The Sequester Was Designed to Be Something That Everyone Would Hate – Jack Lew

United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew spoke with FOX Business Network’s (FBN) Peter Barnes about his new role and his plans for managing the government’s finances. Lew spoke about the sequester, saying, “Nobody thinks the sequester was the right solution; it was designed to be something that everyone would hate. Give it some time.” Lew also discussed why the path to a grand bargain budget deal has been so complicated, saying, “Everyone knows that we need to get there. They just don’t how to get there…No one thought that, at the end of this round of conversations, we would be here. If this was easy, we would have gotten it done in 2011 or we would have gotten it done in 2012. You don’t stop just because it’s hard.” He went on to talk about whether President Obama has given up on trying to balance the budget, saying, “My own view having been through the budget battles of the ‘80s, ‘90s and up until now, is if we can do the $4 trillion of deficit reduction that’s broadly understood to be needed to stabilize the deficit and the debt as a percentage of GDP, we then continue to work towards further fiscal policy in the future…There were deficit reduction efforts in the ‘80s, ‘90s, 1990, 1993, 1997. It took a lot of bites at the apple to get the job done. We need to take the next step.”

On how sequester is hurting the economy:

“First, the economic data that we’re seeing now is obviously from an earlier period so it doesn’t reflect the impact of sequester yet. I think we have to remember the sequester is different than either a government shutdown or the potential of default. It is not an on/off switch. Instead of being a cliff, it is more of a step stair to a bad place. We know that if the sequester remains in place the amount of spending that will be taken out of the economy will reduce GDP by about 0.5% from where it would have been and cost about 750,000 jobs from what we would have had. Now I would put an awful lot of energy into creating 0.5% of GDP growth and creating 750,000 jobs. I think there should be bipartisan interest in making sure that we don’t have that effect. Secondly the actual policy effects are real. They’re real in the defense world where it is not good for our strategic position in the world, that’s why you see senators like Lindsey Graham and John McCain interested in an alternative. It’s not good from a domestic perspective. A lot of the things you see around here are because we do the kind of research and development that keeps us at the cutting edge. We need to keep research and development going, we need to keep educating workers so that when there are 700 jobs they have the skills to fill them so we know there is a better way to get our fiscal house in order. Nobody thinks the sequester was the right solution; it was designed to be something that everyone would hate. Give it some time; I think we’re in an environment now where there is a constructive conversation going on. Every week we will see more and more of the impact of sequester and I continue to live my life as an optimist. I think that we come together from both sides wanting to do the best thing for the American people and that would be to have a balanced approach in the medium and long term to get our fiscal house in order and to have the kind of economic growth that will come from replacing the sequester.”

On whether the U.S. will get its triple-A credit rating back and whether Fitch and Moody’s will take away their negative outlook on U.S. debt:

“I am not going to comment on what rating agencies might or might not do. What we have to focus on is what are the economic challenges we face and why. We need to do a number of things. We need to take steps to have an economy where we are investing, creating jobs and improving the future for American workers. The truth of the matter is we know we need to do entitlement reform and tax reform. We need it for competitiveness and we know it on a bipartisan basis. It’s time to do it and it’s time to unleash the investment that I think will follow from a certainty that we’ve dealt with the challenge that everyone knows we need to address.”

On whether the President will incorporate some additional entitlement reforms in his next budget:

“I’m not going to speak to what’s going to be in the president’s budget, next month. But, I think it’s actually quite interesting that in these conversations, as the president has gone through in detail what he is prepared to do, what he was prepared to do, what was in his offers that he made when he was in negotiations, there’s been a pretty broad acknowledgement that he’s willing to do tough things like chained CPI. I’m not speaking to what’s going to be in the budget one way or the other. If there’s going to be a meeting of the minds, a meeting of the minds is going to come from recognizing that we each have to do hard things. We’re going to need to do some hard things on the entitlement side and Republicans are going to have to do some hard things on the revenue side. We’re going to need health care reform and tax reform and a balanced approach to finishing the job. You know, we’re more than halfway there. We’ve done $2.5 trillion of deficit reduction. First we did spending cuts, $1.5 trillion of spending cuts. Then we did some revenue, but not all the revenue. We’ve got some more work to do in the entitlement area and in the revenue area. And I actually think that we’ve been through this so many times that there is no mystery as to where the solution is. The problem is the process we need to get there. And I think the president has been doing a very effective job getting the conversation going.”

On whether President Obama could jumpstart the process of balancing the budget by embracing some additional entitlement reforms:

“We are in a point in the process right now where the House and the Senate are passing budget resolutions, they’re going to go to conference. There is a broad bipartisan sense in both the House and the Senate that the committees need to work, the regular order needs to work. The president is engaged to try and encourage that broad center to strengthen, to help get to a point. He’s made clear what he’s prepared to do and that’s been challenging some democrats to do more and some republicans to do more. I am not saying what will and won’t be in his budget but he’s not waiting for his budget to get the conversation going.”

On whether President Obama has given up on trying to balance the budget:

“He has made clear that we need to have a 10 year plan that does $4 trillion of deficit reduction that is broadly understood to be the level of reduction to stabilize our debt and deficit as a percentage of GDP. If we can do more after that, he’s not closing the door to keeping the conversation going. Let’s not put a bigger goal in the way of accomplishing a very important next step…We have a challenging road ahead to get our fiscal house where it needs to be. I think the challenge first is to stabilize our deficit and get to the point where we meet standards that are broadly and on a bipartisan basis understood to be a step on the way to balancing the budget. My own view having been through the budget battles of the ‘80s, ‘90s and up till now is if we can do the $4 trillion of deficit reduction that’s broadly understood to be needed to stabilize the deficit and the debt as a percentage of GDP, we then continue to work towards further fiscal policy in the future. You don’t stop but I think shifting the conversation now probably doesn’t speed up the progress of getting there. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we didn’t get there in one step. There were deficit reduction efforts in the ‘80s, ‘90s, 1990, 1993, 1997. It took a lot of bites at the apple to get the job done. We need to take the next step.”

On what the path is to a grand bargain budget deal:

“I think what’s important about this last week, 10 days is that a door has been opened. There’s a conversation going on a broad, bipartisan basis. There’s a much better understanding of positions. And I think there is an acknowledgement that the President is willing to do some very hard things and has been willing to do some very hard things in order to deal with our fiscal challenges in a fair and balanced way. Obviously, there’s more progress that needs to be made. This is not a negotiation, this is just as I say, opening a door. I’ve had the privilege over this last two months, of talking to literally half of the Senate in one-on-one meetings. I’ve had this conversation face-to-face with Democrats and Republicans. I think there is a growing sense that everyone knows where a balanced, fair deal is. Everyone knows that we need to get there. They just don’t how to get there. You have to start, you have to start by talking. You have to start by opening the door. And I think these have been good, constructive conversations. No one thought that, at the end of this round of conversations, we would be here. If this was easy, we would have gotten it done in 2011 or we would have gotten it done in 2012. You don’t stop just because it’s hard.”

Courtesy of Fox Business Network

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*