're the party of working people, my friend. >> our guest is the cosponsor of a $15 million federal wage. what's the status of that legislation? >> the legislation is working its way to the floor. congressman scott says he'll have it on the floor within the foreseeable future. i personally believe $15 an hour is not enough, but it is a level i'm willing to vote for. anyone who works in this country st make at least $15 an hour. >> what would be even more appropriate? >> i think we need to index it back to inflation, and we need to do the math and do the cal clae clagz and see where it would have been had we indexed the
$$7. $7.25 to inflation. remember the 15 proposal is not an immediate increase to $15. it's a phase-in over a fiveear period. and most businesses who i know have business plans and they plan for things like this. so businesses know they've got to pay a minimum of $15 an hour in five years. they can plan accordingly. if a business cannot afford to pay $15 an hour, maybe they need to look at themselves and find out what the problem is with go lakeland, florida, an independent line. good morning, shawn. >> good morning, how are y'all doing? i just want to say, man, i listen to y'all all the time and i constantly feel republicans collin to complain a lot, everything the democrats are doing. and then i hear democrats collin cacomplain about everything the
republicans are doing. one thing i've noticed aboutut history, about america is america has an appetite for treat labor. since this first was called america from africas to the chinese to the indians, to the cuba cubans and now it's the mexicans. and when these people come here they come here for money. and now you're talking about the minimum wage and how it's down and everybody is under poverty, but that's the whole theme for america's cheap labor. and nobody is talking about doing anything to these employees. nobody is talking -- we have laws that say if you employ somebody that's illegal that you lose your business license. who's lost their business license? who's went to jail? who's been fined? nobody. but you constantly hear about how these people keep coming here. why are they coming?
they're coming for jobs. where are they working? ory working at hotels, in construction. they're working at warehouses, working in agriculture. how do i know these peoeople ar working there but the people supposed to know and supposed to enforce the laws don't know these people are working there? and until you congress people start putting these people in jail, until you start fining these people, until you start doing what the law say, we don't need more laws. enforce the laws that's on the books, you know what i'm saying? and y'all constantly allhe time keep pointing the finger at the other side, and both of y'all are bad. >> when you talk about pointing the finger at the other side, that's the form of government we have. we have two political parties in congress and we are constantly debating the great issues of the day, so don't hold that against us. that's the way our country was
founded. that's the way the legislative anch of the government does. i have great friends on the republican side, and i tell you we engage in intelligent debates most of the time. once in a while it goes off the rail, but we have intelligent debate and at the end of the day we take a vote. right now it's thehe house a an democrats who are the majority of the house on the senate side. republicans are the majority, so that forces the two political parties to try t find common ground, and we work every day to findommon ground with ourur friends in the senate. sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. but you talk about holding businesses accountable. we hold businesses accountable. can we do a better job? i'm the first to acknowledge that we can but we need to demand that businesses are accountable, that they pay their taxes, that they treat their employees with respect and dignity, provide the minimum wage and the french benefits that they deserve. health care certainly should be a fringe benefit for every
working in america, so thank you for those comments. i understand your frustration, but please know anytime you see a spirited debate in the congress of the uniteted states that is the way it's supposed to be, we must debate the issues. where we fall short is that we are unable to find common ground, and hopefully after the 2020 elections and the american people speak loudly in this election and reject donald trump and the republican policies, hopefully our friends in the republican party who are in the center will be able t work with us more on getting many of these issues, we have great issues facing our country, and we can solve every one of them. >> congressman, i want to get to the smoeupreme court and initiatives really close to your life and work. we are waiting for a decision on a gerrymandering case that involves your home state, north
carolina. >> the gerrymandering case we're awaiting now is very profound. not only does it affect north carolina but affects most states in the country. every ten years we have to conduct a census in this country, and after the census is complete and each state legislator is responsible for redistricting and redefining the political boundaries. the reason for that is under the consnstitution every districts s got to be about the same size. my state is north carolina, 13 seats were allocated back in 2010. and in 2011 the legislator drew some political boundaries. our legislator at the time and still is a republican legislator, and they drew these boundaries in a very manipulative and very strategic way to advantage the
republicans. it's what we call political advantage. they drew these lines to advantage their positions. years ago we didn't have political technology and drawing political maps, but now we have that technology, and whoever is responsible for drawing the map can now employ computer technology and develop districts that will favor their party. the technology is such that now we can determine almost with certainty how a voter is likely to vote. and with that data, maps can be generated. and so in north carolina even though democrats have republicans are jt about equally situated in terms of voter registration, when the maps were prepared, there were 10 republican leaning district and three democratic districts. and during the debate the chairman of the redistricting committee, a republican in my state, made a very profound statement. they said that he felt that the republican congressmen were better than democratic
congressmen, and so he drew these maps in such a way to favor republicans and that the only reason he did not draw 11 congressional districts that were republican instds of ten is because he could not find a way to do that. well, that's political inju gerrymandering. hopefully wwill get a decision within the next few hours and the u.s. supreme court will definitively say what is and is not political gerrymandering. >> what does this mean to your seat do you think? >> well, if the court rules what happened in north carolina was political injure ma political gerrymandering, the state legislator has to immediately redraw the
boundaries. this is game changer. not only are we affecting north carolina where but there's a maryland case also pending, pennsylvania, ohio and michigan case waiting for this decision. so i know five states immediately will be impacted. >> thanks for waiting, jimmy. >> i was going to ask him he's always talking about inequality and that but why did we get rid of the common law? it's all about divide and
conquer. why is that? look at him, he knows what i'm talking about. >> inequality exists in the united states of america. yes, we are the most powerful. yes, we are the most superior country on the planet, but we still have inequality. racial inequality, gender inequality in our country. and if we're going to be a perfect country, if we want to strive for perfection, we've got to find ways of eliminating the veig of inequality. anyone who is, you know, any age to understand what's happening in this country will foe know there's inequality. we don't need to be governed by common law. we need statutory law in this country, and i'm a former judge and lawyer. we could not thrive as a democracy based on common law alone. thank you for your questions. >> you voted yes last night on
the house bill to provide $4.5 billion to border humanitarian aid. why is this money so important right now? >> look, we have thousands and thousands of refugees coming into our country. we have always been a country of being able to welcome refugees coming in. these people are coming in for a better way of life. many of them are fleeing violence and bad conduct in their country. they're fleeing their countries looking for a betterr opportunity. they're tryingg to protect thei lives and the lives of their families, and so they're coming into the southern border, and these are human beings. and they're not being treated prptly, and so what we did last night was to appropriate $4.5 billioion, i wish it could have been been more. the senate is going to be voeing today, but this is humanitarian aid. this is not money to build a wall at the border. it's about taking care of children and families who have
come across the border and keep families together to provide health care and a safe and sanitary place to live. >> at the same time the president was not necessarily against the money but he's pushing back and threatening to veto over some policy positions that say restrict him and what he's able to do broadly in the situation. what do you make of what he's looking for? >> president trump is out of control on this whole immigration thing. we need to find an immigration compromise. there needs to be a solution. when president george w. bush was in office we were seconds away from having a comprehensive immigration deal and each side had to make some compromises. but we were able to bring the undocumented people out of the shadows and give them legal status and incorporate this population into our american way of life, but that deal fell
apart and now we're still struggling to try to find common ground, but the least we can do is try to take care of families and children who are across the border and live in conditions oftentimes separated from each other. >> one more question on this, one of the themes on the gop side in the house debate was if this was such a crisis, why did it take so many months for democrats to act in terms of coming up with money? >> well, it is a crisis. and we said it on the floor last night and we will continue to say it. we don't disagree it's a crisis but we think it's a crisis for different reasons. republicans take thehe position it's a crisis because people are illegally entering the country. we think it's a crisis because families are being torn apart and being mistreated and not given the decency of health care and a place to live and food to eat and dry clothes on their backs. and so it is a crisis, but we are going to continue toight the fight and our undocumented
population knows it's the democratic party will c continu to fight. >> good morning, tony. >> thank you, very much. and that is the problem, that' the problem is that our congressmen, our president, you all keep lying to us. you've proven over and over that you're all in bed together. we put our president trump in office because he promised us there'd be no more wars, no more conflicts. and yet he flat out lied to us, and here we are accusing iran -- >> got to let you go, caller. is there any part of that you want to respond to? >> he said the politicians promised no more wars. there's not a single politician, democrat or republican who's
ever promised n no more wars. we've got to keep america safe. 95% of the world does not live in our country and so they are enemies to the united states and we've got to always be proactive and in a defensive posture, and never, ever would we ever say there would never be a war. war should be the last alternative for sure, but we would never make that pronouncement. we've got to keep the american people safe. >> last couple of calls. steve from missouri. good morning. >> caller: hi, thanks for taking my call. i'm going to deal with the elephant in the room that nobody's dealing with and that is we are literally bankrupt and this has happened in the last 20 years. i'm going to balance your budget. you can balance your budget in one month, you can take down the debt by 50%, if you don't think we're spending much on the military, look at that drone. it was $200 million drone shot down from the sky. the health care is the second
part. get the insurance companies out and make it a non-profit organization. the third party is the tax cuts. repeal the tax cuts, make the billionaires pay 50%. you go overseas to the offshore account and there's trillions of dollars sitting there and that would cut our taxes by 50%, and none of you, not a single one of you are facing the elephant in the room, and you shouldn't spend one more dime until you balance this budget. and that's my comment and thanks for taking my call. >> thank you for talking ability the ele in thet of the program because it would take my 5 or 10 minutes to really give you my physician. but i don't disagree with what you just said. we take in $3.6 trillion.
there's a trillion dollar deficit now, president obama tried to get it under control, but he brought the deficit down, and it was very painful, but he did it. but now president trump has through his tax cuts has taken the deficit back up to a trillion. that is unacceptable and we've got to find a way to deal with it. do we cut services for poor people, no. do we raise taxes on the billionaires, yes. you suggested we should take the tax up to 50%. i'm not sure i agree with the 50% comment, but i certainly agree we should have substantial increase in taxes for those who can afford to pay it in this country, but we should not, must not balance this budget on the backs of poor people. >> congressman, we will end
there. representative from north carolina, thank you very much for joining us again and your time and insights on things. >> thank you. well, the house overnight and reform committee hearing on the office of special counsel's findings that the white house counselor kellyanne conway violated the hatch act is in recess for votes on the house floor. this is live picture from capitol hill. we are expecting the hearing to resume at about 10:30 eastern so the last few members can ask their questions too henry curno. when the hearing resumes, we do plan to bring you live coverage from c-span 3. until then some of the questions from this morning beginning with the committee chair elijah cummings.
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