Paul O'Neill, Secretary of Treasury

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, November 9, 2001.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: He's not a happy camper. Earlier today, I asked Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill why he hated the Senate's version of stimulus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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PAUL O'NEILL, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: It's awful. It's not stimulus at all. It's spending more of the American taxpayers' money to buy bison meat to put in the government warehouses and giving people money to convert poultry waste into energy. You know, these may be legitimate things, but they don't have anything at all, Neil, to do with stimulus. They have to do with slopping the porks, and this is not a good idea.

CAVUTO: So you would prefer more tax cuts?

O'NEILL: Absolutely. What I would prefer is what the president said on October 5. We need $75 billion worth of stimulus. It ought to go to consumers to help them consume. It ought to go to employers to help them create jobs. The president's proposal would create 300,000 new jobs. I haven't found anyone who will even venture a guess as to how few jobs the thing that was done yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee would produce. My guess is it would produce so few jobs you can't even count them.

CAVUTO: All right, even if that's the case and the Senate as a full body votes along party lines, this is what's going to come out of that body. So they've got to reconcile with the House, and if it's closer to the Senate version than the House version, do you think the president would veto it?

O'NEILL: Well, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that what's going to pass in the Senate is what came out of the Senate Finance Committee. As a matter of fact, I saw something indicating even the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee didn't have a great feeling about some of the things that he carried out of his committee. And so...

CAVUTO: Nevertheless, this did carry along party lines, 11 to 10. I mean, that does not augur well for you, does it?

O'NEILL: Well, my guess, Neil, is hopefully this process will ultimately serve a good purpose and the Senate will go back and forth, maybe along partisan lines next week, and then will get serious and will get the right players in the room, and we will together respond to the president's call for action, which was clear as could be; would provide 300,000 new jobs, real stimulus to the economy. We need to do that.

You know, it's ironic in a way that the Congress has been almost unanimous in supporting the president, in prosecuting the war offshore. What some members don't seem to understand is that in order to prosecute the war offshore, the president needs a strong economy in the United States and we don't get there with the kind of partisan posturing that's taking place with what we saw in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday.

CAVUTO: Well, they charge, sir, as you know that there is a lot of pork in the House version of this, especially retroactive tax breaks for corporations. They say that cannot stand and that both sides are playing some shell games.

What do you say?

O'NEILL: You know, I indicated that I thought there were improvements that could be made in the House bill. It did contain the basic elements the president asked for. And I think you're right in the sense that we need to get something passed by the Senate, we need to get it into conference...

CAVUTO: By when? When, when, when?

O'NEILL: Well, you know, I'm impatient. You know, if I could do this myself, I'd do it tomorrow. I don't mind working Saturday and Sunday.

CAVUTO: But this isn't like your old days. This isn't like your old days, running an aluminum company in America. What now happens...

O'NEILL: You're right, Neil. But I tell you what, my standard produced a lot more value for a lot more people than this process seems to produce.

CAVUTO: So let me ask you this, if we don't have something by Thanksgiving, are we in trouble?

O'NEILL: I don't want to say we're going to be in trouble, but you know, it's not the right standard, whether we're creating trouble for ourselves. The right standard is, how close to perfect are we in how we execute public policy.

You know, the fact that we've had, I don't know, a very long time of settling for getting by doesn't mean that ought to be the standard for the American people. I don't find many American people who are envious of the wonderful level of performance of how the federal government works in producing legislation. So we shouldn't let ourselves off easy by saying this is not so bad compared to awful.

CAVUTO: Well, you know, it's funny, you have no problem using those words like awful and pathetic. This seems like the classic Paul O'Neill coming back, saying, "All right, if my critics want at me, have at me."

O'NEILL: Well, you may be right. You know, I didn't come here to compromise in the sense of going along because it makes you popular or people write nice things about you. You know, I don't have anything to prove, Neil.

I want America to be as great as its potential. And as long as I'm able to say what I think and the president agrees with me directionally in what I'm saying, I'm going to keep doing it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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