Today's Q's for O's WH – 9/7/2010

From ABC News' Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: Your former budget director, Mr. Orszag, wrote in the New York Times today that the administration and Democrats should compromise with the Republicans in Congress and extend all of the Bush tax cuts for two years and then get rid of them. One of the reasons for that, he said, in terms of keeping the tax cuts in place, is, quote, "Higher taxes now would crimp consumer spending, further depressing the already inadequate demand for what firms are capable of producing at full tilt." So your OMB director is saying that if you guys go ahead with what you're proposing, which is allowing them to expire... GIBBS: I think -- I think Peter was mostly -- if I read the article correctly, I think Peter was mostly discussing the permanence of and the extension of those that involved the middle class. TAPPER: I'm -- but I'm specifically talking about this one... GIBBS: I understand what you're... TAPPER: ... on the -- on the middle-class part? GIBBS: Yes, I think, in all honesty, in reading the article, I think Peter had a congressional relations hat on, in terms of what political price Congress might have to go through to extend different things. That's not the viewpoint that the president holds. The president... TAPPER: Do you agree that higher taxes, in terms of the Bush tax cuts expiring, would crimp consumer spending? Do you disagree with that? GIBBS: I -- I think that if you make $250,000 a year in this economy, you're probably not putting off the purchase of a big screen TV. I -- I just -- I don't think your consumer demand is, if you make a quarter-of-a-million dollars or $400,000 a year in this economy, I don't think you're putting off the purchase of a new suit or a new car -- because you make $400,000 a year. If you make $40,000 a year, I think you're putting off a lot of purchases based on the fact that you don't have it, and that impacts consumer demands. TAPPER: So you disagree with Peter. GIBBS: Again, I -- don't -- I don't -- the way I read the article, Jake, is that Peter's not making that argument about the high-end tax cuts. He's making that argument -- that argument about the middle class tax cuts, which the president certainly agrees that not extending them will certainly have an impact. The -- the president will argue tomorrow that we should extend those -- extend those middle class tax cuts, and not doing so would most assuredly hurt our economy. But again, I -- I think if you're making $250,000 or $400,000 or $600,000 or $800,000 in this economy, you're not putting off the purchase of -- there's not a great crush on or pull-back in your consumer demand. That's -- this economy's not hurting people who make $800,000 a year. It's hurting families that are making $40,000 a year. TAPPER: If I could do a follow-up, there's a lot of polling out today, including ABC's-Washington Post poll that indicates more Americans feeling negatively about the president and his job performance, especially about the economy. For the first time, numerically more Americans think the president's policies have hurt the economy than have helped the economy. Why -- I assume you think that they're wrong -- why are they wrong? GIBBS: Well, look, I -- first and foremost, obviously, as I've said in here a number of times, there is and continues to be great frustration with where we are in this economy. Among those frustrated is the president of the United States.We've seen a -- we've seen a recession unlike virtually anything that anybody has seen in any of their lifetimes, and it's going to take, as the president will discuss on Wednesday, more than a two-year or less-than-two-year time period to get out of that hole.

That's why what he'll talk about, he believes, will continue us on -- on a road to recovery, but that that recovery will certainly take some time. And I think in the end this president and this administration will be graded on -- on what happens at the end of this road, not someplace in between. I think -- I'll be honest with you, I think the American people are not concerned about the president's poll numbers. I think the American people are concerned about whether or not they have a job, how they're going to pay their bills, the future of their children. I think that's what the American people are concerned about, and that's the task that the -- the president will spend every day worrying about. TAPPER: But a plurality think that what the president's doing is making matters worse. GIBBS: Again, I -- I think by virtually any measure our economy is in a better place than it was two years ago. Are there -- there are, I think, Americans rightly concerned about our debt and our deficit, and the president understands that and has taken steps to introduce a budget that includes a freeze on non-security discretionary spending. And, obviously, we'll spend a decent amount of time in the next many months going through the immediate and long term -- things that we need to do in the immediate and long term to get our debt and deficit under control.

-Jake Tapper

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