The McLaughlin Group

Issues: Fighting Poverty / Presidential Election / US-India Relations

John McLaughlin, Host
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast
Clarence Page, The Chicago Tribune
Tom Rogan, National Review/Opportunity Lives

Taped: Friday, June 10, 2016
Broadcast: Weekend of June 10-12, 2016

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ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP, the American original. For over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: Issue One: Policies on Poverty.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): According to the Weingart Center, approximately 82,000 people out of 254,000 are permanently homeless in Los Angeles County, California.

And note this: 50 percent of homeless Angelinos are African-Americans, 25 percent are mentally ill, 20 percent are veterans, around half suffering from substance abuse. Also, 20 percent are physically disabled, 32 percent have a bachelor degree or higher and 16 to 20 percent are employed.

Most citizens welcome their city officials’ initiative of injecting $1 billion to counter homelessness, except for one little detail. They don’t want to be taxed.

But Los Angeles isn’t alone. New York this week announced 500 new beds for those homeless in the Big Apple. Also this week, Washington, D.C., its council raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan released proposals to reform federal anti-poverty program.

Finally, President Obama added nine new Promise Zones to prioritize federal support for impoverished areas.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: will we reduce poverty? Pat Buchanan?

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR & COLUMNIST: John, we declared war on poverty back in the Johnson administration, the Great Society. Trillions and trillions of dollars have been spent. We now have more people are in poverty almost, or as many as we had in poverty then, despite money for housing, for education, 50 million people on food stamps, hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats now working now on the issue of poverty.

The point is, I think the bible was right when the Lord said, the poor you shall always have with you. And I think that’s the case.

The point is, we do not know how to cure poverty, at the causes of it. Some of which are relatively, the complete destruction of the family, the rise and the use of drugs and narcotics. All the rest of it, the social disorder that eventually produces it. I think you’re going to have to keep taking care of folks, but the idea that we’re going to end it and resolve it and all these folks are going back into society, it’s a dream.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, explain --

ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Actually, we do know how to fix a lot of these problems.

John, you had a question?

MCLAUGHLIN: What explains Speaker Ryan’s focus on poverty?

CLIFT: Paul Ryan is basically an acolyte of Jack Kemp, former member of Congress. Actually, he was a vice presidential candidate with Bob Dole in 1996, former Buffalo Bills quarterback, a very charismatic fellow who really felt humanitarian impulses and thought you could, through enterprise zones and various governmental initiatives, that you really could solve the issue of poverty.

And Ryan has been touring the country and trying to come up with various policies. I don’t know that they’re going to get anywhere in the Congress that he’s in, and frankly, they count a lot on cutting federal programs. And I think we ought to be talking about raising the minimum wage, we ought to be talking about an infrastructure program that puts people to work.

There are a lot -- we need affordable housing. And part of that story out of Los Angeles is that they’ve had a lot of success in reducing homelessness among veterans and among families, because they have really focused on creating temporary housing for them that gets them back into sort of middle class life.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why is Los Angeles population of homeless veterans dropped by 30 percent since last year?

TOM ROGAN, NATIONAL REVIEW/OPPORTUNITY LIVES: Because the city and different cities and localities across the country have been able to unify investment. It’s bipartisan project because of the veterans’ issue.

But one of the things we can do and history proves, is that the mechanism of economic growth that is broadly shared is the key way to reduce poverty. And one of the challenges I think we have is we have to identify not just the homeless issue, but looking at Los Angeles, for example, which has an employment, right, of 7.1 percent. You contrast that with Texas, which has unemployment rates, to the big cities Houston, San Antonio, Texas, in the three to four percent level, lower taxes, providing economic opportunity that is broadly shared.

And one of the things that I worry about with Los Angeles, they’re talking about raising a 0.5 tax on earnings above $1 million. It sounds but that will raise the marginal tax there to 48 percent, and at some point, you see a diminishing return and to the notion that redistribution of income is not the same as social mobility.

MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, is the United States winning or losing the war on poverty?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, poverty would be a lot worse if it hadn’t been for that war on poverty back there 50 years ago. And we find today that other kinds of reforms like the earned income tax credit has been a very effective reducer of poverty. Now, these are people who are working Americans, but they get a tax break because they don’t have the kind of support that they need to for housing and food, et cetera, at the lower income levels.

And I think you’ve got the right approach here though by looking at this state by state because that’s where the war on poverty is going on today, is in various states.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is America winning or losing the war on poverty?

PAGE: Well, I would say we’re winning in terms of controlling it. Pat is right.


PAGE: I think the poor will always be with us. But as is Tom, because in the 1990s, when we had prosperity, poverty rates went down dramatically. Also, the welfare reform that was imposed by Clinton and Newt Gingrich and Congress, turned out it wasn’t as disastrous as we were afraid of, and in fact, a million kids were elevated out of the welfare rolls.

And I think that’s -- so, we need a little bit of both. We find when opportunities opened up when you got a robust economy, poverty goes down.

MCLAUGHLIN: The figure I have, the poverty rate was 19 percent. Today, the rate is 8.5 percent.

BUCHANAN: Oh, no --

PAGE: That’s a little high.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who says "oh, no"?

BUCHANAN: I say oh no. It’s been 13, 14, 15 ever since when it began, but that’s not counting the value of the housing and the food stamps and the free education, all the rest of it.

CLIFT: Yes. You know, it’s almost a luxury to talk about the war on poverty because we’ve been so focused on a much broader segment of America, entire middle class has been losing out. So, there’s going to be talked about in this presidential election, and I’m looking forward to Paul Ryan’s proposals being carried forward by Donald Trump, if they can ever get together.


MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Switzerland’s approach.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Switzerland is a small nation on the European continent, known for its picturesque mountains, fine skiing and high wealth. Switzerland’s per capita GDP is $59,000, as opposed to U.S. per capita income at $46,500. Yet, last Sunday, Swiss voters rejected a guaranteed annual payment of around $2,500 to every adult Swiss.

Supporters say the payment fosters equality and reduces poverty. But to the rank and file Swiss, giving away free money isn’t always welfare, most regard it as bitter chocolate.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Should the U.S. create its own social experiment and distribute free money to some of its citizens?


MCLAUGHLIN: Let’s try this out on Eleanor.

CLIFT: I remember when Richard Nixon was in office and I think he did propose a guaranteed annual income. I don’t see that flying in today’s society, in today’s politics. It’s going nowhere. But if you project into the future, and you look at the nature of work and how it’s changing and where are all the jobs are going to come for the population, I could imagine someday, in the distant future, another Congress and another president proposing a guaranteed annual income, replacing a lot of, perhaps, government social program.

BUCHANAN: Well, this is what Milton Friedman’s famous idea, the negative income tax to give everybody a certain amount of money and then we’d replace all these poverty programs. We’ve get rid of all the bureaucrats and stuff.

What happens is, you get the guaranteed annual income and all the poverty programs and all the rest of it remain.

ROGAN: Right.


PAGE: That’s how the earned income tax credit tries to do, though, is to help subsidize low income --


BUCHANAN: One of the things that happens with these programs frankly is that you got folks in poverty, all the benefits they get in terms of education, food stamps, EITC, other things, there’s a tax on it, if they go to work, they start losing these things, the marginal tax is incredible.

ROGAN: That’s -- very quick --

PAGE: That’s why it must be revisited every few years, because -- and it was under Clinton and again under Bush and Obama. We need to look at it because these economics do changes as far --


CLIFT: We also have this dichotomy in the way we approach people at the top, you figure. the more money they have, they’re going to create jobs. People at the bottom, oh, if you give them too many federal benefits that will suppress their desire to work. I mean, why don’t we flip once and try it the other way?

ROGAN: There is an opportunity there, I think for concensus -- you see Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, they are interested in dialogue and there are other people. If we can talk about a way that you can encourage work, with a process that benefits don’t just come but also have reform that induces people to go to work rather encourages dependence.

PAGE: The way I’m looking forward to a resurgence of the Republican war on poverty this time around because you do have people like --

ROGAN: Opportunity Lives, where I write – you should read that.


PAGE: Marco Rubio was talking about it. Various other candidates talking about it. And then Trump came along, and suddenly, it was, the government is the enemy, blah, blah. He’s not interested in a real policy dialogue. And I think if he gets elected, we’re not going to have any serious talking about --

BUCHANAN: There’s not a lot of money around, Clarence.

PAGE: It’s a matter of --

BUCHANAN: We’re spending $500 billion. Deficit is going up.


BUCHANAN: It’s going to go higher and higher.

PAGE: It’s a matter of re-arranging the money in the way to restore incentives. I mean, we need to talk about my ideas anyway.

BUCHANAN: The best incentive is the necessity to eat.


PAGE: How about Social Security? Want to preserve Social Security, or change it. That requires a dialogue and we’re not having that.

All Trump says is, let’s keep Social Security and give them more money.

BUCHANAN: The key Democrats are now in favor of increasing benefits.

PAGE: Yes. And so is Donald Trump.


MCLAUGHLIN: Well, apparently, what Trump is doing is working. As a matter of fact, he’s in our own state.

PAGE: You mean working as far as winning Republican voters.

MCLAUGHLIN: That’s correct.

PAGE: Yes. But how about Democratic independent voters, John? That’s to be decided --

MCLAUGHLIN: You’re always thinking of your own.

PAGE: I’m thinking of November. That’s right. I want democracy.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Donald Versus Hillary.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: First time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Cry election, then let slip the nominees of war. Five months from today, on Tuesday, November the 8th, we will vote to elect the next president of the United States.

Securing enough delegates to claim a Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called for party unity. Liberal focus must now fall, she says, on defeating Donald Trump. And on Thursday, top Democrats, including President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, endorsed Clinton.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it.

MCLAUGHLIN: But there’s a notable hold out. Clinton challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, who says he will continue to fight on for every delegate. Still, the general election is likely to be close.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Hillary Clinton with a, get this, two-point lead over Donald Trump.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: What does President Obama’s endorsement mean for Hillary? I ask you Eleanor.

CLIFT: Well, this is the first sitting president in some time who’s going to be out there enthusiastically on the campaign trail. George W. Bush really wasn’t welcomed by John McCain, and Ronald Reagan really didn’t campaign aggressively for George H.W. Bush.

So, this is a big moment. President Obama’s approval rating is now in the low 50s. He’s a pretty popular political figure. You put together Elizabeth Warren -- to me, it’s like all the Democratic superheroes are putting on their capes and they’re suiting for the big engagement.

And I think Bernie Sanders is going to give people like me, who live in the District of Columbia, a chance to vote on Tuesday where the final primary. And then, he’s going to move to be part of this team effort really to defeat Donald Trump and to bring aboard all the people he has genuinely excited.

I mean, he does deserve the recognition that he’s going to get for how he’s energized this process.

BUCHANAN: You know, there’s no doubt Barack Obama, especially when he gets in this White House correspondents dinner mood with his speechwriters, is tremendously effective, I think, as a speaker in that mood and the political speaker, and he’s got a real animus against Donald Trump and he’s going to be a very effective surrogate -- I think less so with Elizabeth Warren.

But I will say this, there’s no doubt Hillary Clinton had the best week of her campaign and of many campaigns, where speeches were well, and it’s a big moment for her, but the future holds a lot of problems for him. I mean, Trump’s down only three, I can’t believe it. He’s down only three.

Ahead of us, there’s economic news. Ahead of us, the FBI primary. FBI, don’t fail me now.


PAGE: I think they will, Pat.

BUCHANAN: So, you got that coming ahead. You got the conventions are going to be big events. Republicans could be very excited. And again, the economy is moving -- if you got another month like May, they’re going to be real panic in the Democratic ranks.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now that Hillary is the presumptive nominee, will she shake the etch-a-sketch and try to reinvent herself as a centrist.

ROGAN: Well, I think the challenge -- very quickly, I think the challenge here for Hillary Clinton is that, as much as Donald Trump is saying that he won’t back down with his persistent things, the La Raza situation in San Diego, he has a little bit -- he should not have framed it in a way he did in terms of Mexican heritage, but in terms of that organization, I think there is a suggestion of liberal bias of a federal judge. He should be held to the same standards --

CLIFT: You’re defending --

ROGAN: I’m not --

CLIFT: You’re defending Donald Trump, what he said about the judge?

ROGAN: I am saying that was outrageous in terms of the Mexican heritage. But what you should not have, what you should have is the same thing as U.S. military officers, not being aligned with an organization as the La Raza group is, which is very overtly political one way.

The problem for Hillary Clinton however is that if you look at the situation just today, with Raj Fernando, who is this big fundraiser, superdelegate, who Hillary when she was secretary of State appointed to a senior board, big time donor to the Clinton Foundation. It is another example of the persistent reek of corruption. So, you have two --


PAGE: In regard to Donald Trump and the judge, if he really has a beef, his lawyers can file a complaint. But they have not. Why? Because if they file a complaint and it proves to be frivolous, they can be disbarred.

Trump has got First Amendment freedom to say whatever the heck he wants and that’s what he’s doing right now, spouting of his mouth. And first of all, where’s Trump IRS tax returns? I mean, all the --

ROGAN: And where are Hillary’s speeches? I mean, we have all of this, right?

PAGE: Well, exactly, on both sides. Trump is opening up to a whole --

BUCHANAN: I don’t disagree with you, Clarence, to what you said about Trump -- he should file against the judge, they probably should file. But I do agree with you, look, what did he say? He said, look, they’re sticking, the judge is sticking it to me and I think it’s because he’s Mexican and they got it in for me because of all --

PAGE: Yes.

BUCHANAN: There is nothing wrong. That is not a racist statement.

CLIFT: And it turns out he’s born in Indiana and he’s Mexican descent.

BUCHANAN: I don’t care. Is it possible he’s biased against Trump? Yes, it’s possible.

ROGAN: But not because he’s Mexican, because of the organization, because of the organization.

BUCHANAN: That puts -- sure, the organization is very much militant on the other side.

CLIFT: Pat, you and Tom stand alone virtually among all the Republican leaders --

BUCHANAN: The Republican --

CLIFT: -- who have characterized what Trump says as a racist statement.

BUCHANAN: I don’t care. They are wrong. They are headed to the tall grass as they always do, when the trouble comes.


BUCHANAN: I don’t disagree with you. It’s an unwise statement. But it does not mean racist.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

PAGE: If you’re judging somebody purely by the ethnicity of their surname, that’s what Trump was doing.


PAGE: That’s what he meant by racist.

BUCHANAN: He’s saying he could be biased.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who has the zeitgeist? Do you know the meaning of zeitgeist?

PAGE: Spirit of the times.


PAGE: Spirit of the times.

MCLAUGHLIN: Who does the zeitgeist of 2016 favor more -- Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

BUCHANAN: I think Hillary is the favorite, but I will say this, the country is desperate for change. Bernie Sanders represented it. Trump beats Hillary 2-1 on Americans who want change.


BUCHANAN: She’s had her best week. But I’ll tell you, the weeks ahead are going to be win-lose, win-lose --

CLIFT: But she crushes him on competence and knowledge and --

BUCHANAN: Ethics, no.

CLIFT: Americans may want change, but the kind of change that Donald Trump seems to be bringing. He’s playing in a different arena now. He’s not catering to a segment of the public that votes in Republican primaries. He’s dealing with a much broader electorate now.

BUCHANAN: But he’s only three points behind.

MCLAUGHLIN: But apparently --

CLIFT: We don’t -- also, we don’t elect nationally, as I pointed out a week ago, or Al Gore would be president.

MCLAUGHLIN: But the very point you’re making helps Trump the more. Just ask Jeb Bush. The zeitgeist of 2016 favors outsiders and change.

CLIFT: And it favors somebody like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, who know how to throw a punch back at a bully. You don’t back down when there’s a bully in the ring.

BUCHANAN: Hillary is same old, same old.


CLIFT: Pat, I don’t think you’ve ever been in the Hillary camp. To me, this is --

BUCHANAN: I was in the camp against Obama.

CLIFT: This is a new age. This is a new age with a woman capturing a major party nomination. That’s not same old, same old.

BUCHANAN: I can’t stand the excitement.

CLIFT: I love it.

MCLAUGHLIN: Is it a paradox that Hillary is on the ballot, but Democratic women and Democratic-leaning women are less enthusiastic now than in 2008?

CLIFT: How did she manage to win almost 4 million more votes than Bernie Sanders if nobody is excited about her? You know, she’s not going to win every woman in America. Nobody wins everybody in every group. But I think there’s a recognition that this is a history-making moment.

MCLAUGHLIN: Women kind of stick together, don’t they?

PAGE: She’s not being --


PAGE: John, if you look closely at the polling among women, younger women are less supportive than older women are, but that’s partly because younger women don’t remember the prosperity of the ‘90s and a number of other elements, they don’t remember the bad old days as far as women’s rights were concerned. But Hillary and certainly Elizabeth Warren, people like that --


CLIFT: That’s where Elizabeth Warren comes in. She reminds people very clearly of the issues that are at stake here. They’re not all gender-based issues. It’s Wall Street and it’s a lot of the concerns that Bernie Sanders brought to the fore. And the fact that she’s fully backing Hillary Clinton is -- I think is going to be very meaningful to getting together the coalition that elected Barack Obama two times.

MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Modi’s Operandi.


NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: India applauds the great sacrifices of the men and women from "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" in service of mankind.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): The size of Western Europe and the world’s most populous democracy, with over 1.25 billion citizens, India. This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his fourth visit to Washington and addressed a joint session of Congress. He promised mutual U.S.-Indian prosperity and shared values.

The statistics reflect his claim. U.S.-India trade nearly doubled between 2009 and 2015. The U.S. and India are also expected to sign new deals on areas of military cooperation and nuclear technology.

Still, rough waters may await ahead. A rising China is extending influence across oceans, and India faces pressure to either support the U.S., or adopt a more pro-China policy. In a sign India maybe leaning towards the latter option, Mr. Modi has in recent months pursued new investments from the China-led Asia Investment and Infrastructure Bank, or AIIB, which, by the way, Washington opposes.


MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Is India our ally? Tom Rogan?

ROGAN: Yes, but I think India should be more of an ally, and we can make that. I think president -- I’m sorry, Prime Minister Modi is very amenable to that. Look, he wants to join the nuclear security group. The Obama administration says it supports it, but like a lot of foreign policy, the words do not match up with the forceful diplomacy to make that happen.

One of the big reasons, though, I think, India offers this great opportunity, is that the OECD says that while there’s five to ten percent of the population of India is in the middle class in the moment, by 2039, that will be 90 percent. And for a country of 1.25 billion people, that’s a lot of potential for American high value consumer exports to go to.

And secondly, if we’re looking about an alliance of onside nations like India that can counterbalance Chinese authoritarianism and Russia because of values and that economic and military power, that is an opportunity.

BUCHANAN: I hope you’re not talking about a military alliance, John. That would be an absurdity. The Chinese have claims on Indian territory. India says it’s stealing territory. And to get ourselves into the middle of that quarrel as well as the South China Sea and the East China Sea would be ridiculous.

CLIFT: It’s not too long before they’re going to overtake China as the most populous country in the world and moving all those people into the middle class is a huge strain on the environment. And President Obama really cares about climate change and he’s really trying to bring Modi along --


CLIFT: -- to at least get him to where China is, where they will make some commitments in terms of using sustainable energy, and make some commitments in curbing greenhouse gases. That’s very important for the future of the planet.

PAGE: Also, it must be said that there is pressure on Modi. The clock is running, because he wants to secure a better trade agreement, and he wants to do it before Donald Trump possibly gets elected. So, there’s a big push on that.


CLIFT: Oh, interesting.

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is Pat’s tutorial once again. India and China have disputed borders in the Himalayas and China has made recent ground incursions across India’s borders. This is helping to drive India closer to the U.S.

BUCHANAN: Exactly. But we don’t necessarily want to have them an ally. It’s too bad you got the problem with the Chinese, but the Americans are not going to come and fight in the Himalayas.

ROGAN: I don’t think anyone is saying that, but if we happen --

BUCHANAN: You said a military alliance.

ROGAN: I said an alliance with India. You will have caveated alliances. If the U.K. invaded France, would we support the U.K. in doing that, or anything theoretical --

BUCHANAN: France is our oldest ally. You know that.

ROGAN: OK, but you get my point. The problem is, if you can have a relationship with India in terms of oceanic trade groups --

BUCHANAN: A relationship, fine.

ROGAN: Right. But so, security alliance should be predicated on that Indian --


BUCHANAN: We’re not going to fight for India.

ROGAN: Then, how are we going to be able to grow our economy --

BUCHANAN: Suppose India fights Pakistan with whom we had an alliance, whose side are we on there?

ROGAN: They’re already fighting and they’re fighting us.

BUCHANAN: OK, should we involve ourselves in that?

ROGAN: We’re already involved, aren’t we?

CLIFT: I think right now, the U.S. is just looking for a market for some of its weapons.


ROGAN: iPhones.

CLIFT: I don’t think they’re looking to build a military umbrella.

MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should the U.S. back India in joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, a big deal? Yes or no, quickly?

BUCHANAN: I have no problem with that.

CLIFT: Yes, and the U.S. is also pushing for India to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

ROGAN: Yes on all of those things.

PAGE: Short answer, yes.

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, India wants to join APEC and the U.S. should endorse membership.

Predictions, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Remarkably, John, things are turning in favor of Brexit in England and there’s a real possibility I think with what’s going on in Europe, the whole E.U. is declining in respect among more and more people, I think the Brits could leave on June 23rd.

CLIFT: Speaker Paul Ryan is waffling on Donald Trump. First, he’s distancing himself, then he endorses him. Now, he’s not really comfortable where he is. It means that Paul Ryan will no longer be the golden boy of the Republican Party. He’s paying a huge price for the way he’s handled Donald Trump.


ROGAN: In lieu of a prediction, I just want to say that the French people and their counterterrorism services in the most significant terrorism challenge environment of the last generation are equating themselves with dignity and honor that the entire world can be proud of. And they’re celebrating the European Cup and they’re not bowing to terror.

PAGE: I just want to give a special prediction of condolences and salute to Muhammad Ali and to his memory, which I think will be enhanced by history.

MCLAUGHLIN: Good prediction.

PAGE: Thank you.

MCLAUGHLIN: I predict British voters will make history on June 23rd by voting to leave the European Union.

Bye-bye, Britain.