President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Don Ward, KKTV, Colorado Springs, Colo., in the Cabinet Room of the White House, June 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
During an exclusive interview, President Barack Obama spoke with 11 News anchor Don Ward about the national economy and Colorado’s role in the upcoming election.
Colorado is a swing state in the upcoming presidential election. According to two recent polls, by Rasmussen Reports and Politico, the President is splitting the Colorado electorate with GOP candidate Mitt Romney. Both are supported by about 45 percent of voters.
The President says he is not worried that Colorado, and much of the nation, appears to be divided. “I think that's a healthy debate to have and ultimately the great thing about democracy is the American people will make these decisions.”
When Don Ward asked about the state of the economy and how critics view the progress during his administration, President Obama cited statistics about recent successes. He reports that over 4 million jobs were created during the last 27 months, including 800,000 in the past few months.
Still, the President acknowledged that more could be done. “ I think people, understandably, want to make sure that going forward over the next four years, we continue to make progress,” he said. “We want to see Colorado's economy continue to grow and the country's economy to continue to grow. But, when we've gone through what we've gone through, nobody's going to be completely satisfied, least of all me.”
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado’s unemployment rate during the recession peaked at 9 percent between September and November 2010. The unemployment rate in April of 2012, the last month for which data was available, has gone back down to 7.9 percent.
“What we want to do is continue to build on the progress we've made in restoring the auto industry, an energy economy where not only oil and gas production are up but we're also seeing a doubling of clean energy, that's the kind of approach I think Coloradans want to see, and so we're going to keep on building.”
Obama plans to cut a trillion dollars this year, in addition to 1 trillion he cut last year, in an effort to reduce the nation’s deficit by 4 trillion dollars with a lot of additional spending cuts. Most of those cuts, he clarified, are not defense cuts.
In another interview in Washington D.C., Republican National Committee communication director Sean Spicer, questioned the President's record on debt. "We just crossed $15 trillion in debt and we've had 4 years of record deficit budget submitted by this president," he said. "He has no leg to stand on when it comes to deficit reduction."
In addition to the spending cuts, Obama wants to tax the rich. “If we do those two things, if we've got a balanced approach, there is no reason we can't solve this problem.”
Don Ward: Mr. President, Colorado is a battleground state, it was in 2008, it is now. You had 54% in '08 and you won. Latest polling shows you & Romney at about 45% right now. Some of the support you had then you don't have now, what happened?
President Obama: Well, the worst economic crisis since the great depression and we're digging our way out. I think people, understandably, want to make sure that going forward over the next four years, we continue to make progress, that's why we announced, for example, the investments we've been making in rural economies and small businesses because we want to see Colorado's economy continue to grow and the country's economy to continue to grow. But, when we've gone through what we've gone through, nobody's going to be completely satisfied, least of all me.
Don Ward: A lot of people expected progress quickly, it hasn't necessarily come. How do you answer critics about that?
President Obama: Well I think if you look historically, if you have a financial crisis of the magnitude we have, it takes a lot to dig yourself out of that hole. We've seen some progress, over the last 27 months over 4 million jobs created, 800,000 just in the past few months alone. What we want to do is continue to build on the progress we've made in restoring the auto industry, an energy economy that's booming with an all of the above strategy where not only oil and gas production are up, we're also seeing a doubling of clean energy, that's the kind of approach I think Coloradans want to see, and so we're going to keep on building, not only on our strategy for immediate job growth, but also for long term job growth, which involves education, infrastructure, making the investments we need to make sure we can succeed for the next generation.
Don Ward: Companies say they're afraid to hire right now, in a way because of uncertainty, how do you reassure them that now is a good time? The deficit is a huge problem, experts say it's going to take increased revenue and spending cuts to fix the problem. Your critics say you're not willing to acknowledge the depth of cuts that need to happen other than the defense.
President Obama: Actually, I signed 1 trillion dollars worth of cuts last year, another trillion that are slated to happen this year and I've put forth a budget that would reduce our deficit by 4 trillion dollars with a lot of spending cuts, not just defense cuts, they're actually more non-defense cuts than defense cuts. What we haven't gotten is cooperation from the other side that says we've also got to ask people who are doing very well, folks like me, to pay a little more in taxes, go back to the rates we had under Bill Clinton in the 1990s. If we do those two things, if we've got a balanced approach, there is no reason we can't solve this problem. The challenge we've got is the Republican Party right now says we're not going to ever raise taxes, even on millionaires and billionaires who can very well afford it. In the absence of that kind of revenue it is very hard to get that kind of deal that the vast majority of American people think is the right way to do it.
Don Ward: Let's talk about that for a moment, because we are a nation divided right now, Colorado is a divided state. It seems like the two sides are so far apart right now that neither side is even able to acknowledge that the other side might be right about anything.
President Obama: I have to disagree with you on that. I think that, I've said, we got to make sure we cut out waste in the government and we've done so. I've said we got to make sure we don't have regulations that are stifling growth, we've done an evaluation, all the regulations are out there and eliminated regulations that don't make sense. The truth of the matter is ,the American people aren't as divided as the pundits would say they are. It's true that the parties are divided right now but it's not because my administration hasn't constantly reached out to them. Even my health care bill, something that has generated a lot of negative attention on the Republican side was modeled on the health care bill that was passed by their current Republican nominee, so obviously it wasn't too far out, it was something that in the past would have been considered a fairly mainstream centrist bill, I think that this election will offer us a clear choice in terms of whether we want to pursue a path that says the only way to grow is tax cuts for the wealthy and stripping away regulations for things like the environment, or are we going to take a path that says we're going to have a balanced approach to the deficit reduction, we're going to make sure we are making investments in things like education that are really going to ensure our long term competitiveness and I think that's a healthy debate to have and ultimately the great thing about democracy is the American people will make these decisions.
Don Ward: I asked the president about the nation being so divided right now. He said it’s not as divided as it appears and that his admin has been reaching out continually to the American people and that even his healthcare bill, which has gotten so much negative attention from the republican people, is modeled on one proposed by their nominee right now say your response to that.
Sean Spicer: I think when the bill was passed, you had speaker Pelosi say you need to pass this bill to see what's in it. This was not an example where they reached across the aisle and worked with Republicans on several of the ideas they had developed. They had a super majority in the senate and in the house, did exactly what they wanted to do with little to no input.
Don Ward: But I guess he's going back a little further than that and says the idea of it is based on similar ideas to the Massachusetts plan.
Sean Spicer: Right. I think the difference in that, there's an individual government takeover of healthcare that is not something that is supported nationwide. It's one thing to look at an individual state and say what's best for Colorado, what's best for Utah, what's best for Cali but I think President Obama made his mistake when he said I'm gonna make this apply to every state, required for every citizen. That's a whole different philosophy.
Don Ward: I asked him about the deficit and the need to cut spending in addition to raising more revenue. He said he's already proposed trillions in cuts and he's recognized cuts are necessary beyond just defense. Your response?
Sean Spicer: Well, I think the United States credit rating has been downgraded for the first time ever. We just crossed $15 trillion in debt and we've had 4 years of record deficit budget submitted by this president, he has no leg to stand on when it comes to deficit reduction. The deficit and the debt continue to rise under his watch.
Don Ward: They say when this issue comes up. The mantra that I must've heard: the worst recession since the great depression. The worst in any of our lifetimes. Primarily inherited from the previous administration.
Sean Spicer: I think, we don't elect presidents to blame people. We elect them to lead. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he ran for office. He made it very clear day 1 that he had a very serious challenge and he said "If I don't have this done in 3 years it's a 1 term proposition.” We’re here to hold him accountable for that.
Don Ward: but he said he's had no cooperation in the efforts he's put forward.
Sean Spicer: Let's go back again: This president for the first two years of his administration had a super majority in the house and the senate. His first priorities were ‘Obamacare,’ card check, climate change - everything but getting the economy working again and dealing with the deficit. So for two years he got everything he wanted, it just wanted the things the country needed.
Don Ward: He says now he has Republican lawmakers who will not raise taxes period.
Sean Spicer: I think that the republicans ran two years into his term and said ‘hey, we have a different direction we want to go job creation, reducing the debt’ and he doesn't like that. But again, they were similarly elected with a mission to do what they were told by their voters, which is to get people back to work and get our debt and deficit under control.