Debate over immediacy of debt crisis

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, fair and balanced, the Democratic congressman who says Mark Levin is off his rocker.

South Carolina Democrat Jim Clyburn says, yes, that the president and the speaker are right, the debt is not an immediate crisis.

Congressman, I don't know -- $3 billion added to our debt each day strikes me at the very least as a grenade with the cap off, no?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, D - S.C.: Well, you know, thank you so much for having me, Neil.

You may recall, I was a member of the so-called Biden group, where we had 10 meetings, bipartisan meetings. I was on the super committee, 12 people, bipartisan, six and six, when we met and met and met, and we could not reach a deal on the so-called big deficit reduction package.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

CLYBURN: But we know that we do have a problem with spending.

But we have a problem classifying spending as well. I think it's spending when you give tax preferences to people and corporations who don't need it. You are spending money. So what we have got to do is get serious about expenditures, where they're being made, come up with a fair and balanced approach to try and to get something done.


CAVUTO: But do you think unless we do, Congressman, that we are -- say what you will of whether what you characterize as spending is spending or not. But I have heard that argument. I will talk about whether it represents an immediate crisis now that, regardless of what you call it, when we are spending in excess of a trillion dollars more than we are taking in, that is not sustainable.

Now, to say that is not an immediate crisis begs the issue, when would it become an immediate crisis?

CLYBURN: Well, you and I are probably on the same page with that.

But some people, immediate would be tomorrow morning. To others, immediate might not be until July or even September.


CAVUTO: Well, I think, Congressman, immediate to me, given the fact that we pile on $3 billion a day to our debt, is now, this very hour, this minute. What say you?

CLYBURN: Well, not so much when it comes to the budget.

As you know, many things -- there's a lot of lagging in a budget. And I do believe there's a lot of lag time here. We have some immediacy when it comes to the end of this month, some things we have got to do. And we need to do that in order to keep the government running.

Now, the question is, do we need to pay all the debt in that time? I don't think so. I think that we will see over in Europe now what happens with these austerity programs when you don't do things in a way that is balanced, when you don't have investments vs. cuts in such a way that things are not disturbed.

CAVUTO: Well, you're not seriously thinking, Congressman, anything we're doing hints of anything approaching austerity here.

I think it's safe to say we don't have to worry about that here because nothing I see hints of dramatic cuts in spending. At best, we're wrangling with each other over the size of the increase in government programs. Right?

CLYBURN: But I dare say that if we were to adopt the Ryan budget, that's exactly where we would be. We see these draconian cuts in that budget. You see him voucherizing...

CAVUTO: But they're not draconian cuts if they're just moderating the growth in some of these institutions, right?

CLYBURN: Well, that's true. That's true.

CAVUTO: We just got off the whole thing with sequestration, Congressman, where everyone was whining about $85 billion in supposed cuts, half of which were really in the outer years, in a budget north of $3.6 trillion, in a debt approaching $17 trillion.

If that's draconian, then I guess I'm Twiggy.

CLYBURN: No, you know, that's why I have been advocating that we take a different look at how we do this budgeting, because we're calling things permanent if they're done within 10 years. I don't know that we have to have a 10-year fix on things in...


CAVUTO: But, I mean, 10 years is at least a goal. I think it's an unrealistic, arbitrary one, but at least it sets a blueprint. Right?

CLYBURN: That's true.


CLYBURN: But, like you say, unrealistic and arbitrary. And I really believe we ought to get real.

CAVUTO: But that doesn't mean you give up the venture and the hope, right? You don't just stop doing it.

CLYBURN: Oh, sure. Yes, you keep hope.


CLYBURN: But you don't have to, as you say, be unrealistic about it.

It's one thing to say I want to do this in 10 years. It's something else to say, well, the real benefit comes in this 13th or 14th year, but we're not going to calculate that in our budgeting.


CLYBURN: And that's why I think we have to really get real about what we're doing, how we're doing it, because the American people don't need to be subjected to all these manufactured crises.

CAVUTO: Well, I don't care if you're on the right or left, Congressman. I love you to death having you on. I always appreciate having you on.

But, to me, when you're taking on $3 billion in debt each day, spending a trillion more than you're taking in each year, it's an immediate threat. It's an immediate threat. But we can respectfully disagree.

CLYBURN: I agree. I agree with that.

CAVUTO: All right, Congressman. All right.

CLYBURN: But is 90 days immediate or is it 120 days immediate?

CAVUTO: No, I think it's like now. OK?


CAVUTO: But, Congressman, thank you very much.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much.

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