President Barack Obama talks with the TJMS.
Read full transcript below.
Tom Joyner: Big Chief?
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, man. (Laughter.) How you doing?
Tom Joyner: I’m doing good. How you doing?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am blessed. Are we already on the air, Tom?
Tom Joyner: Yes. I’m rolling.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, the reason I’m calling is just to say thank you. I’m saying thank you to you and the team, but most importantly to say thank you to the listeners because when I saw what was going on on Election Day, and just seeing everybody so determined and waiting in line and just not putting up with anything to make sure that we were able to keep moving forward on our agenda, I couldn’t have been prouder or more humbled. And I know that it was because of the efforts of folks all across the country volunteering, writing $5 checks, $10 checks. It just meant a lot. And I know I couldn’t have done it without you guys, so I wanted to let you know we appreciate you.
Sybil Wilkes: And we did it without any gifts, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: See there. We didn’t — (laughter) — well, let me just not touch that.
Tom Joyner: I know. I know.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me not go there.
Sybil Wilkes: I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me not go there.
Tom Joyner: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: See, the –
Tom Joyner: We’ll go there for you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But really, Michelle and I, we were talking after — on Election Night, and we were just so inspired by folks all across the country. And seeing the turnout in the face of a lot of adversity was really a meaningful deal; and I think also pointed to the growing maturity of us politically where we’re not going to just sit back when stuff happens. We’re going to go ahead and fight for it. It was terrific.
So I’m excited about a second term. And obviously, we’ve got to get through some of the issues right now that we’re dealing with, including this issue of the fiscal cliff, which basically just translates into a bunch of cuts in programs and tax hikes for middle-class families unless Republicans agree to go ahead and let tax rates increase for upper-income folks.
Tom Joyner: Okay, break it down for me in 144 characters like you did –
THE PRESIDENT: On Twitter.
Tom Joyner: On Twitter.
Sybil Wilkes: On Twitter. (Laughter.)
Tom Joyner: Talk to me and black people and tell us what is the [fiscal] cliff? How is — how will it affect black people, and what can we do to help?
THE PRESIDENT: Very simple. Number one, the Bush tax cuts lapse for everybody — not just the upper-income folks — at the end of the year unless Congress acts. So what I’ve said is let’s extend the tax cuts to keep taxes low for the vast majority of your listeners — 98 percent of folks — and let’s let them go up on the top 2 percent. All right, so that’s point number one.
Point number two, there’s this thing called the sequester, which is essentially a mechanism that was set up to cut an additional trillion dollars’ worth of spending, but that would have an impact on things like social programs, education programs, things that are helping people to find jobs and to get ahead and to have health care. And it doesn’t make sense for us to just cut stuff across the board. If we’re going to make some cuts, let’s make sure it’s cutting programs that don’t work.
And so all we need to do right now is for Republicans to agree to let taxes go up on upper income folks, just like I talked about during the campaign, just like the majority of Americans agree should be done, just like even the majority of Republicans think make sense. And if we get that done, then I can combine that with some smarter cuts that — on programs we don’t need, and that way we can fund things like education and job creation and all the things that we talked about during the campaign. So we’re having a — sort of a battle with Republicans who apparently didn’t pay as much attention to the results of the election as they could have.
But this is a solvable problem. It should not be a crisis. And the main thing that I need folks to do is just contact your members of Congress and say to people, don’t let middle-class taxes go up right now. Don’t let working people carry the burden of deficit reduction when millionaires and billionaires aren’t doing their fair share.
Sybil Wilkes: Is there such a thing as compromise, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there’s definitely compromise to be had. Look, I’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.
Sybil Wilkes: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: Some to programs that I would have liked to have kept. But I understand we’ve all got to make some sacrifices when it comes to deficit reduction. We’ve all got to recognize that some of our — the programs that we have out there don’t work.
Tom Joyner: How far apart are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think that — once Republicans agree to let the tax rates go up on the top 2 percent, like I talked about during the campaign, like the majority of Americans agreed to, once we do that, then I think we can get a deal.
Sybil Wilkes: Could that happen within the next couple of weeks before the end of the year?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sometimes in this town folks like to leave things to the last minute; but when it starts getting close to their Christmas vacation, then things open up. But we’ll see. I mean the one thing I will not compromise on is I’m not going to have the burden of deficit reduction borne by seniors –
Sybil Wilkes: On the backs of –
THE PRESIDENT: — who suddenly are paying higher Medicare, or students who are paying higher rates on their student loans while millionaires are keeping their tax breaks. That’s just not fair.
I am now in a position, as you are, Tom, we’ve had great, good fortune in our lives because a lot of people helped us along the way. We’ve been successful. We can afford to pay a little bit extra — a few thousand dollars extra — in order to make sure that that young person coming up behind us is getting the same opportunities we do.
Tom Joyner: Yes, I’m in.
THE PRESIDENT: And that’s — yes, and most people. And so why this is so difficult is sometimes puzzling to me, but we’re just going to keep on at it until we get it done.
Tom Joyner: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Sybil Wilkes: Are you going to nominate Susan Rice for Secretary of State?
THE PRESIDENT: The truth of the matter is that I haven’t made a decision on Secretary of State, and I’m going to make it on the substance. But what I don’t like is when somebody is singled out, like Susan, who has done an outstanding job on behalf of this country and who has carried the banner for America in the U.N., I don’t like her integrity or her capabilities questioned; particularly when of all of us here in the White House, she probably had the least to do with what happened in Libya and Benghazi than anybody else. So I just don’t like folks being treated unfairly.
I’ll make a separate decision about who is going to be Secretary of State, but regardless of whether I do or do not nominate her, I’m going to make sure that people know that she has done an outstanding job and represented America well.
Tom Joyner: Well, you got Syria now to deal with.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, listen, unlike winning the NBA championship or the NFL championship, when you win, you don’t go to Disneyland. (Laughter.) You come back to the office and –
Tom Joyner: Get right back to work.
THE PRESIDENT: — you got this big inbox full of stuff. (Laughter.)
But the main thing I wanted to do, let everybody know, put some pressure on your members of Congress — Democrat and Republican — tell them. In fact, if you tweeted you can use the hash tag #my2k. If you’re not tweeting, just get on — send an email or write a letter or make a phone call and just tell folks, the easiest thing we can do right now is extend the tax cuts for middle-class families so that 98 percent of Americans have certainty that their taxes don’t go up on January 1st.
If we at least get that piece done, then this whole fiscal cliff thing is not that scary. What gets scary is if suddenly everybody is seeing their money out of pocket, and consumers stop going to buy a car or buy an appliance or the other things that help drive our economy. That’s the thing that we have to really avoid. That’s what we have to watch out for.
Tom Joyner: All right.“
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. And listen, once again, I couldn’t be more grateful to you and all the folks who are listening because I know that you guys really invested a lot in my capability to serve for another four years. And I’m humbled by that and grateful. I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday.
Tom Joyner: Merry Christmas, sir.
Sybil Wilkes: Happy holiday to you too and the family.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, guys.
Tom Joyner: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: Bye-bye.
Tom Joyner: Bye.