'Special Report' Panel on Whether White House Economic Numbers Reflect Reality

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from October 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I can say without fear of being contradicted by a responsible source that so far — so far — we have created over a million jobs. You know, the fact of the matter is we know that more jobs are on the way and will continue as we continue to spend out these dollars.


JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: "Without fear of being contradicted" might be going a step going too far.

Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Gentlemen, so the economy has lost 3 million jobs and we have 500,000 new claims in the last month. But the administration pointing together stimulus money claims it has saved or created at least 650,000 jobs, and as you heard the vice president say, perhaps a million.

One could be forgiven, Charles, for thinking the numbers are just a little squishy.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: A little skepticism here is in order. The official number announced by the White House for jobs saved is 640,329 — not 28, not 27 — three twenty-nine.

This is what you call comical precision: When an economist uses a decimal point as a way of showing that he has a sense of humor. These people have a sense of humor.

Here is what I want to know. Who is Mr. Three Twenty-Nine? Where does he live? What is his name? What does he do? Is he perhaps from Wazinki, Alaska population 170, on which the stimulus sprinkled $14.7 million — think of what you and I could do with that, Jim — in order to refurbish an airport that has a flight and a half a day, population 170; your tax dollars at work.

In fact, if there are any jobbed saved, it is because we bailed out a lot of extravagant, profligate states that were bankrupt and heavily overspent, particular states that are controlled by unions.

We bailed them out so that the frugal states, like Texas and others that had a balanced budget, the citizens of Texas are subsidizing through Washington the states that heavily overspent in the good years and are running out of money. That that's all it has done.

ANGLE: Juan, what is on your take on this?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I was just in Colorado and I must say Governor's Ritter out there, his budget is predicated on the fact that the stimulus money covered some of the budget shortfall for them. And the state would be in financial chaos without the stimulus money being there.

What we heard today from Governor Schwarzenegger in California, this is a very real plus for him in terms of managing that state even as that the state budget is a mess.

So on one level, you can say well, states that were more responsible, therefore, have to compensate and all that, and how much did we spend to create jobs. But I think the big point is that it is part of an economic team effort to somehow buoy this economy at a point of crisis, and help get out of this recession and create the positive psychic energy that allowed Wall Street to climb to 10,000.

And Wall Street has gone down a little bit today after the good news of this week, it went up a little bit and now it has gone down a little bit. But the point is that Wall Street is in a much better place now than it was easily a year ago.

ANGLE: Fred, you know, the governors often have nice things to say about stimulus money because it helped them, and it also helped them not have to fire state workers. One of the points President Obama made is that 90 percent of the jobs created would be in the private sector.

FRED BARNES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, that's obviously not true. Even the jobs they claimed to have created are mostly in the public sector, schoolteachers and so on.

And then there is a question whether these states would actually have cut these jobs in the first place. We will never know. You can say they're created and there are lots of reliable sources that would challenge what Joe Biden says on this and particularly everything, particularly on foreign policy.

But here is what I wonder about, whether the Obama administration is serving itself well when we have an economy that is in terrible shape and they're going around saying we're creating and saving all these jobs and that the growth in the third quarter of 3.6 percent, represents a huge recovery and good times ahead in our economy when half of that was created by the "cash for clunkers" program, which has now gone out of existence, and some by the first-time home buyers refundable tax credit, which I think expires next month.

And what's going to happen? The economy is going to be slower in the fourth quarter, in the first quarter next year. And going around pretending that things were better than they are with people — the one thing people know best of all is their economy. They know who has a job and who doesn't have a job. They know when it's bad. They know their own budgets.

And Obama has trying to tell them it is better than it is, is a mistake. They won't believe him, and particularly Joe Biden.

WILLIAMS: But can't you appreciate the idea that, look, we were in a really bad patch here, and the government took some temporary steps that have helped us get over. And it may be the case that we were giving the private sector a chance to recover, to get itself going, after that tremendous bust in terms of Wall Street and the housing market.

And it may be that the private sector is slow to get back in gear, and so we will have some slowdowns, Fred. But it's better to have done something than to have said we will just leave it and...

BARNES: Hey, don't give me that Obama stuff about well, it's what I did or doing nothing. That wasn't the alternative. That's a false choice.

The choice was between doing what the stimulus did, which is only spending and also having some serious tax cuts that would offer incentives to investment and creation of jobs. That's worked in the past.

WILLIAMS: A large part was tax cuts.

BARNES: No, no, the tax cuts were just handing money to people. Tax cuts that incentivized businessmen to invest and create jobs. That's worked for Reagan. It worked for Bush. It worked in the 60s.

WILLIAMS: But a large part of the stimulus package was tax cuts. Can you agree?

BARNES: No. We were just sending checks to people. And it has been quantified by economist better than Joe Biden that those had no effect on the economy whatsoever, nor did they have any effect when Bush sent them out in his administration.

KRAUTHAMMER: When the administration speaks about saved jobs, all the numbers are invented. But we have two hard numbers that are not invented: Unemployment, almost at 10 percent, and we know the stimulus has created $1 trillion of debt which is going to have to be repaid. It's not speculative. It's a hard number. We will have to either raise taxes or inflate our way out of this in the future.

ANGLE: Clearly when you spend hundreds of billions of dollars, you're going to create some jobs. You're throwing all that money out. The question is...

KRAUTHAMMER: But at a preposterous cost. Perhaps if you do a certain calculation, it looks like it is about half a million dollars a job or the current stimulus or the administration will shave it to a quarter of a million. That is still unbelievably inefficient.

ANGLE: Well, a number of people did calculations and a lot came up with like $240,000 a job.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, right.

ANGLE: These are not jobs that pay $240,000.

KRAUTHAMMER: Precisely. It is your tax dollars subsidizing a job of say $30,000 at the cost of a quarter of a million. It is not efficient.

Efficient is to reduce, for example, the rate of taxation on unemployment by reducing the payroll tax, or the taxes on small business. That would be a way to create income and jobs at a much more efficient rate.

WILLIAMS: There is one other option for you, Charles, which is that this economy could grow its way out of it. We don't have to cut taxes. It could grow.

And this money, it looks ridiculous when you say $230,000 per job, but what if it's building roads, what if it's putting in place infrastructure and ideas and allowing young people to get education that allows the private sector to grow?

KRAUTHAMMER: Think of the airport in Wazinki, Alaska.

WILLIAMS: You want to make fun of that...

BARNES: At the very least, the stimulus may have helped a little, but nothing like the Obama administration said it would. Remember in January we would have 8 percent unemployment? It is about 10 percent.

ANGLE: OK, next up, the Friday lightning round, and your choice online topic of the week.



PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am so proud to be here on behalf of a man who was absolutely committed to fighting for New Jersey's families and New Jersey's future, your governor, my friend, Jon Corzine!



ANGLE: There is the president out on the campaign trail during our Wednesday online show. You voted what topic we should discuss during the Friday Lightning Round. This week's choice online, President Obama's frequent campaigning and fundraising.

This is the Lightning Round, of course, so quick answers. Obviously, the question here is should the president be campaigning this much, or should he be in Washington more because of things like health care reform? I guess, Charles, it is a question of degree because obviously all presidents go out campaigning.

KRAUTHAMMER: I want him out there all the time. The less governing he does and more campaigning he does, the better it is for the country.

He is the best we have ever had out there in speeches. He dazzles. He is mesmerizing. Coeds swoon when he speaks. Let the governing be in the hands of a John McCain. He can do foreign affairs and budget cutting and it will be a great division of labor.

ANGLE: I remember one crowd that cheered when he blew his nose.

WILLIAMS: I remember that.

ANGLE: What is your take on this one?

WILLIAMS: Well, next week, he could take a real hit if he loses New Jersey in addition to what looks like a certain loss now in Virginia. So he has a lot at stake, and he wants to be very clear that he is standing with Democrats and I think sends a message to Democrats on the Hill that they better stand by him.

ANGLE: OK, Fred?

BARNES: Look, I don't mind him out there campaigning in either of these races, Virginia or New Jersey, and this is what presidents do.

What I mind is the speeches he gives at other times which sound like campaign speeches. I mean, he hadn't gotten over the fact that he's president yet, and in all his other speeches where he accepts no accountability for anything that has happened in the ten months he has been president and blames everything on Bush.

ANGLE: All right, let's move on to Iran, our second topic.

Just in the last day or so Iran's leaders have decided that they would reject a deal that was just accepted by their negotiators last week, which was to ship a lot of their enriched uranium overseas and then get it back from others.

Charles, it seems like every time Iran moves an inch forward, it then moves a foot back.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, this is beyond a debacle. This is a humiliation. Obama offered them a deal in which the uranium was shipped out. And they said, no, no, we will keep our uranium. You will give us new highly enriched are uranium and we will be happy. Of course, it undermined everything.

And worse, in the original offer, which is now rejected, we concerned the legitimacy of Iran's enriching uranium in the first place, which, for six years all of us in Europe and the U.N., et cetera, had opposed and passed U.N. resolutions against. So the Iranians have gained legitimacy for illegal enrichment.

ANGLE: Juan?

WILLIAMS: You know what, I think right now, the patience all around Washington is gone with Iran. So the question is how do we act? And we're still involved with negotiations, and I think what you're seeing on Capitol Hill now is giving the administration power to impose sanctions that would limit the sale of gasoline and petroleum products as well as cut off companies that insure anything that is shipped in and out of Iran. That's the way things are going in the short run.

BARNES: I'm not losing patience with the Iranians. I'm losing patience with President Obama. The Iranians will do what they always do. They play the delaying game and they will agree to this again and then they will disagree again. And look, they're taking the Europeans and President Obama for patsies, and they're getting away with it.

ANGLE: OK, final round here, everybody gets their own choice. What did you bring to the table, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: A paradox: The Pelosi health care plan says it's going to ensure 36 million uninsured. Well, her president had said in the grand State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress that he the number of uninsured in America is 30 million. So who are these extra six million? I suspect since Obama spoke about Americans and she spoke about people who live in the country, it could be illegal aliens. Just asking.

ANGLE: All right, quick.

WILLIAMS: Criticism coming from some for President Obama going to Dover to watch fallen troops return. I just don't get it. I think a president should, in fact, make such an effort and honor our fallen heroes.

ANGLE: Very quickly.

BARNES: I agree. If we had a parliamentary system of government, which many people going back to Woodrow Wilson have recommended, you know who would be the head of government right now? Nancy Pelosi.

Thank heaven for the guys who wrote the Constitution and didn't give us a parliamentary form of government!

That's your Halloween fear!

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a nightmare!

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