Steve Chiotakis: The Congressional super
committee that's gonna try and tackle deficit reduction meets today for the first time. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, as it's called, will look for ways to knock off $1.5 trillion from the deficit.
California Congressman Xavier Becerra is a member of that super committee, and he's with us now on the line. Congressman, welcome.
Xavier Becerra: Steve, good to be with you.
Chiotakis: What's on the table as you head into these talks?
Becerra: Well, everything should be on the table, and from there, we decide what stays on the table.
Chiotakis: Democrats have been resistant to reforming Medicare and Medicaid; Republicans have been resistant to tax increases. I mean, is everything really on the table?
Becerra: Everything should be on the table, and before we start making cuts to important programs, we should make sure we're taking care of, looking at those that don't work. Not the ones that protect ordinary Americans like Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. Every tax program that's out there, every particular program under the Department of Defense -- no sacred cow should be left outside the door, and we should hang up our egos and those special interest pledges, and say we're ready to work on behalf of the American public.
Chiotakis: Is that realistic -- the "ego-hanging"?
Becerra: You know, Steve, if we don't do that, the moment that I see that one of my colleagues gets to protect one of his or her sacred cows, then I'm going to have license to do the same -- and before you know it, everything breaks apart. So we have to walk in there understanding that we can't afford to have couch potatoes on this super committee. And so all of us should be ready to roll up our sleeves.
Chiotakis: How are you going to get your party on board to get to the cuts that you really need to get?
Becerra: We've already seen close to a trillion dollars in reductions in very important services. I know that some of the senior citizen centers in my district of Los Angeles are already finding that they are closed one day more out of the week than before. And so there are people who are really suffering, and what we can do is make sure that we target appropriately, and stop this madness in the tax code that allows some 1500 millionaires to go without paying a cent in taxes. There is where most of the spending occurs without the public knowing about it.
Chiotakis: The committee's going to have until late November -- November 23rd -- to come up with a plan. If there's no plan, or Congress doesn't adopt a plan, that's gonna force these automatic cuts across the board. Is that the kind of outcome that you'd like?
Becerra: Well, no one wants to see the dull guillotine used to try to figure out how we find the savings that we need to reduce these deficits. And that's why I think all of us have this incentive to treat this like a "failure is not an option" proposal, because if we go in there believing that it's OK to just cut indiscriminately very important services, we're all going to face the guillotine come election day.
Chiotakis: Some Democrats, I know, have called for this panel to add policies that would create jobs -- not just reduce the debt -- do you believe that's a constructive goal? Will you push for policies that amount to some sort of job stimulus?
Becerra: Steve, it's not just a constructive goal. I think it's an indispensable component of a solution. There is no way you put America back on track if you've got 15 million Americans who are without a job through no fault of their own. Once you start to put those folks back to work, they start paying taxes instead of taking services; the Treasury starts to collect some of the revenue that it's been losing; we start to decrease the deficit. So, without a robust economy in the United States, it'll be nearly impossible to see the deficit shrink.
Chiotakis: Congressman Xavier Becerra, Democrat from California. Thank you, sir.
Becerra: Thanks, Steve.