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Solving the Shutdown: What Can Taxpayers Do?

Aired October 4, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, after four days of shutdown, who's to blame?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Democrats have invoked my name as the root of all evil in the world.

ANNOUNCER: Who will blink?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should get this over with as soon as possible.

ANNOUNCER: Is anybody winning?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This isn't some damn game.

ANNOUNCER: On the left Stephanie Cutter. On the right S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Howard Dean, who supports the Democrats, and Jesse Ventura, who'd furlough both parties' lawmakers.

Solving the shutdown. What can taxpayers do? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

Whether it was a mistake or they meant it, the White House signaling to the "Wall Street Journal" that they don't care how long this shutdown goes on as long as they're winning, is a huge problem. Blaming Republicans may be good for business right now, but the American people have a short memory. If the White House doesn't lead soon, they'll find themselves in big trouble.

CUTTER: Well, you know, S.E., the president and every Democratic member of Congress have made it clear that nobody wins in a shutdown. Eight hundred thousand unemployed federal workers not getting a paycheck, kids not being able to go to Head Start programs, people not being able to get their mortgages or their small business loans. It's a disaster.

CUPP: It is.

CUTTER: And Boehner is trying to -- Speaker Boehner is trying to blame the president. And that's like, you know, you've set your house on fire and then you blame the fire department when it burns down.

CUPP: The buck has to stop somewhere.

CUTTER: It does, and it could stop right now. Speaker Boehner could bring the bill to the floor and pass it with bipartisan votes. Enough is enough. We could get this over with.

Anyway, in the CROSSFIRE tonight, two former governors, Democrat Howard Dean and Independent Jesse Ventura. He's the author of "They Killed Our President."

Governor Ventura, the first question goes to you. You called for a political revolution.


CUTTER: And what you mean by that is the American people should stop electing Democrats and Republicans?

VENTURA: Absolutely.

CUTTER: That's a very similar message to the Tea Party. Are you a member of the Tea Party?

VENTURA: Absolutely not.

CUTTER: And -- and what advice would you give them to be more inclusive?

VENTURA: I'm a member of no party, and I advocate for the abolishment of all political parties. And my allies are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Let's abolish political parties, make them political action committees. You could still get endorsed by a political party.

And where we could start: Why did they put the political party's name on an election ballot? Why not just the name of a candidate? See, it's far too easy. If you're conservative, you don't need to know who it is. You look for "Republican." If you're liberal, you look for "Democrat." This way it's inherent upon the voter to educate themselves: What does John Smith stand for?" when I go in to vote. Let's remove party off the ballot labels. That's a great start. It could be done locally, and all the states could start it, and it could spread like wildfire.

CUPP: Governor Dean, in 2011, you spoke about the potential shutdown then. You have this to say: "I wouldn't like a shutdown from a statesman's point of view, but if I were head of the DNC, I would be quietly rooting for it." I think a lot of Democrats are quietly rooting for the shutdown right now and thinking that it's good business. Where are you on this shutdown?

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: I don't -- I mean, I think the president is right: a lot of people are getting hurt.

Here's what the problem is. These compromises can be made. They're not supposed to be made by stamping your foot and refusing to fund the government. These bills were incurred by the people who are now refusing to vote to do so. The bills have already been -- the money has been spent, and it was approved by Republicans and Democrats. So for the Republicans to say, "We're not going to fund or debts that we already incurred so that you can give up more stuff that we couldn't get out of you in the normal elective process -- the normal legislative process," it's silly, it's childish, and it's not in the best interests of the country.

CUPP: But on the debt ceiling, most Americans agree that they want it attacked to spending cuts. If most Americans can understand that fundamentally attaching to the debt ceiling spending cuts is a reasonable thing to do, why isn't the president listening to the American people, if not Congress?

Because I think there are -- it's not so easy to understand how the budget works. And if the debt ceiling is not agreed upon and doesn't get raised -- look, I think we're spending too much money. I'm a deficit hawk, but if you don't fund our bills, you are going to precipitate not just an American economic collapse but a worldwide collapse.

CUPP: Isn't that a false argument? We're not talking about not funding our bills. We'll fund the bills and we want spending cuts.

VENTURA: Well, you know, certainly you can have your cake and eat it, too. Is that what you're saying? You can do all that?

CUPP: Yes. Why can't we do both?

VENTURA: Well, first of all, I'd like to say both of these parties are responsible for this massive debt. They've been in charge for 150 years. How do they run from that?

And they -- in fact, if they -- if they ran their home finances the way they've run the government finances, they'd be bagless homeless people living on the street right now.

DEAN: Sounds pretty good to me. Put them in the depot. Cut off their pay (ph).

CUTTER: I think lots of people think the same thing, too.

But back to the -- whether or not Congress should vote on a clean debt ceiling in increase to pay for -- to make good on their debts, as Governor Dean said, that they've already obligated the American people to. Do you think that we should be playing games with that? Should we have a clean debt limit bill?

VENTURA: Absolutely. I've always been one to advocate all bills should be clean.

CUTTER: Right. VENTURA: Enough of this nonsense of amendment to bills. I worked hard for my four years in Minnesota. And had I sought reelection, I wanted unicameral, single-house at the state level. Because in a single-house legislature, if they're going to make an amendment to a bill, it has to go out to the full floor for a vote before it can be amended on the bill.

Many times you may have a great bill, and then they put three or four horrible amendments on it, and that puts you in the predicament, do I pass the original good bill with three horrible things attached to it? I think everything should be clean. Let's end amendments to all bills unless they apply to that specific subject.

DEAN: I don't actually agree with doing that, but with the basic principle that Jesse's talking about is a very smart principle. Because what has happened is the Congress in particular, and Washington in particular, although it happens to a certain degree in state capitals, has become all about the members of Congress.

Now, the fact is, those seats don't belong to the members of Congress. They think they do. They belong to the people that put them there. That's the real problem. Things have to be changed dramatically. And I am looking for some really dramatic changes, and I'm willing to entertain some of these ideas that have not been considered mainstream ideas, because I think the system is clearly broken.

VENTURA: Well, at the federal level, you need two houses. I'm not saying unicameral at the federal level. I'm speaking only at the state level.

DEAN: No, but the amendment stuff I thought was very interesting.


DEAN: Here's -- a guy can't -- or a gal can't get something done. They make a deal, so they tack something on some -- and the bill is so important that they can't say no to the bill, so something that most people don't want gets in the bill. It's classic.

CUTTER: It's also how the government shut down. That's how we got this government shutdown.

DEAN: But I do think that -- I do think that the financial stuff has to be off-limits. You cannot fiddle with the credit of the United States, and you cannot fiddle with whether we ought to pay our debts, which we -- I mean, this is the thing that drives me crazy. Boehner has been speaker for, what, three years? He's incurred these things. They pass continuing resolutions with Republican votes. This is their bill, and they refuse to pay it.

CUPP: But do you think -- do you think President Obama is going to let the country default just so...

DEAN: No. CUPP: ... he doesn't give Republicans what they want? He won't. No way.

CUTTER: It's not up to him. Congress has to pass a bill.

DEAN: No, no, here's the problem. You cannot put this in the legislative mess.

CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: You cannot -- Yes, he's absolutely not going to compromise. This is not about compromise.


DEAN: This is about the core principle, is do you refuse to pay the bills to get your way? That's what this is about. There is no compromise here.

CUPP: Do you think...

DEAN: There are things you can do, but not in the universe of the debt ceiling or the continuing resolution.

CUTTER: I agree. And do you agree with that also?

VENTURA: Absolutely.

CUTTER: That we shouldn't be playing games? Because the last time we played games with it, it cost us a trillion dollars.

VENTURA: Yes. It's ridiculous. And it shows me, too, that in the typical fashion these two parties, they put their party first, they put their money people second, of who contributes to them and pays them off in the system of bribery, and we, the people, might be third. Something else could sneak in in front of us, too, maybe.

DEAN: I have a two-second story.

CUTTER: Oh, great. I love stories.

DEAN: I do a lot of work abroad, and I do work in Ukraine.


DEAN: And so I get an appointment with the chief of staff of the president of the Ukraine, who's not exactly Mr. Democrat, shall we say. So I -- and the chief of staff is terrific. She's an economics professor. She's really very fluent in English.

So I'm explaining to her why it's not such a good job to get too -- couldn't get too close to the Russians, because you have to watch out, and why we need them to be more transparent, because they don't want to end up like Belarus. You know, all the -- I'm sticking them all the nerves. And then I started lecturing them on campaign funding, and I started to explain why they shouldn't allow oligarchs to fund campaigns, and then I go, "I'm really sorry, Madam Chief of Staff, but I can't give this, because our court just legalized oligarchs running American parties."

VENTURA: Exactly.

CUPP: The pot calling the kettle.

DEAN: Yes.

VENTURA: And to me what should happen there is I'm for unlimited campaign finance, just open disclosure.


VENTURA: And it should all go directly to the candidate. None of these outside entities playing the game. That way the candidate is responsible.

Like say I ran, and let's say, for example, Vince McMahon wanted to give me a million dollars.


VENTURA: That's fine as long as I openly disclose, so that the public knows, well, he's going to be doing a few favors for Vince McMahon, or he's doing a few favors for Mark Cuban, who's a friend of mine, if they were to do that sort of thing. So I'm not for any limitation as far as that goes, but there must be full, open disclosure, and it should be the candidate who is responsible for that disclosure of every cent spent.

DEAN: I'm on the other end of that -- that spectrum. I'm public financing and strict limits is what you can accept. But I do -- also do agree that these PACs have no -- corporations are not people, and if they are, let them pay the same income tax bracket that everybody else pays.

CUTTER: So back to the fight that's going here -- on here in Washington. Governor Ventura, you have been in the ring and have had your share of...

DEAN: All kinds of rings.

VENTURA: Remember now, though, that's ballet with violence.

CUPP: OK. Fair enough. I'm not sure there's much ballet here.

VENTURA: That's how I describe my -- well, that's how I describe my former profession of 23 years ago.

CUPP: Vince McMahon's ears are ringing.

VENTURA: It's ballet with violence.

CUTTER: Well, do you think the fight the Republicans are trying to wage now: shutting down the government over Obama care, was worth it?

VENTURA: Absolutely nothing.

CUTTER: Is this a fight they can abandon?

VENTURA: I mean, let's look at these Democrats and Republican elected congressmen and senators. They get an option, they themselves, of four health-care plans they get to choose from, and they won't let the people of America even have one?

I mean, my -- How they get there, I don't care. But my belief of this great country is if you're sick, you should have the ability to go to the doctor. It is that simple. However they want to deem to pay for it, but that should be our lifestyle here that we should work for. Because we're allegedly supposed to be the greatest country in the world, and yet we have people that, when they're ill, can't even go to the doctor?

DEAN: So I'll answer your question in a different way. Is this -- is this worth it to the Republicans to do this? So Democracy for America, which came out of my campaign, is now run by my brother, has had a campaign for the last two days. They have signed up over a million people to make phone calls to get rid of the people who are blocking the government. A million people.

CUTTER: I'm on that. I'm on that list.

DEAN: Yes, you're on the DFA list.

CUTTER: OK. Governor Ventura, you may remember this commercial from 1998, your race for governor in 1998. Coming up, I'll ask if we'll see it again in 2016.


ANNOUNCER: A man who will fight to return Minnesota's budget surplus to the taxpayers, who will fight to lower property and income taxes, who does not accept money from special interest groups.



CUTTER: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're four days into the government shutdown. And amid all the angry rhetoric, here's something refreshing to see: some advice from one of my favorites, rock star Bono, to CNN's Fareed Zakaria.


BONO, ROCK STAR: You know, we only had one idea, really, our organization One, which was to work with both sides, not to be held hostage by ideology on the left or the right, but actually to find a radical center, not a soft center. A tough-minded center. But that's been our strategy.


CUTTER: In the CROSSFIRE, we have Howard Dean and Jesse Ventura.

So it's Friday, the end of a very long week here in Washington. I think the American people are pretty angry. The government is shut down, not working for them. Governor, you have even said that we shouldn't pay taxes while the government...

VENTURA: I believe that since the government is partially shut down, they should be prorating our taxes, so at the end of the year, we'd get a reduction for however many days it's shut down. Because we're paying for goods and services we're not receiving.

CUPP: I love that idea. Howard Dean, would you agree?

DEAN: Technically no, but I'll go you one better. The only reason because the cost of ramping down and ramping back up would eat it. But here's what I think...

CUPP: But philosophically, you're kind of into it?

DEAN: I'll tell you what I believe. I don't think that they should be paid.

VENTURA: Absolutely.

DEAN: I don't see why they should get one -- why these guys should get a single paycheck while nobody else is.

CUPP: And a number of them, we've pointed out, are donating pay.

DEAN: This is certainly not an essential service, believe me.

CUPP: Right. A number of them are donating their pay. And that's become something of a political...

VENTURA: Are they really?

CUPP: They say they are, to charity.

VENTURA: Well, good. When they go to do it, let's have them show on their tax return that they donated their pay and to whom.


VENTURA: Probably donating their pay to their wife or husband.

CUPP: Governor Dean, you're -- you're a physician. And I remember back in 1983, 20 years ago, you said that being a physician gave you a healthy distrust of bureaucracy. I think that is fascinating, considering where we are today. Isn't letting government panels decide what kind of health care you need, isn't that really scary bureaucracy?

DEAN: It's not really that -- it doesn't really exist. It exists in some ways. And I've written about it. CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: And I don't think that far via the bills. One of the things in the bills I didn't like.

CUPP: The iPad.

DEAN: The iPad. But that's pretty high-end technical stuff.

CUPP: Right.

DEAN: And the reason I don't like it is not -- is because it's not going to work, but that's not -- I'm for this bill going through. I think, you know, what we voted for, or what the Congress voted for, is essentially a core decision to leave -- to have universal health care, but to leave it in the private sector.

CUPP: But it's mandated.

DEAN: Yes. That's right. There's an individual mandate. I wasn't for that. I wasn't for that, either. But -- for a long series of very complicated reasons.

But what they've done is a system that could work. There aren't any cross controls. OK, that needs to be done. And the way to do that is to get rid of fee-for-service medicine. It's a very long, complicated discussion...

CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: ... which I know you're not going to have here. You get -- The reason you need to get rid of fee-for-service medicine is we get paid to do as much as we possibly can. We don't get paid to keep you healthy. We only get paid when you really get sick. That is a crazy system.

So -- but there's things that can happen with this -- the Obama care that are going to be good. First of all, you're already seeing a whole people who really were in trouble able to get insurance. Second of all...

CUPP: We don't know how many yet, actually.

DEAN: We don't know how many.

CUPP: A lot of people visited the website. We don't know how many people actually bought the product.

DEAN: We've heard anecdotal stories. That's right. So that's a good thing.

Secondly, we know this model works, because it worked for Massachusetts. No cost controls, but 98.5 percent of all the people under Governor Romney had health insurance.

So I think -- I think this thing ought to be tried. I think there will be some improvements as we go along. But this is what we chose. This is what we chose in the Democratic process. I didn't get my way.

CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: I would have allowed anybody who wanted to to sign up for Medicare.

CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: That didn't happen. I didn't win, but this is going to do some good things. And the private sector is going to be innovative and create something out of this that's going to work.

CUPP: Do you think that President Obama has been an effective leader through this mess from Obama care and the shutdown, now to the debt ceiling? Has he been an effective leader on this?

VENTURA: Well, I -- I would probably have done the same thing, because I wouldn't allow myself to be -- to be forced into doing something like what they're trying to do.

And you know, when it gets to the health care issue, I'm not -- certainly not an expert like the doctor is. You know, I listened to him to help learn what is this all about?

CUTTER: Failing (ph) you, yes.

VENTURA: And so I'll learn from him on that. But it just seems to me, come on, out of all the industrialized nations in the world we are the only one that doesn't have health care?

Let me read something from my book that applies to this, and I'll get it quickly. I should have really marked it right away. But -- and it's very, very -- OK. Listen to this:

"There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, fourth in labor, fourth in experts. We lead the world in only three categories: number -- the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, so we have the most people in jail. Yet we're home of the brave and land of the free. The number of adults who believe angels are real. And finally, defense spending, where we spent more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are our allies."

Let's cut defense spending a little bit. Stay out of wars and we'll have more than enough money to insure everybody in this nation of health care.

CUPP: Governor? Your response?

DEAN: You know, I was reluctantly for the sequester, because it would cut defense spending. The reason the defense spending should be cut -- we probably don't have all that similar views on how defense spending ought to go. But there's -- I think we can agree that there's an enormous blow to bureaucracy in the Pentagon.

And here's what happens: the defense industry is smart. They have plants in huge numbers of districts of the congress people. This is a bipartisan problem. They don't get cut. And the generals go and tell the president, no matter who the president is, or who his generals are, that "If you don't put this weapon system in, we could get blown up tomorrow by XYZ." What president is going to say, "Yes, I don't believe you."

So yes, I think -- I think. Is this a declaration?

VENTURA: No. I would say -- I would say I don't believe that.

DEAN: So I clearly think that they need to be under the same budgetary constraints as everybody else. Because there is waste, and I'm perfectly happy to let them pick out what the waste is, but there's clearly waste.

CUTTER: So I want to talk about a pretty incredible moment that was caught on mike this week that -- on an open mike this week that explains why we're not reaching some of the goals that you laid out. Why we're not doing the best that we can. Let's watch.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), TENNESSEE: I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for that, but now we're willing to compromise, I think they can't -- we, I think -- I know we don't want to be here, but we're going to win this.


CUTTER: So that's Senator Rand Paul telling the minority leader in the Senate, don't compromise. Keep the government shut down until we can defund Obama care. That sums up the problem we have here in Washington. Doesn't it?

VENTURA: I think so. Especially on this particular issue, and like I said, it's already been passed. It's the law.

CUTTER: That's right.

VENTURA: How can these guys defy the law? The law is passed. Both houses passed it.

CUTTER: Do you think they're afraid it's going to work?

DEAN: And the Supreme Court said OK.

VENTURA: Yes. The president signed it, and the Supreme Court said it's fine.

CUTTER: And there was a presidential election on it. Do you think they're afraid of it working?

VENTURA: Yes. And the thing they need to remember, this is -- this is Obama's legacy. So if it's so bad, why don't they hang in with it?

CUPP: You don't think there is a contingency -- there is a contingent of Republicans who fundamentally believe that Obama care is a moral hazard that will bankrupt the country? You don't believe that there's any authenticity anywhere?

VENTURA: I think these wars will bankrupt the country a whole lot more.

CUPP: That's another question.

VENTURA: A lot more than Obama care will.

CUPP: A fair point but it's another question.

VENTURA: And I bet you they -- I bet you they would all vote to go to war. In Iraq, they had no problem.

CUPP: But you're saying -- but you're suggesting that every Republican who opposes Obama care does so, simply because it has the president's name on it and because they actually think it will work.

DEAN: I actually think that there are probably a few people worried about the deficit. I think in the Republican Party, there is such a hatred of Barack Obama that, in fact, they are motivated more by hate than what's good for this country.

CUPP: Do you think that that's a productive thing to say, though? I mean, let's talk about rhetoric. We have Democrats calling Tea Partiers anarchists and jihadists. Harry Reid actually apologized today for the lack of civility. What good does that kind of rhetoric do when we're all trying to get to a place of compromise and agreement?

DEAN: Because it's -- because it's the truth. I've never been seen before in a -- seen before in politics where there was a whole crew of people on the Republican side, or any side, who deny that the president of the United States was an American citizen. This -- you know, you've got to call this what it is. This is hate. It's anti- immigrant. They're anti-gay. They're anti-secularists. And I don't think we can give in.

CUPP: Let me just -- let me just show you as just a point of -- point of evidence here. I am a Republican who is an atheist, who is pro-gay rights, pro-gay marriage.

DEAN: Sure, and...

CUPP: There are plenty like me.

DEAN: There are.

CUPP: There are plenty like me, and it's incredibly irresponsible for you to paint an entire party, and in fact more than half the country with that kind of brush.

DEAN: S.E. -- S.E., they're doing that themselves. I'm not painting that way.

CUPP: They writ large are not. I will grant you that there have been some bad messengers in the party.

DEAN: You're doing it? Have you had Ted Cruz on this program?

CUPP: I don't think we have had him on.

DEAN: Well, anybody who has put Ted Cruz on there is essentially advertising that as the spokesperson for the Republican Party.

Now if the Republicans want to say it's not so, let them have the spine to stand up to that. I haven't seen any of that.

CUPP: Republicans -- OK, Republicans like me stand up to that all the time. There are plenty of Republicans who are rational...

VENTURA: I can't figure out how you're a Republican after what you just said.

CUPP: Well, I am.

VENTURA: I would think they would alienate you out of that party quick.

CUTTER: I think we need...

CUPP: There are plenty of fiscal conservative who are strong on national security. I happen to be pro-life. Who are not the radical anti-everyone that you have made them as.

DEAN: I agree with that. I used to get 35 percent of all the Republican vote when I was running for office, because I was pro- business. This is not the same Republican Party that my father was...

CUPP: But these are Republicans that were elected to do exactly what they're doing. These are Republicans...

DEAN: I do not...

CUPP: ... whose constituents don't like Obama care. What would you have them do? Break promises?

CUTTER: But at the same time, they don't want to shut down the government over Obama care. That's the problem. They might not like Obama care, but the American people do not want the government to shut down over it. Get over this. It's the law of the land.

CUPP: A lot of things are the law of the land, and thank God we continued to fight over them.

VENTURA: As the independent here...

CUPP: Yes.

VENTURA: ... I'm fiscally conservative, and I'm socially liberal. That's why I can't fit into either party.

CUPP: Well, and that's fine.

DEAN: Obama is socially liberal, too.

CUTTER: OK. We've all laid out -- we've all decided to start our own party.


CUPP: Wait. We can't let either of you go yet.

VENTURA: Governor, you should be lining up with me then. Not with the Democrats.

CUPP: Quickly, yes or no: Are you running for president in 2016?


CUPP: Are you?


CUPP: Oh, maybe. OK.

Thanks to Howard Dean and Jesse Ventura. We'll be right back.


CUTTER: Well, I'd say it's been a pretty good show.

CUPP: Absolutely.

CUTTER: It got a little hot.

CUPP: Very.

CUTTER: The debate continues online at, as well as Facebook and Twitter. From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp. Join us Monday for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.