On Monday, President Obama proposed a new tax on millionaires as part of his plan to close the deficit and responded to opponents who have labeled his plan “class warfare.” Republicans have vowed to defeat the tax, even as one in six Americans live in poverty. We speak with Rev. Jesse Jackson about how Obama’s plan also includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. “I would think, before we end up at that conclusion, we must go after where the money—where is the money?” Jackson says. “The money is in the four wars. The money is in corporations not paying their share of taxes. The money is in the banks.” Jackson says he supports the “Occupy Wall Street” protests underway now in New York City. He also discusses the pending call by Ralph Nader for a primary challenger to Obama and the pending United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
Amy Goodman: Reverend Jackson is still with us. President Obama spoke on Monday, proposing a new tax on millionaires as part of his plan to close the deficit. Obama responded to Republicans who have labeled his plan “class warfare.”
President Barack Obama: This is not class warfare. It’s math. The money is going to have to come from someplace. And if we’re not willing to ask those who have done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit, and we are trying to reach that same target of $4 trillion, then the logic, the math, says everybody else has to do a whole lot more. We’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor. We’ve got to scale back on the investments that have always helped our economy grow. We’ve got to settle for second-rate roads and second-rate bridges and second-rate airports and schools that are crumbling. That’s unacceptable to me. That’s unacceptable to the American people. And it will not happen on my watch. I will not support—I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.
Amy Goodman: President Obama in the Rose Garden on Monday. Reverend Jesse Jackson, the millionaires’ tax and one in six people in poverty in this country?
Reverend Jesse Jackson: You know, I felt the strength coming through in that statement we’ve been waiting for for a long time. Not only should the wealthiest Americans who are on the deck of the ship pay their fair share, but the unnecessary war costs and corporations. We’ve got CEOs making more money in salary than their corporations are paying in taxes, plus they’re getting a refund. We bail out—
Amy Goodman: Do you support these protests on Wall Street that have been taking place over the last few days?
Reverend Jesse Jackson: Absolutely, because, in a real sense, we bailed out the banks, without length and lending of the reinvestment. We would not put the Glass-Steagall back on. So they have a choice between investing and lending. They choose, foolishly, investing, or risk investing over lending. I must say that when we are—in December, the Bush tax cut extension amounts to more money than all the state budget deficits combined. So it seems the President is about to draw a line in the sand that’s good for all of America.
Amy Goodman: Yet Obama’s plan calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Reverend Jesse Jackson: Well, to me, that is the risky part of it, because I’m not sure that that is necessary, because some Americans are doing better than they have ever done before. And while unemployment is rising, the safety net for the poorest Americans, Medicaid, public hospitals have been overrun. Medicare seems very threatened. And I would think, before we end up at that conclusion, we must go after where the money—where is the money? The money is in the four wars. The money is in corporations not paying their share of taxes. The money is in the banks. Those who have the most must share the most.
Amy Goodman: What do you think of Ralph Nader’s call for an opponent to President Obama in the Democratic Party?
Reverend Jesse Jackson: Well, I hope that we would not do that. We’ve been down this road before. We went down this road. And in some sense, that’s how Gore lost his campaign to Bush. It was a protest that got unintended consequences. I would hope that we would not give up on President Barack Obama.
Amy Goodman: President Obama is not far from here today. He’s in New York, United Nations. A big challenge for him today, a big, historic vote that’s expected this week is around Palestinian statehood. What are your thoughts?
Reverend Jesse Jackson: He can win the technical fight by vetoing the Palestinian resolution, but not win the global fight, in the sense that you have a case where the Palestinians ought renounce violence and the Israelis ought to renounce settlement expansion, and neither is inclined to do that. Somehow, if an honest broker can convince the Palestinians to renounce violence, it’s a big step in the right direction, the Israelis to renounce settlement expansion, a big step in the right direction, but that’s the lock right now. And I would hope that we would know that. The vote will take place. The Palestinians will win the propaganda war. They’ll set a new climate in the world community. It may not move the needle, however, and technically. But the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians must not give up and wait another year before they get back to the table.
Amy Goodman: Do you think Israel should have to renounce violence, as well?
Rev. Jesse Jackson: I think all parties should renounce violence. There is no future in violence. In many ways, the expansion of settlements is a form of economic violence. Bombing and killing innocent people, a form of economic—a form of violence. Let’s renounce the violence. Get back to—and when Mr. Netanyahu says no preconditions, well, the precondition should be, if we in fact renounce violence and stop settlement expansion, then we can talk about how to coexist, live and let live, and choose—and ultimately choose land for peace, and then to work on—they’ve learned to survive apart. Now they must learn to live together. And I think neither has the strength—I don’t think Israelis nor Palestinians have the strength to trust each other. There’s been so much hurt, so much hate. The U.S. must be the honest broker, that both can invest in us when they cannot invest in each other. But we must be an honest, strong broker to in fact break the cycle of pain and fear.
Amy Goodman: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you very much for being with us, founder of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and former presidential candidate himself.