So he’ll argue strenuously, and I’m sure we’ll have this debate in the months coming forward, that it is in the interest of all Americans, on Main Street and Wall Street, that we have effective rules in place that make sure we do not have a repeat of what we saw in 2007 and 2008.
Q Jay, the President has been making a very strong case against Mitt Romney’s form of capitalism as he practiced it at Bain Capital. Does the President believe that Bain Capital and the private equity measures that were taken there are significantly different from the ones taken by the Blackstone Group?
MR. CARNEY: I will -- the comparative is not the point here. The issue is -- first of all, when you’re talking about campaign ads and stuff, I would refer you to the campaign. What the President believes is that there is absolutely a place for a vibrant and successful financial sector, financial industry that includes private equity. The point is what vision would you bring to the job? What policies would you implement based on that vision? And a policy that leads to the creation of massive amounts of debt, to the withdrawal of profits and in the failure of a company or a state or a sector is not an approach that he believes would be healthy to replicate for the United States.
Q I get that. It's just that the campaign has been fairly critical of some members of the Blackstone Group for "betting against America," being "less than reputable," and also, obviously, against Bain Capital. But the President -- correct me if I'm wrong -- went to a fundraiser last night at the home of the president of the Blackstone Group -- Hamilton "Tony" James. And I guess my question is, just as an American, as a citizen, I don't understand which ones you're criticizing and which ones you're not. Because it seems like the ones you're criticizing are the ones that belong to people supporting Mitt Romney or affiliated with Mitt Romney, but the same exact types of organization -- in the case of Blackstone, the same exact organization -- if they support President Obama, then they're totally kosher.
MR. CARNEY: I think the distinction that you're failing to see, Jake, is one that the campaign, I'm sure, will be happy to spell out for you in more detail. But the issue is not whether businesses acting lawfully should maximize profits or pursue business appropriately. The President thinks that's fine and is a good thing and is healthy for our financial sector and our broader economy broadly speaking. The issue is what vision do you bring to the office? What policies would you implement? And are those policies informed by the vision and by your experience?
And as for
Q -- his ideas --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, I think we have to -- anybody who runs for office puts forward his or her ideas about what they would do in office. And I think that anyone who runs for office who says, not only do I want to -- as the Republicans in Congress say and others say -- not only do we think that the prescription for our economic challenges is to reintroduce all the policies that contributed mightily to the mess that we got into in 2008, 2007, but to double down on those policies; to not just extend massive unpaid tax cuts principally benefiting the wealthy, but maybe give -- well, actually definitely give the most well-off Americans significantly more tax cuts that are basically unpaid for, or how they're paid for is unspecified; an approach that says I was for those two wars and the fact that they were unpaid for under the previous administration, and this President is wrong for ending one of those wars and wrong for having a strategy to end the second war -- that's a debate that we'll have. But that vision is not the vision that this President believes is the right one for the country going forward.
Q That's not fair.
Q You just go with the same exact order every time --
Q That's so unfair. You call on the boys and then when it comes to Norah, you go to the back.
Q If you're going to move around, move around from the beginning. I think that's a fair way to --
MR. CARNEY: Fair enough. Norah.
Q Does the President agree that the next debt ceiling increase should be offset with equal amount of spending cuts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I addressed this question moments ago. The games that were played by House Republicans, the apparent glee with which some of them approached the prospect of the United States of America defaulting on its obligations, are not ones that this President is willing to entertain again. It's bad for the economy. But the proposition --
Q This is a simple question. This is a yes or no --
MR. CARNEY: The proposition that you just put forward was the very same proposition that was put forward last year. And we cannot hold the full faith and credit of the United States government hostage to a political ideology and to an approach to deficit and debt reduction that is not endorsed by anything like a majority of the American people, or even a majority of Republicans. So we're not doing that.
Congress should take action now on the items the President has put forward that can help this economy continue to grow, the items that can help secure the middle class, help homeowners refinance their homes, help veterans get jobs, help in a variety of ways to ensure that this recovery continues along the path that it's been going.
Q Does he believe that it should be -- the debt ceiling increase should be offset by an equal amount of spending cuts? No?
MR. CARNEY: The President does not believe that the full faith and credit of the United States, its commitment to pay its bills and its obligations, should be held hostage to a political ideology. And that is the formulation that you're articulating. Because this President has already signed into law non-defense discretionary spending cuts that bring that portion of the budget to its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. So this President's commitment to serious but sensible spending cuts is demonstrated not just in rhetoric but in law. He signed into law additional spending cuts that bring the total to $2 trillion, and he has put forward a deficit and debt reduction plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. But he's doing it in a balanced way.
What he will not do is -- and is absolutely confident that the American people agree with him here -- is have a repeat of the kind of political brinksmanship that House Republicans engaged in last year that caused harm to our economy. And I don't think anybody wants to revisit that. I think the idea that we might want to go down that road again suggests to me that maybe somebody wants to test the proposition that you can't get to zero in your approval rating. I mean, Congress tried last year -- it got to single digits. But perhaps they want to set a record. But the President is not going to enable them in that cause.
Q One more and then I'll -- to move on. But the President's challenger, Mitt Romney, today is accusing the President of fanning a prairie fire of debt in this administration, and talking also about the debt ceiling -- excuse me, rather the stimulus package as borrowed and wasted, we still owe the money, we're still paying interest on it. He says it was the biggest, most careless one-time expenditure by the federal government in history. Do you want to respond to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what's great about this is I know that the media that's covering statements like that will fully vet it and put it into context, because what it seems to me the governor -- former governor neglected to mention is that the greatest contributor to our deficit right now is the profligate spending by the previous administration -- two unpaid-for massive tax cuts that benefited primarily the wealthiest Americans, that Governor Romney supported; two unpaid-for wars that Governor Romney has said we should still be engaged in -- that we should not have ended the war in Iraq, for example, as the President did, that we should not have a timetable for ending the war in Afghanistan as President Obama has -- as well as other measures.
Don't forget that when the last Democratic President left office in January 2001, there were surpluses, budget surpluses as far as the eye could see. After eight years, not only were there massive deficits that this President inherited, there was an economic catastrophe unfolding in this country and around the globe.
What I didn't hear you say in the recitation of the critique was that the person giving the speech wants to repeat all the policies that helped lead to both those massive deficits and the greatest recession since the Great Depression. He wants to reverse the policies that this President put into place that reversed the cataclysmic decline in our economy, that now has us growing for 11 straight quarters instead of shrinking at 9 percent -- which we now know we did in the last quarter that the previous President was in office -- that has us creating private sector jobs for 26 straight months, more than 4 million private sector jobs created over those 26 months, more than a million in just the last six months -- compared to the 800,000-per-month job loss that this country was experiencing when President Obama was sworn into office, due in no small measure to the policies that had been in place in the previous administration and which the current presumed nominee of the Republican Party fully supported and endorsed at the time.
Chuck. I'm sorry -- Wendell. He was making all the noise so I was going to call on him, but I appreciate that you didn’t, so you’re next. (Laughter.)
Q In light of all you said about the economy and the President’s assertion --
MR. CARNEY: I could say more.
Q -- that the fall election will turn on the economy, what do you make on the new Gallup-USA Today poll that indicates most people feel the economy would be better off if Mitt Romney was elected and more people feel the economy would be -- will be worse off if the President is reelected?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ll say a couple of things. I think that poll also suggested that there was greater optimism about the economy that we’re experiencing right now, which I can recite to you the fact that under this President’s leadership, we took a situation that was -- had this economy in cataclysmic decline and reversed it and had it growing again, took a situation where the economy was shedding jobs at a rate of hundreds of thousands per month and have a situation where it’s now been growing jobs, creating jobs for 26 straight months.
What is absolutely true, what the President says every time he addresses this issue -- and he addresses it frequently and will continue to address it -- is that we are not nearly finished with this recovery, that we have work to do, and that many Americans are still understandably anxious about the economy that we have and about where it’s going for them personally and where it’s going nationally.
What I assume and am confident of is that the debate this fall will be about the economy and what vision is the right vision for the future. And as I think I’ve just discussed, the President believes strongly that we need to continue to make smart investments in our economy -- in education and innovation, in infrastructure -- to build the foundation that we need for the future in clean energy and other sectors. We need to do everything we can to secure and protect and grow the middle class.
I think that when you look at what the middle class went through even in the years immediately prior to the great recession, that even as massive tax cuts were being bequeathed upon the wealthiest Americans, the middle class was getting squeezed, seeing their income flat-line or decline.
There’s work to be done. And the President -- we understand, and the President fully expects and looks forward to a debate about what vision for our future is the right vision. And he’s confident that the vision that he has, a vision that he’ll continue to put forward, is one that a majority of Americans will believe is preferable to a vision that embraces the policies of the past and doubles down on them.
Q You say there’s work to be done. Clearly there’s work to be done putting people back to work. But do you mean there’s also work to be done persuading the country that the President’s vision is the right one?
MR. CARNEY: In terms of campaign strategy and how that is enacted, I would refer you to the campaign. The President will continue to talk about the things that we need to do now to help our economy grow, and he will continue to talk about the things that we need to do moving forward to help our economy grow and create jobs. And one thing I think we can agree on is that that is the focus that the American people have, and that will almost assuredly be the focus of the debate this summer and fall.
Q On another matter, the President’s first term is set to wrap up with more empty seats on the federal bench than there were when he started. There are 76 open seats now, only 30 nominees. Why so few judicial nominees?
MR. CARNEY: One thing we know for sure is that the pace of confirmations has never been slower. And --
Q It’s about the same as the previous two Presidents.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I disagree with that. And we continue to work with the Senate to get qualified nominees confirmed by the Senate as appropriate. We had some progress recently where a number of nominees both to the bench and to the administration were moved forward. And what I think is absolutely the case and indisputable, Wendell, is that we’ve never had a situation where nominees to whom no serious objection is put forward, nominees who clear committee overwhelmingly, nominees who are absolutely qualified for the post that they’ve been nominated for, are then held up interminably for political reasons. That's not how it should be. And we’ve obviously made the case against that kind of highly politicized behavior.
Q Jay, on the congressional meeting, you talk about all the short-term things that you want to do -- there’s no mention of tax reform, no mention of the end-of-the-year stuff, no mention of the sequester -- all of the things that sort of are going to create this six-weeks lame-duck-apooloza after the election.
MR. CARNEY: Did you coin that term? It's pretty good.
Q -- and others try all sorts of ends in "geddon."
MR. CARNEY: The problem with that is it’s going to take up a significant portion of 140 characters. So you want to shorten it up. (Laughter.)
Q But what is the -- now, obviously, me just asking the question, you’re going to say, sure, it might come up. But is that an agenda item at this point? Or is everybody just sort of fait accompli that nothing happens till the election?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that a number of subjects will undoubtedly be discussed tomorrow when the President meets with the congressional leadership. What the President is keenly focused on is the need for Congress to act on measures that could help the economy now, that could help provide greater security to middle-class Americans now, that could assist veterans returning from Afghanistan or returned from Iraq now. He has and is always prepared to discuss a broad and substantial vision for -- and budget document for how we need to move forward with our longer-term economic challenges. And as I think I’ve said quite eloquently today, the vision --
Q If you do say so yourself,
MR. CARNEY: -- the vision that he puts forward is one that's shared by a significant majority of the American people.
Q A tax code that's about to just explode in many forms with the expiration of all sorts of things is not of the same sense of urgency that these --
MR. CARNEY: What it is urgent and what most Americans feel is urgent is that we need to take steps to help the economy continue to grow, to help it create jobs now.
MR. CARNEY: The President’s position on all of these issues is well known. What has been a consistent obstacle to reaching an agreement on a broader sort of 10-year budget plan is, as you know, the refusal of Republicans to seriously accept the idea that we should take a balanced approach to our budget and deficit --
Q -- why you’re bringing the leaders in and why isn’t that what you guys are saying?
MR. CARNEY: -- the thing --
Q -- reforming the tax code?
MR. CARNEY: -- the same thing we’ve said basically, consistently now for 18 months or so, and these very same leaders have discussed this issue many times. I’m not saying that it won’t be addressed. But what there are -- what is on the table, what the President will put forward, is the ability of Congress to take action like it has earlier this year, in spite of the fact that it’s an election year, to work and achieve passage of -- work on and achieve passage of legislation that can enjoy bipartisan support, that did enjoy bipartisan support, the items the President has put forward should garner bipartisan support, and all of them will help the economy now.
There’s no question that on the broader sort of long-term vision for our budget and our tax code that that debate will surely be joined as the months progress. The President has a very distinct opinion --
Q -- seven months is a long time now --
MR. CARNEY: What the President -- the President put forward a budget proposal that could be acted on tomorrow if there was a willingness by Republicans to accept the basic proposition that a vast majority of Americans accept, that every bipartisan commission that's been appointed to look into this issue endorses, and that is that we need a balanced approach to deficit and debt reduction.
Q On Syria, quickly, to follow up on Dan’s question, is it fair say -- and we got all caught up in other issues -- when you sort of -- AP asked you this question and you sort of -- it seemed like you had a prepared -- that we are either reevaluating our policy -- is that a fair way to describe sort of how we’re dealing with Syria today, that it’s not working and we’re reevaluating? How would you describe --
MR. CARNEY: What I’ve said even prior to today is that, for example with the Kofi Annan plan, that we are highly skeptical that it will succeed because Assad has shown so little willingness to implement any of the six provisions within it.
However, it is important to continue to support that, which we do, because it has accomplished two things, which is some lessening of the violence and a framework by which we can continue to pursue political transition there, and a mechanism by which we’ll garner further international support for that kind of transition. But that's not -- I think our skepticism about Assad’s intentions is not something that I’m making clear for the first time today.
Q The political issues in Europe -- I’ll not say instability, but issues -- and losing maybe one of your best allies in dealing with international issues like this in Sarkozy, is this -- who are our leading partners in dealing with this?
MR. CARNEY: With Syria or with -- well, there’s a number of partners, both within the United Nations on the Security Council, within the broader context of allies and partners, and with specifically the group of Syria nations that we -- through which we pursue the policy objectives that I outlined earlier.
I think that what we’ve seen since the veto of an earlier resolution at the United Nations Security Council is a growing awareness of the fact that -- or recognition of the fact that Assad is the problem here. His refusal to comply thus far with the Annan plan only reinforces that. And I think that, as I’ve said in the past, that if that plan ultimately fails, that we will then return to the Security Council and discuss with members the steps that we need to take, as well as more broadly, with our international partners in the Group of Syria, measures that we need to take.
Q I just wanted to follow up on the questions about the debt ceiling. I mean, Speaker Boehner has clearly laid down his marker and you’re saying you don’t want to go through this same brinkmanship mess that we went through before. What are you going to do different to -- other than just say you don’t want to go through it -- to make sure it doesn’t happen?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you’re talking a hypothetical. The President signed into law the Budget Control Act, which was negotiated with Republican leaders including the Speaker of the House that extended the debt ceiling for a certain period of time. The whole country experienced the downside of the kind of brinksmanship that Republicans were willing to engage in, and the economy suffered accordingly.
The President is not going to do that again. It’s not good for the economy, it’s not good for the American people, and it’s not necessary. The full faith and credit of the United States government should not be held hostage to the political ideology of one segment of one party.
Q Well, when you say he won't do it, meaning what? The debt ceiling is going to be reached -- the new limit will be reached at some point.
MR. CARNEY: I have no prediction -- I’m not going to game out what’s going to happen eight months from now. What I will tell you is that we’re not going to engage -- it’s just there are things that we need to do right now, tangible things rather than political gamesmanship, but tangible things we can do to help this economy right now. And I think that one thing that most Americans vividly remember from last summer with I think great disappointment is the willingness of some, for reasons of ideology and politics, to play with the fate of our creditworthiness as the United States of America. That’s just not something the President as President believes we should be doing again.
Q If I can just follow up on what Dan was asking about -- the ABC interview. It seemed like the President -- and we can argue on how effusive he was -- but for our purposes here, does the President consider --
MR. CARNEY: Just between you and me?
Q Just you and me, yeah -- and the President. Does he consider Jamie Dimon a friend?
His point was simply that what has transpired in the last week or so -- less than a week -- only illustrates the need further for Wall Street reform, and that when a bank that Bloomberg or Reuters or CNBC and others has identified as a well-run bank, and a leader of that bank has been identified as a successful leader of a well-run bank -- when even that institution can make a bad decision that results in significant losses, it only reminds us of the need to make sure that we have the rules in place that are necessary to protect the American taxpayer from having to -- ever having to bail out financial institutions again like it did in 2007 and 2008.
Q Just a quick follow-on. You mentioned that he's met with him I think 16 times -- he's been at the White House -- six direct meetings with the President. But there seems to have been a shift and Dimon has certainly been critical of the Dodd-Frank reforms, its implementation. Does the President think that Dimon's criticism or commentary on Dodd-Frank has been helpful?
MR. CARNEY: Has been helpful?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President disagrees with those who argue that we don't need Wall Street reform. He disagrees with those who argue that --
Q But that's not Dimon's point. Dimon's point has always been there needs to be regulation. His point has been that the way that the Fed is interpreting the Volcker Rule has not been properly thought out.
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, the Volcker Rule and other rules that are being written out of the legislation are still in progress, so I can't go into great detail about that process, which is being conducted by independent agencies. Secondly, I think that what we saw in the last few days demonstrates the strength of the President's position that we need strong rules in place -- that we need a strong Volcker Rule, that we need strong Wall Street reform in place, and that those who argue otherwise are wrong, in his view. They're entitled to their opinion, certainly. But we have to have rules of the road in place that protect middle-class Americans, hardworking Americans from poor decisions made on Wall Street so that they're not left having to pay the bill.
Q So does the President believe that Dimon is wrong on Volcker?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President believes that those who believe that we don't need a Volcker Rule are wrong, or that we don't need a Volcker Rule that is strong enough to be effective are not -- he just disagrees with them.
Q Jay, can you clarify for me what the reason is President Obama won’t be going to the APEC meeting in Russia?
MR. CARNEY: Sure. As we made -- I think the President himself mentioned when he met with then-President Medvedev in Seoul, he will not be traveling to Russia before the U.S. election in November. We’re not able to travel to Russia because, broadly speaking, of our election process here and the calendar that imposes on the candidates, and one of those candidates is the President of the United States.
MR. CARNEY: But he looks -- I would refer you to -- well, I’ll have to take the question. I’m not sure. But he very much looks forward to meeting President Putin in a month in Mexico.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, Joe, and then Jon-Christopher.
Q Jay, today the Senate is going to vote on refinancing the Export-Import Bank. If they pass it, which seems likely, will the President sign it today?
MR. CARNEY: We do support that measure. We’ve argued that it is absolutely necessary to ensure that assistance is provided so that our exports can continue to grow, and we look forward to its passage. And I think it’s another example of what I was trying to say earlier, that there are things that we can do, working together, to help our economy grow now, rather than engaging in the kind of political posturing and fights that we’ve engaged in, in the past.
Q Do you suspect there will be, like, a signing ceremony or something --
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything for you on that.
MR. CARNEY: Jon-Christopher.
Q Yes. It seems that now the Justice Department is launching a criminal probe into the JPMorgan $2 billion trading loss. It could take it beyond the borders of the U.S. In light of these revelations and the upcoming G8 meeting, does the administration plan to discuss coordinating regulations to ensure that global banks simply don't move their risky trading out of the U.S. to another country?
MR. CARNEY: First of all, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to comment on either possible investigations or the existing one by the SEC.
As for that issue, I think I would refer you to the Treasury Department. I think we’ve long said that the G20 is the forum principally for this kind of broader economic discussion. Obviously, the economy will be a topic of -- a major topic of discussion at the G8, but I don't have anything specifically for you on that.
Thanks, all, very much.
1:50 P.M. EDT