This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 15, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARTHUR BROOKS, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The top five percent of earners in this country earn about 37 percent of all the income but pay about 60 percent of all the federal income taxes. The bottom 50 percent of earners earn about 12 percent of the income and pay about three percent of the taxes.
KEN HOAGLAND, ONLINETAXREVOLT.COM: We the people are taking our government back and we're taking our country back.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID, D-NEV.: When Republicans ran this town, they gave tax breaks to CEOs. As we know, many of those jobs were shipped overseas and struggling families were told no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: The Bush tax cuts did take a lot of different households across the board dropping tax rates. There you hear the Senate Majority Leader earlier in the week.
But this is Tax Day. On the mall here in the nation's capital, Tea Partiers hit the mall and they ended a 23-state Tea Party express bus tour. There you see some of them.
The big issues, obviously — smaller government, lower taxes. It's a big deal. It's all around the country. And this is Tax Day.
Let's bring in our panel — Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. What about this battle on this day, Steve?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's interesting to watch not only the evolution of the Tea Parties themselves but the evolution of how they are treated by the elite.
Remember when the Tea Parties first started this was a fringe group and they were angry and a bunch of kooks. And then people gradually understood that they were our neighbors, and in the case of Congress, their constituents.
And now you have a New York Times/CBS poll that finds out one in five people are Tea Party supporters. And they've become so popular that people like Nancy Pelosi says she is sympathetic to the Tea Parties and left wing group trying to infiltrate the Tea Party to discredit them because they've become so powerful.
I think this is a group that existed for awhile. We talked about it before. We've seen Republican Party identification drop in polling over the past 20 years, and conservative identification, those who self-identify as conservatives when asked by pollsters has remained constant.
I think the tea-partiers are largely this group of people, people who describe themselves as independents and describe themselves as conservative but are not yea-rah Republican Party types. But they are a powerful group and Republicans do well to listen to their complaints especially on a day like today.
BAIER: Juan, Rasmussen has a new poll out saying 48 percent of people say they polled identify or agree with the ideas of the Tea Party in general.
JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: The polling has shown about 30 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Tea Party in general, about 25 percent a negative view. Most people don't have a strong idea who they are.
This is no one person that you identify with the Tea Party apart from Sarah Palin, some people say maybe Dick Armey. But in terms of an organized effort within the hierarchy, it's not there. It's a grassroots movement. On that score I want to echo something that Steve was saying, that this is not something you can easily marginalize as a bunch of kooks or racists, and I say that sitting here as a black man. I think it's a mistake for the Democrats. Steve talked about it being a mistake for Republicans to marginalize them, but I think it's mistake for Democrats to write the group off or try to silence them saying, you know, you speak about the worst instincts in America. Certainly some of their signs have been offensive, especially the signs describing President Obama. But if you are talking about smaller government, lower taxes, if you are talking about not trusting American leadership both here in Washington and on Wall Street, the Tea Party people are speaking for main stream American angst about what is going on in our country. When you see 60 to 80 percent of Americans saying we're headed in the wrong direction, the Tea Party picked up that passion. The "New York Times" poll, though, does suggest the folks are richer than most, better educated than most, more white male than most, and they're Republican. So I think that Steve is on to something when he says maybe these are people who are disaffected from the Republican Party and are looking for some new outlet.
BAIER: You say the Democrats are making an outreach, but is there any hope to get Tea Partiers to sign on to Democratic —
WILLIAMS: I said the Democrats will be making a mistake to marginalize them.
WILLIAMS: But I think you're right. If there was some way — but it's hard, because these are people who I think identify with Republicans in some ways and certainly identify as outsiders at a time when President Obama and the Democrats run Washington.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that liberal outreach has about as much chance of success as the Obama outreach to Iran. So I'm not sure it will happen anytime soon, because these people, what is so interesting about them is it is so idea driven. It's not self-interest driven.
As we saw, it's not the caricature as the press had it as the disaffected, the poor, the losers, unsuccessful, racist, ignorant, uneducated whites, which is exactly what you heard all of last year when it wasn't ignored. It turns out they're middle class slightly above the mean in education and income. But they represent a philosophy. It's libertarian. It has three ideas. It's against high taxes, against the intrusiveness of government, and in a larger sense it's kind of a constitutionalist idea. There really is this notion of liberty and that somehow expansion of government especially since liberals have taken over in the Senate and White House has pushed the taxes higher, the reach, and the power and the extent of government. And it's a betrayal of the American social contract. These people oppose America becoming a social democracy like Europe, and they like the traditional idea of the more independence and less good government coddling and cradling of the population.
WILLIAMS: I think you are overstating the case, Charles. These are people — remember, they are up there in age. And I think their concern when it comes to it is health care —
BAIER: You can't paint them with a broad brush.
WILLIAMS: I think they were over 45 in the "New York Times" poll, overwhelmingly. Am I right?
BAIER: Yes, but you look at it the crowds out there —
WILLIAMS: Right, but I think they are an older, whiter group, and when they think of taxes and Medicare and they say this healthcare plan is going to cut my benefits and it might help the minorities or Obama's concerned about those people, I think there is a strong sense of self- interest, not just principle here.
There is nothing wrong with self-interest.
KRAUTHAMMER: What I'm saying that the idea of constitutionalism is not a rousing one that you expect, but you see it in the signs and the features and all of the ways in which they explained to themselves. And that in and of itself is interesting and rather novel.
BAIER: The underlying expansion of government, concern about the debt, and that taxes eventually will have to go up to cover it all is what is —
HAYES: Absolutely. They see, and this goes to Charles' point. They want to return to constitutional republic, because they want to see the America they grew up with, the one they knew and love and those principles enshrined in the constitution disappearing.
BAIER: One thing your tax dollars pay for — the space program. next up, the president tries to sell his new space plan on the space coast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space than I am.
But we've got to do it in a smart way. And we can't just keep on doing the same old things that we've been doing and thinking that somehow is going to get us where we want to go.
EUGENE CERNAN, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Everything in that budget is undefined. There is no focus. You are not going to get in space in three years or build a manned spacecraft. You have all the infrastructure in mission control, simulators, the training — it doesn't make sense to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: President Obama down at the Kennedy Space Center today announcing increase in the NASA's budget over the next five years of $6 billion, but also saying the Constellation Program in place will be canceled. To do that, that costs $2 billion.
Where are we in the space program and what the president is talking about? We're back with the panel. Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: We are seeing the abolition of the manned space program. When Neil Armstrong speaks out, that is an event. This is a guy who is the most self-effacing American hero in our history. He could have been Lindbergh and he became J.D. Salinger.
And now he speaks out in an open letter together with Cernon, the last guy that walked on the moon, and James Level, the commander of Apollo 13. And they say the program that Obama has cancelled is essentially the end of man in space. It turns NASA into an R&D agency for pie in the sky ideas like having humans on asteroids and ends its role as the agency that actually gets us into space and lower in orbit and back.
Obama spoke about we have done the moon so we are going to do asteroids and Mars. This is total pie in the sky. On what rocket with what space capsule and with what simulators and what training program? There is nothing here of substance.
And when Kennedy committed us "in this decade," as he said, he meant within the presidency he intended to be, he expected he would be president until January 1969. Obama is talking about 2025, 2030. All of this is total speculation.
And what it does is it ends our human dominance in space, which we had for 50 years. We have no way to get into earth orbit. We will have to hitch a ride on Russians who are charging us extraordinary rates and are only going to increase that.
BAIER: We should point out that astronaut Buzz Aldrin is supportive of President Obama's plan.
But here is what Neil Armstrong said, Juan, in the letter. "It appears we will have wasted the current $10 billion plus in constellation and equally importantly we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded," saying that the constellation program would take them to the moon and then onto mars. What do you think?
WILLIAMS: I think that Buzz Aldrin is right. We have been to the moon. It's 40 years ago I guess, or longer that we have been to the moon. I don't know going to the moon is exactly a priority in terms of our spending today being Tax Day. What are we spending tax dollars on?
So the Obama program is much more focused on allowing private enterprise and putting NASA in a position to facilitate private enterprise making use of space and going to places where there will be a return for American people. I think that is a smart move. I think that is the direction the space program needs to go in. It's not a matter of ceding anything to the Russians or the Chinese, not at all. It's about efficient use of our resources to make the best use of trying to go into space and find out exactly why we're there. Not just go there for the sake of yes, we're back on the moon. I don't know that that is worth it at this point. It is worth it if you say there is a reason we are on asteroids or taking people in space or we're able to launch specific satellites that help us in terms of our economic growth.
HAYES: Juan, the hardcore libertarian for privatization. I'm actually sympathetic to the argument that Juan makes. The problem with what the president has done as he emphasizes a transition, a partial transition to more private use, private space flight, what he has done is increased the budget. The budget doesn't go down.
So if you talk of privatization you need to actually have the other side of that which is less spending on this. Over a decade we're likely to spend $200 billion on NASA. There are things that NASA does well that are important. There are a lot of things that NASA doesn't do well that are not important. I think in time — this won't happen I think under the Obama administration, but it would be nice if we had a top to bottom review of what NASA does and what it's functions are and start to privatize those things that a private market could do better.
BAIER: From a libertarian point of view, $2 billion to shut down constellation? We have already spent a lot on money on the program.
HAYES: But the question is would you spend another $50 billion on a program that's over-budget and wasn't working the way it should have been working?
KRAUTHAMMER: All the private stuff is complete speculation. We're ceding certainty of access into space. We are not going to have it. The Russians will have it. The Chinese will have it.
We spent tens of billions on the space station and spend three decades in constructing it. We're not going to have any way to get there. It's a Russian station and a Chinese station. And we'll look up in a decade and it will be a lunar space on the moon and it's not going to be Americans on it.
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