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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - December 17, 2010

JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

JIM LEHRER: The tax cut law -- or the tax cut deal is now the law of the land. And is all well in America as a result?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I think you can already feel harmony and tranquility is griping the continent.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SHIELDS: A couple of things.

I mean, victory legislatively and all that -- not the toughest vote in the world, Jim to stand up and say, I'm going to ask you one thing, Jim Lehrer. Could you cast a vote to cut everybody's taxes?

Mr. President, only because it's in the good interest of the country will I do it. I know it's my patriotic duty.

I mean, we haven't reached the point where a president has asked us to cut anybody's spending or to raise anybody's taxes. But, that said, I thought that the best analysis was made by Peter Welch, the Democratic congressman from Vermont, who said, too much debt, too few jobs.

And I think we all hope that it is going to generate economic activity. But I think there is an overlay of skepticism among many Democrats.

JIM LEHRER: David, President Obama, speaking of Democrats, is getting most of the credit for this having been passed. Does he deserve it?

DAVID BROOKS: He deserves some. I mean, it is an easy thing to spend, tax cuts. But you have got to crawl before you can walk. I mean, we haven't seen a lot of signing ceremonies with Mitch McConnell standing there with President Obama. So...

JIM LEHRER: This, in fact, may be the first.

DAVID BROOKS: That is a good point. I hadn't thought of it. Yes, it could be.

JIM LEHRER: Yes, yes, yes, in the two years of the Obama administration.

MARK SHIELDS: Kentucky Derby week, I think.

DAVID BROOKS: Kentucky Derby week, yes, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. So, no, I think, you know, think about what the tone would be like if this hadn't -- if they hadn't been able to reach this deal, if we have a Republican Congress, very aggressive, very confrontational coming in.

I think this has changed the tone a little. I think it has at least opened the crack for future compromise. As to the substance, I don't think it's going to be a big stimulus. But I think, if we had raised taxes -- it might have averted something.

Now, frankly, I'm -- I think is a good deal. It is probably good for the economy. It will probably create a little boost. I have spent a lot of the week in New York with business and financial people. And maybe they are living in a bubble, but the mood there is way more confident about the economy -- or optimistic -- than the mood here.

JIM LEHRER: What do they say?

DAVID BROOKS: That things are opening up, that the Christmas season has started out pretty well. They are suddenly saying, we have had this period of contraction. Everything is tamped down. But now they have a feeling of release.

And, if that's true -- I hope it's true -- then this will look like a mistimed stimulus. But we can't be confident of that. I think the projections are still slow growth. But maybe they are right. But I was really struck by the complete difference in tone between Washington conventional wisdom about the economy and New York conventional wisdom.

MARK SHIELDS: Could I just make one dampener on that?

JIM LEHRER: You may.

MARK SHIELDS: And that is that, Jim, the law, if it was allowed to go forward, would have resulted in taxes being raised, especially on the wealthiest. There was no way that taxes were going to be raised on middle-income people.

And, if two years away from an election, there wasn't the will or the backbone to do that, can you imagine seriously, on election year 2012, when this expires, that, when the Republicans are in control of the House, that you are going to stand up and say, now's the time to increase taxes?

I mean, that's the fear, that these tax cuts have been made permanent.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

MARK SHIELDS: And what we're talking about is, in the short space of five years, that the interest on the national debt will be -- the interest will be larger than the defense budget is today. I mean, that is a -- that is such a sobering and really scary prospect. And I think that's part of the...

DAVID BROOKS: That's why -- I mean, my hope is that it will all be subsumed in a larger, a much larger, debate, a big tax reform debate, a big spending debate.

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