tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS November 30, 2013 1:30am-2:01am PST
gwen: now that the leftovers are over, and the football has been played, we bring your dinner table political conversation to our table. tonight on this special edition of "washington week." what were the hot topics at your house? health care? the economy? war? peace? or maybe washington dysfunction? >> why is there no debt limit? >> why are you more concerned with what your party is going to do in the elections rather than how you're going to help the american people? >> i'm wondering what specifically you'll be doing to prevent another government shutdown? gwen: tonight we answered your questions from around the country with peter baker of "the new york times." michael duffy of "time" magazine. karen tumulty of "the washington post." and jeff zeleny of avens news.
-- abc news. >> award winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we went out and asked people a simple question. how old is the oldest person you've known? we gave people a sticker and had them show us. we learned a lot of us have known someone who's lived well into their 90's. and that's a great thing. but even though we're living longer, one thing that hasn't changed, the official retirement age. the question is, how do you make sure you have the money you need to enjoy all of these years? >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by northrop grumman. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation,
the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: because we've been talking at you all year long, we thought you might be thankful this week to have us talk with you. about the things that are on your minds. so if you're all talked out from thanksgiving dinner table debates, sit back and enjoy ours. i want to start by putting one of our regulars on the spot. the white house has had quite a year, from foreign policy showdowns to fiscal crises to health care debaffles. and peter baker says he saw it coming last winter. call it second termitis. >> by his own calculation he's got eight months, 12 months, 16 months at most to make his mark. so he has to come out of the box fast. and energetic. and he's coming out on guns, immigration, fiscal policy. and energy. and that's -- he needs to push
the other side into deferring to his judgment while he has the opportunity to do it. gwen: how did that work for him, peter? >> well, it's now of course 10 months later. and i think none of the things we mentioned there has been signed into law. gwen: not immigration. >> not guns. not immigration. not -- moved some on energy in terms of executive action. and they'll argue on guns. they did some executive action as well. but nothing of the things they sent to the hill. jobs and most importantly, i think, the president talked during the election last year about the fever breaking. this idea that after he was reelected there wouldn't be the incentive on the part of the opposition to be so opposed to everything that he did. and obviously that turned out not to be the case. the fever if anything seems as hot as ever. gwen: if there's fever about anything it's about health care. let's get to some of our viewers' questions. this virginia voter is exasperated by the health care debate. >> i want to know why they are so afraid of the health care
law? is it because maybe the big companies will not support their campaign? gwen: now, that of course is theodora's opinion, karen. but what is the state of this right now? is there fear of the health care law? >> there is fear of the health care law. there has been all along. the divisions are really not because of one industry or another. it's because of a really big philosophical, ideological and increasingly partisan question about the role of government. and how big government should be and what it should do. and this is also against a backdrop where people, every poll you look at, shows that people are more skeptical than they have ever been of washington and its ability to do anything right. so this -- this law has never really garnered overwhelming public support. and then you have this disastrous rollout, which any doubts that people might have had about whether washington could get it right would seem to have been confirmed. so in our own poll, for
instance, we're finding, you know, that support for the bill is -- has dropped. and opposition has gone up by something like seven points just since october. gwen: there also seems to be a lot of confusion about actually what is in the bill. what is not in the bill. what it would do, what it wouldn't do. is that because congress isn't interested in explaining or because the white house dropped the ball, jeff? >> i think it's a bit of both. there's definitely been a messaging problem on this. it's not only that. it is a fundamental problem of -- as karen said people have not been able to sign up for these -- sort of a basic services. but across the board people still like what's in it. if they can get to it. like the pre-existing conditions. and leaving your children on until 26 years of age. but beyond that, we are seeing the white house, the administration, kind of bit by bit taking back some of the law. we saw a bit of that this week with small business owners not able to sign up. and ok, hold off until 2015. so we've seen big businesses,
all businesses, so all that is left basically -- and it's a big thing is the individual mandate. that's the central question. will the administration be able to keep that? they certainly argue that they have to because it's a central part of this. but so much confusion about this law. and it really has just amplified and given fuel to the republican argument that it is too big, government can't do all this. >> i think one of the reasons that the public is fearful of it, partly, not only because of the snafus and the confusion about what it means is it's important to say the republicans have done such a good job of making it scary. one of the things that's central to the republican thinking at the moment is once big entitlement expansions get into place, and actually get put down, they're really hard to roll back. people like them. and that's -- that's an element that they're trying to avoid here. gwen: let's take another health care question. this one from new hampshire. >> why are the government dignitaries allowed to keep their tone plans at taxpayer
expense and this plan is not good enough for them? gwen: what you see from jan there is some of the resentment that we're talking about. about the details. that they think exists in this bill. >> exactly. and one thing that's going on right now is speaker boehner tried to sign up for the health care law himself. and his office made a big to do about how he was going to join the district of columbia exchange. so he was sitting in front of his computer and signing up for this. and he did sign up. but it's going to cost him a lot more money. but this has been a big central debate. if congress should be included or should not be included. but one thing we do know that their plans are better. they're getting a special perk signing up for them. on capitol hill. you can walk into some of these rooms throughout the corridors of the capitol and see these people helping employees sign up for this. it's not a website. like walking into a small town insurance company almost feels like. so they're definitely being treated better. but by and large, taxpayers are paying for their health care.
but they're paying their salaries as well. so these are government employees. gwen: and this is something the white house is perfectly happy to let congress to sort out on their own. this piece of it anyway. >> absolutely. no question about it. what jeff says is right. this is not meant to take away employer-based health care. and the employer, the members of congress, are the taxpayers. so this is meant to provide insurance for those who currently don't have it. it.afford >> one of the political problems with the bill is 85% of the public has health coverage that most people are fairly satisfied with what they get from their employers. the government is going to come in and do something that disrupts what i've got and somehow make it worse than what it is now. gwen: there's one more detail. before we move off health care, this is a law that's already been in effect for a while. let's listen to randy who wrote this in from facebook. he wrote, that's right, we're
going to take a look at this. he said what part of the national health care law still has yet to go into effect? can people who are of no income sign up for the national health care insurance plan? karen? >> i think the big question that's still out there, come january 1, when all these people, presumably the website gets working and all these people think they have coverage and they can begin showing up at doctors' offices and hospitals and community health centers, the question is, whether there will be primary care providers there for them, whether they are satisfied with the care they're getting, and satisfied with the choices that they have. and that is something we are not going to learn until next year. as far as low income people, thanks to the supreme court, the fact is that about half the country, low income people, are going to be completely left out of this law. because the court made it optional for states to expand their medicaid programs. and half the states have decided they're not going to do it. gwen: this was bad news for the president. but the republicans had some bad news this year as well. and it happened on capitol
hill. listen to -- from -- let's see, daniel from pennsylvania. >> i'm wondering what specifically you'll be doing to prevent another government shutdown? gwen: that's a pretty -- there's no guarantee that's not going to happen again. >> no guarantee at all. some people, senator ted cruz is one of them. he has not ruled this out and leading the charge last time. but i think generally, all the republicans i talked to on capitol hill by and large in the leadership on both sides agree that it is bad for the party. and the shutdown is more than a month in the rear-view mirror. why revisit that again? the politics are not good for that. mitch mcconnell, the republican leader of the senate, he says that we'll not do this again. we'll see. but i would be surprised if it happens again. >> republicans realize it feels good not to bang your head against the wall. gwen: mitch mcconnell called it a kick by a mule. >> a kentucky phrase. >> and 10 points in popularity
and g.d.p. so very damaging to the g.o.p. brand. 17 years since they did it before. this one was such a tough lesson it may be another 17 years. >> why get in the way of your opponent when your opponent is busy shooting himself? at this point, republicans can look around and say obama is having so much trouble on his own with obamacare, with his health care program. that to have a government shutdown would only get in the way of a period that's not really good for him. >> that means they have to agree to funding the government then. so all these levels and things are still -- they've not made any progress as near as i can tell. and it's still going to come up to the very last minute which i guess would be january 14. because that deadline is january 16. gwen: under all of these concerns is the economy. what exactly are we doing to bolster the economy? get jobs? we got questions about that. this is from lorna on facebook. she says my children are drowning in student debt. and jobs are not meeting their educational success. one daughter with two master's degrees is making less than $14 an hour.
so how do you speak to families like that, karen? >> i went and i looked up the statistics when i saw that question. and in fact, student debt has surged 45% in the last three years alone. the average graduate of the class of 2013 left college with $28,000 worth of debt. and these kids, i can say kids, are -- they're not finding jobs out there that really speak to the skills that they have developed in college. and i think that that is -- one of the primary engines of economic insecurity in this country is that people look at their children. they look at their grandchildren. and they worry that they're not going to have the kinds of opportunities that they had. gwen: listen to hannah. a viewer from california. she also had a question about jobs. >> what are you doing to create full-time jobs? a problem for many of us around the country that we can only get part-time work when we need full-time work. gwen: which is of course key to
all of this, peter. because when you hear john boehner or you har anybody getting up in front of a microphone and saying jobs, jobs, jobs, he's listening to these very same voters but is anything they're doing speaking to these voters? >> at the moment there's such paralysis that neither side is advancing any policies that are changing things in that regard. the obama white house, things they have done in the past, the recovery act and the tax -- finalizing the tax rates in a way that they liked. but at the moment their plans for infrastructure, research and development, tax credits, and so on, is stalled in congress. and they make the argument that the sequester, which is an automatic budget cuts that have gone into effect and government shutdown are hurting job corporation. but there doesn't seem to be any movement in a forward direction right now. >> we talk a lot on this show, and in washington, about various pieces of legislation that may be moving or not moving or stalled or not stalled. and in the minds of most americans this is the only issue. in fact, it's the top three issue and a conversation that really doesn't take place here
very often because as you said of the paralysis between the parties about what few dials they have on their dashboard to turn. but unless we are -- find some way to do something about tting incomes up, you see -- beginning to see things around the country about minimum wages going up. because people are just frustrated about being able to pay bills. gwen: let's listen to james from maryland. he actually expresses some of that frustration. >> escalating prices in housing nd rent, poor people displacement. he lack of affordable housing. being built for the rich. and with prices that are unaffordable pour -- for people with middle incomes. >> this gap, this wealth gap, this idea that there's growing income inequality, minimum wage debate just scratches the surface. >> and it's not discussed very much in washington at all. as michael said. the job slogan sort of
reappears as dusted off every campaign season. and there is a campaign season coming up. but there are fundamental debates that are happening sort of -- wouldn't say behind the scenes but off to the side in congress. about the food stamp program, for example. deep, deep, deep cuts are coming to that next month. and in december, republicans are trying to cut $40 billion over 10 years, democrats say not that much. but there are deep cuts coming. so if you look at the local elections that are happening, around the country, the mayor of new york city, that was a central issue in his race, income disparity. so you are seeing these things that happen around the country. but not a lot in washington. >> and at the other end of the spectrum, thee people who have seen a recovery, the top 1%, and wall street is booming. so not only are people at the bottom feeling like they can't get ahead, but they are also seeing the people at the top are actually doing quite well again. >> you can see the pope weighing in this week. >> that's right.
>> talking about the notion of trickle down economics. and taking on some of cap tammism's harshest edges -- capitalism's harshest edges. gwen: and one big shift we've seen actually involves public opinion toward gay marriage. and we heard this from cathy in california. >> with so many major issues facing our government today, such as poverty, economics, and the struggles that our families are going through, i'm amazed and appalled that our leaders see fit as their responsibility and right to interfere with personal lives. gwen: you can read that a couple of different ways. but we assume that she believes that there should be gay marriage. >> it's interesting. i think the degree to which that debate is even happening anymore is within the republican party. the fact is every single poll, every survey you look at shows that a majority of public opinion is now coalescing
around the idea that same sex marriage should be legal. you see the direction that the states are going in. one after another, they seem to be liberalizing their laws. not tightening their laws. and i think the big shift here is demographic. among younger votes, even a ma of republicans now support same sex marriage. >> but the reality is across the country, there are still states that are moving to do the opposite as well. indiana is one. and others around the country are trying to hold fast on that. but you don't hear -- it's hard to imagine how quickly this has moved. the last presidential -- democratic presidential nomination in 2008, neither of the candidates, none of the candidates were in favor of this. and joe biden of course comes forward and then president obama and then finally hillary clinton after that. so this is still all very new on the democratic side. but you're right. not discussed at all except in the republican party most famously with cheney. gwen: in 2014 around this
table, you'll be doing it, too, because you're the ones that will vote so a little bit of politics. that's -- at's at the root of everything that we're going to see happening next. let's listen to mike in virginia. >> why are you more concerned with what your party is going to do in the elections rather than how you're going to help the american people? the unemployed, those without health care, things of that sort. gwen: there seems to be this sense that people aren't speaking to people. that the politicians aren't speaking to people. >> i think they're probably right. a lot of it is that explains why -- one of the reasons why there is such a low approval rating of congress and government officials and trust in public offi but of people who have that -- most people would agree with that. no one has corralled that. so if there is a populist sentiment, we saw it rise up in the tea pty in 2010, might it rise up in a different way this 2014? i'm not sure. but it is about winning re-election. house members are up every two years. which they always have been.
but you could -- we could talk a long time about the answers or nonanswers to that question. but it gets back to why we don't trust our government and public officials. congress doesn't work many days. only -- it's a very part-time congress. they pass fewer bills this year than any other congress in recent years. >> but politics -- there was an op-ed in "the washington post" by trent lot and tom daschle, both former senate majority leaders and we used to measure ourselves but what we could get done. and now it does seem like everything in washington is geared toward what you can stop. >> such a game of who got who that -- the email traffic from the political parties and the senator offices and even the white house and their allies, is always about look what somebody said. and isn't this really an outrage here? gwen: which brings -- >> about who's ahead and who's behind? gwen: this question from julie in illinois who's concerned about this basic idea that washington just isn't working. let's listen. >> i think right now, what
worries me most is the sense of divisiveness we have. and the inability of folks to see things from other points of view. it seems like we're becoming a nation of single interests. gwen: michael. >> i cite the great house district, prognosticator charlie cook who in his most recent rundown of the 435 house races in 2014, list exactly 14 that are tossups. 14. less than -- about 3%. and if you throw in the likelies and maybes you might get 20% at most. but this is now very typical. very few contests actually see -- are up for grabs. it's a highly divided map, political map. both parties have seen to it that all their seats are safe and not any races that matter but there's really no need for conversation. because we already know what we think. and we really just have to contest in the middle. and makes it all the harder because what money -- which is pouring into this and pours into a fewer number of races. >> what's striking, too, if you
look at the executive side of things, the last three presidents have all promised to bring people together. that was their pitch. president bill clinton famously talked about repairing the breach. president george w. bush talked about being a uniter and not a divider and president barack obama would be post partisan and reach across. and all three have -- breaking the fever and all three have either succumbed to the fever or been trapped by the fever or -- >> fed the fever. >> fed the fever, exactly. and become very polarizing figures in washington. gwen: time for one more thought. >> the real reason is there are so few districts now, redistricting that was done by computer, not done by political parties across the country, that is the way to break the fever to change the makeup of congress. you're seeing it in california and iowa now. if other states across the country start changing how they redistrict, i think that could break the fever. but don't look for it next year. gwen: that's the final thought but one more for you. do you see the fever breaking? in 2014? >> not in 2014. no.
gwen: well, that's optimistic. a way to end it. thank you for your questions and answers and thank you for your questions. we have to leave you a little bit early this holiday friday. to give you the opportunity to express your thanks to your local pbs station. that's right. it is pledge week. please be generous. but the conversation will continue here online on the "washington week" webcast. you can find it right there now at pbs.org/washingtonweek. join me for my monthly chat next thursday. you can go to our website and send me your questions. the news doesn't stop for the holidays. keep up with daily developments every day with me and judy woodruff on the pbs newshour and we'll see you again next week on "washington week." good night.
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