The McLaughlin Group Host: John McLaughlin Panel: Patrick Buchanan, MSNBC; Eleanor Clift, Newsweek; Tim Carney, Washington Examiner; Mortimer Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report Taped: Friday, September 2, 2011 Broadcast: Weekend of September 3-4, 2011
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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: TSA Labor Pains.
REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT): (From videotape.) Unfortunately, we have to be right all the time. Terrorists only have to get lucky once. A lot of what we have been participating in here, in my personal opinion, has been security theater and has not truly done the job to secure the airports to the degree that we need to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Security and Foreign Operations. Chaffetz is no fan of the Transportation Security Administration, the TSA. That's because the number of airport security breaches over the last decade adds up to 25,000. That's about seven breaches per day in the last 10 years. These breaches range from improperly screened passengers to unscreened passengers, travelers boarding planes without being inspected at all. Yet the annual budget for the TSA is -- get this -- $8.1 billion.
Critics say that with 25,000 security breaches in 10 years, it's hard to believe the TSA's budget is making passengers safe. Rather, the TSA's pat-downs and invasive full-body scans do more to embarrass children and the elderly than they do to catch terrorists, many believe.
A recent case in point is a Florida woman who was commanded to take off her adult diapers during a security pat-down.
LENA REPPERT (Airline passenger): (From videotape.) They did something, because they had something in my pants and they put me through a screen and that kind of thing. They took me in a different room. That's when they took my pants.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The lady is 95 years old.
Question: All travelers are treated as equals. All have to go through security screening. Is that a good idea? Pat Buchanan.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, everybody should have to go through that machine, John. I don't -- I agree with that, to see if there's something hidden somewhere. But I think they all --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean -- is there an outstanding suspicion that all travelers --
MR. BUCHANAN: No, no. Everybody should --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- are capable of terrorism?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, something can be planted somewhere. And I think they should go through. So should the luggage. But I agree with the implication of your question. If you're talking about individuals, 95-year-old women and kids, I mean, you ought to use the professional expertise of the TSA agents, who ought to be able to profile individuals to say this one looks more likely to be carrying something than that one. And if they've got to select out someone -- the idea of equality there is stupidity. And what they've been doing, frankly, with little kids and with old ladies has been ridiculous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Most of these breaches are technical infractions, like carrying a very small pen knife or something with a sharp object, or even a bottle of water. They will stop you down and do an inspection.
ELEANOR CLIFT: You have to throw your water out or your Starbucks or whatever your liquid is. And that's -- you know, they make rules, and they're across the board. They can't look at you and say, oh, you look like you just bought that Starbucks and paid $3.80 for it and you don't look like you're carrying any lethal liquid within it, and let you walk through. But they can't make those judgments on the number of people that walk through there. They have to come up with these blanket rules that sometimes do seem ridiculous.
But the TSA has become everybody's favorite whipping boy, in part because they think the Republican majority in the House would like to privatize them, and because they won the right to unions this last summer. So it's a political football as well as a security football.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The percentage rate of those who are guilty of some technical infraction is .00001 percent. Now, doesn't it seem absurd to treat everyone the same when you're operating with that?
TIM CARNEY: Well, and they do actually have profiling rules, but some of those are ridiculous. One of them is if you are acting -- I think the words are arrogant and angrily objecting to, say, being fondled by a TSA agent, if you're badmouthing the whole TSA process, that's one of the criteria where they're more likely to then pull you out and do that search.
Does that have anything to do with making us safer? Is that advised by any sort of profiling or terrorism expert, or is that just their way of telling us, you know, you guys have to shut up and do what we say and be groped, have the nudie scan, if we want you to?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you familiar with El Al?
MORTIMER ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do they do?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they have a lot of experts who are trained at observing people and picking up what they think are clues to the possibility they may --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they ever had -- we're talking about the Israeli airline.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they ever had a problem with that being inadequate or incomplete?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think -- and they have no problem with public support for that either.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have they ever had any problem?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, not to my knowledge; not in all the times that I've been there. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't that really quite amazing?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, it is quite amazing, you know. But they have -- it's a real security issue for them, and everybody feels that every day. So they --
MR. BUCHANAN: But they've only got a few thousand --
MS. CLIFT: It's much smaller --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- a few thousand flights --
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- in their --
MS. CLIFT: Exactly.
MR. BUCHANAN: Tim's point is very well taken in this sense, John. If somebody is angry and yelling at them, he is far less likely to have a bomb with him than somebody that comes through and has it hidden and who doesn't want to make any noise and who would like to -- like that guy, quite frankly, Mohammed Atta, was up at that Boston airport, and the Boston guy said, you know, if I'd ever thought of a terrorist, boy, this guy really looked like it. And this is one of the problems these TSA agents have. They don't want to be the guy that let through the bomber that killed 200 people.
MS. CLIFT: Well, and you don't have --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Nobody does.
MS. CLIFT: You don't have the right -- you don't have the right to be abusive to the TSA agents. So, I mean, if somebody is going to go make a big scene, I think they're asking to be --
MR. CARNEY: They're asking -- (inaudible)? No. MS. CLIFT: I don't think we call it fondling.
MR. CARNEY: Well, you might not call it fondling. (Inaudible.)
MS. CLIFT: I've been through it. I don't call it fondling. (Laughter.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Don't put yourself --
MS. CLIFT: And TSA -- (laughter) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, we've got to get -- you know, we have to have our terms clearly defined.
MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.) TSA is struggling to find what are the methods that are going to come back the next wave --
MR. CARNEY: You think they're making us safer now, though.
MS. CLIFT: -- of terrorism. And I think they're doing a pretty good job --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think --
MS. CLIFT: -- in a field where, you know, nobody -- where perfection is not possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I get the impression that the TSA screeners, the people who do the pat-downs, are not given very much freedom of discretion.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, they --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know what all the rules are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By discretion, I mean, you know, evaluating the person coming through.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they have -- what else can you do? I mean, when you say discretion, there are certain rules that they have to follow --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A man --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that they should follow.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A man by the name of Pistole, P-I-S-T-O-L-E -- I think that's the pronunciation of the name -- now heads it up, and he says he is going to give them more discretion --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- over time. MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think there's also going to be more training of these people to pick out people. I think that's the key thing. That's the key differentiation --
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- between -- the Israelis are very highly sophisticated in this, because they have this issue. But once there is a terrorist attack, believe me, these rules are going to be enforced to an extraordinary degree.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Somebody told me you were very annoyed by the screening, so you now escape it by having your own airplane.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, you know, if you want to discriminate, John, then you can go ahead. Do whatever you have to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: But I'll just have to live with it.
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, Eleanor's point is well taken, though. There's got to be basic rules of everything that's checked out. But after that, if you get the experts, John, the guys that can look at somebody, they're the guys that are very likely as a backup to prevent the terrorist attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --
MS. CLIFT: They actually have a program along those lines. I think it's in the Boston airport.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: So, you know, they're trying.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So greater discretion on the part of the TSA employees does not mean lesser security at the point where they do it.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I would hope not. But it's a question of their training.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: On a security success scale, zero to 10, rate the effectiveness of the TSA, zero to 10.
MR. BUCHANAN: It gets close to nine or 10, John, for the simple reason that it's been 10 years since 9/11 and they haven't taken down a single airliner. And we had the underwear bomber and the shoe bomber and a lot of these -- maybe some other folks who tried it. MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I think for a much-maligned agency, let's give it high marks. Perfection is the goal, but that's not reality.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to go all the way? Do you want to give them a 10?
MS. CLIFT: Well, he said -- I'll give them a 9.2. There's always room for improvement.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.) Good for those decimal points.
MR. CARNEY: They've caught zero terrorists. They didn't stop the shoe bomber. They didn't stop the undie bomber. And they might even make us less safe, because more people end up driving because they don't want to be -- I guess caressed, maybe, is the right word at the airport. Driving is less safe than flying. I'll give them a three.
MS. CLIFT: So they're going to take the blame for highway deaths?
MR. CARNEY: If they're driving people there, then they're not even saving lives.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: You've got to give them a very high rating. I give them nine plus, because we have not had a terrorist attack. I mean, that's the most -- that's the standard. That's the only standard.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think in those two instances, of the underwear bomber and --
MR. BUCHANAN: The shoe bomber.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the other?
MR. BUCHANAN: The shoe bomber.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The shoe bomber --
MR. CARNEY: They originated overseas. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They did not originate in the United States.
MR. BUCHANAN: Overseas.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They didn't have the benefit of the TSA screening.
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Am I right or wrong?
MR. CARNEY: You're right. And --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that --
MR. CARNEY: -- the fact of the matter is we can stop terrorist attacks without the TSA. And there's no evidence the TSA has prevented any of these attacks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're a very severe marker. The TSA deserves a 10, because nothing has happened.
Issue Two: Postal Service Blues.
PATRICK DONOHUE (postmaster general): (From videotape.) A hundred and seventy plus billion pieces of mail this year. I don't think it's going to go away anytime in the near future.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not true. In some areas, the United States Postal Service is going away. More than 3,600 postal offices will close within the year. That's one in 10. Postal services in those areas will be absorbed by privately owned local businesses. Postmaster General Patrick Donohue says it's the only way to keep the debt-strapped agency running. Donohue's other idea is to eliminate the Saturday delivery.
MR. DONOHUE: (From videotape.) We should have moved from six- day to five-day three or four years ago. We would have been profitable then. We'd be profitable now.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, chair of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, which oversees the post office, has introduced a bill that would do just that. Ending Saturday delivery could save the USPS $2 billion a year. Unfortunately, it would eliminate 20,000 jobs.
Technology will also lighten the volume of U.S. paper mail. Email, smartphones and other tech apps have decreased the volume of hand-delivered mail by 20 percent over the course of the last five years.
Is this a constitutional question, U.S. Constitution? MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, I think it is. The U.S. post office, I believe, is in there. I may be wrong, John. But, look, the figures are they're going to cut out 120,000 of the 600,000 of the post office because it's got an $8.5 billion deficit. And the reason is -- we all know -- email, you know, FedEx and all these other things are taking it over. But I think it's going to still be there.
But our generation, the penmanship generation, the one that writes letters, is different from the next generation, the generation beyond, which doesn't even print very well, John.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. By law, they have to deliver mail six days a week. So Congress has to change the law. But I've been noticing that the post office is running paid advertising on television, pointing out that they fund themselves through stamps and so forth, that they're not paid for by the taxpayers, although they have taken out loans from the U.S. treasury.
But I think if you stop Saturday delivery, I think that's inevitable. And I think the postmaster general has said if immediate reforms aren't undertaken, we're going to have mail three days a week 20 years from now. I think it's an inevitable consequence of the way we've changed how we communicate.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bulk mail is a huge industry now.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And a lot of people keep that mail because their names are on it, and they open it on the weekend. So why do you want to eliminate Saturday delivery? (Laughter.) That's a particularly bad day to eliminate.
MS. CLIFT: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we eliminate a Wednesday delivery?
MS. CLIFT: I think it affects rural America. I think most of the world still works more Monday to Friday. There's something called a weekend. (Laughs.) And we don't get mail on Sunday, so I think Saturday it will be the best consequence.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mail -- mail delivery is mentioned in the Constitution at least once, and maybe twice. So is it a constitutional issue?
MR. CARNEY: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is not an --
MR. CARNEY: Article --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- otiose question. MR. CARNEY: No. The government is -- the federal government is authorized to do it. It's not mandated to do it. One of the problems --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It says levy an army and get a postal road.
MR. CARNEY: Yeah. When there are postal roads, that's the responsibility of the federal government, yes. The Saturday delivery thing -- part of the problem is that union rules don't let these guys work six days. So you have one guy delivering the same route five days. Another guy has to come in to pick up that sixth day. That's part of why it's going to cost jobs. And the job cost is (exactly ?) the saving.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the solution?
MR. CARNEY: You get rid of Saturday delivery. You make sure that the post office is paying for itself; that if you have to raise the rate, it should not be subsidized by taxpayers.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm one that would like to see the post office work on Sundays too.
MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think of that?
MR. CARNEY: Are you willing to pay for it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you know, this mail collects.
MR. CARNEY: Are you willing to pay for it?
MR. BUCHANAN: But, you know, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What I'm willing to do is go to email and charge email one cent for every email that goes out --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and have the same people that brought it into existence pay the one cent. What's wrong with that?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: John, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would it balance things out?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think it works at all, to put it mildly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, on either side of the equation. MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I mean, it is -- you simply cannot afford -- we can't lose $8 billion a year on the post office. And that's what it's running -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, she says it kind of pays for itself, but I'm not quite sure --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It used to pay for itself --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, let me speak --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- but no longer it does.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- as a postal employee --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that?
MR. BUCHANAN: -- for a number of years. Every Christmas for 10 days I delivered mail. You even did the old pigeonholing. The pigeonholing has been computerized. But, John, one of the problems is we delivered the mail; it was three-cent stamps.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When you --
MR. BUCHANAN: How much is a stamp today?
MS. CLIFT: Forty-four.
MR. BUCHANAN: Forty-four cents every single letter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is that?
MS. CLIFT: That's cheap. Can you --
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, a lot of old ladies that used to write to me don't write anymore because they can't afford postage.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When you had your mail delivered to you -- now that you've moved out of the District of Columbia into your chic neighborhood in Virginia, when the postman comes, do you give him a tip for having delivered your mail?
MR. BUCHANAN: I give him a Christmas --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much do you give him?
MR. BUCHANAN: I give him a Christmas check. How much do you give?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much do you give?
MR. BUCHANAN: I'll match yours. (Laughter.) MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just say this, just in response --
MS. CLIFT: Pat has --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's an unsmooth evasion.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I have to say this in response to what Pat just said. A lot of young women are writing me. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's how it works.
MS. CLIFT: I think a --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Pat, it doesn't work any longer.
MS. CLIFT: Forty-four --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's technology. It's going to be --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's sad. It's sad, John.
MS. CLIFT: The 44 cents that you can drop something in a mailbox in Washington, D.C. and expect it to get to Seattle, Washington, or wherever, and all the people and the machines that it touches, it's a bargain, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's wonderful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three --
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm high on the post office.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: No Labor Day.
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): (From videotape.) I haven't talked to anybody right now, when we've got unemployment over 9 percent officially, when people are out of work and month after month can't find a job, when small business people are having trouble just keeping the lights on, I don't talk to anybody that says please raise my taxes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eric Cantor is a six-term Republican congressman from Virginia. He is the current majority leader. John Boehner is the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Cantor is also a solid conservative, with an American Conservative Union, ACU, rating of 92 out of 100. His ADA rating, Americans for Democratic Action, the premier liberal rating system, is five out of 100.
As Congress recovers from its painful debate over how to resolve the critical debt problem in the U.S. -- $14.3 trillion of debt -- Cantor has rejected all proposals that would raise taxes for the American people. Question: Who deserves more credit for holding the line against tax increases, John Boehner or Eric Cantor? Tim Carney.
MR. CARNEY: Well, what impresses me about Eric Cantor is that he is sort of the Republicans' guy to Wall Street, and that is not the tea party base. If you think of the Republicans, they have two bases. There's the Wall Street and the tea party, the real conservatives.
So Cantor's a top fundraiser, very close to Wall Street. And Wall Street was the guy saying cut a deal, cut a deal, cut a deal.
I think Cantor was going back to Wall Street saying our deal is not going to involve raising taxes. I give them both credit for holding the line.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You like Cantor.
MR. CARNEY: There are things I don't like about Cantor. I think he's too close to Wall Street. But I'm glad that he helped block a tax hike.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: His experience is exclusively legislative. Do you really need to have some executive experience before the American electorate will consider you for a viable and plausible president of the United States? What I'm getting at is --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I know what you're getting at.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- this guy is really good.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: He's very good. He's very talented. He's very smart; a very, very capable guy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But is he --
MS. CLIFT: Can I dissent? (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But is he on any other track except to succeed Boehner when Boehner --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No. Right now his experience has been legislative. But he's very good at managing their program. And frankly, executive experience, in my judgment, is very much of an advantage for the man --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it essential --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- who might be president of the United States --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it essential -- MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- as our current president has shown.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has the current president indicated that executive experience is really a sine qua non of being president of the United States?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I'm not sure that it has to be executive experience. You certainly have to have a sense of the way things work. A lot of that comes out of having executive experience.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't think, for example, a business background is essential to be the president of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does he have the equivalent of that if he is a United States representative?
MR. BUCHANAN: No.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I don't think so at all.
MS. CLIFT: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think so.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I really don't. But I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't think there are executive details in his management of his own office.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, not in his own office. But in managing the Congress, managing as a leader of his party, I think that is a very good experience for him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think Perry has the kind of executive experience that Cantor does not have?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, he does --
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure, he does.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- without question.
MS. CLIFT: If we're still --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's been governor longer than anybody else --
MR. ZUCKERMAN: The governor's job is the best --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's what he prides himself on. MR. ZUCKERMAN: The governor's job is the best --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's been governor for longer than anybody else --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But also Cantor has the legislative experience that Perry does not have.
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, Obama's got legislative experience. How's he been as executive?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What kind of legislative experience? State legislature?
MR. BUCHANAN: Obama has got the same background --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: United States senator for a couple of years?
MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but look at him. He's not an executive, and it shows.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who?
MR. BUCHANAN: Obama, the president.
MS. CLIFT: Who's on trial in this segment? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We want to know who's going to represent the Republican Party up against Obama.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it's not going to be Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor is -- I mean, all politicians are opportunistic, but he basically just latched onto the tea party folks. He's not only aspiring to be speaker. He is probably plotting to be speaker.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think that was --
MS. CLIFT: He's not going to be on the ticket. He's not going to be president. Rick Perry has a chance to be --
MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not sure --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was some of that unfortunate phraseology on her part --
MR. CARNEY: No. What Eleanor said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that Eric Cantor latched onto the tea party? Please.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, that's not the case, absolutely not.
MR. CARNEY: I think what Eleanor is saying -- no, what Eleanor is saying about the plotting thing is what I hear some other Republicans worrying about -- MR. BUCHANAN: I'm not sure he's going to be speaker.
MR. CARNEY: -- because he's undermining -- he's trying to undermine Boehner.
MS. CLIFT: Absolutely. He's undermining his own leadership.
MR. BUCHANAN: Look, he may not be speaker, John. He may not make speaker himself, succeeding Boehner. He's not all that popular in the Republican caucus.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Four: Working Like a Dog.
2011 is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Keith Best took the stage in Liverpool for the first time in 1961. Ringo Starr replaced Best a year later. The Beatles appeared in American homes three years later via television thanks to the Ed Sullivan variety show.
ED SULLIVAN: (From videotape.) Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Beatles jolted and revolutionized rock and roll. Almost contemporaneously, the U.S. president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson, jolted Congress. Federal funds were budgeted to promote the performing arts. In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEA, was created. And the National Endowment also for the Humanities, the NEH, that was created too. Both were included in President Johnson's budget program Great Society.
Now fast forward to today, a period of economic slowdown. What gets de-budgeted, axed, first? The arts and humanities are often the first target and are thought to be dispensable. Research and reflection dictate otherwise. The performing arts aren't only good for the soul; they're also good for the body, including the economic body. They generate revenue and fight poverty.
Four years ago, 8,900 performing arts groups in the U.S. generated more than $13 billion in revenues, most of it taxable. In one year, Americans spent $14.5 billion on performing arts, more than the $10 billion spent on box-office movie tickets.
Studies have also shown that the arts make people healthier, physically and emotionally. Let's suppose that the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts -- it's got a budget this year of about $49 million -- existed in 1961. Let's suppose that the Beatles first took the stage here in the U.S. Would the NEA have supported the likes of the Beatles? Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: That's too many supposings, I think. (Laughter.) The Beatles took off in England and they came here. They were already a big hit. So I think translating them into arts funding really is not a good analogy.
A lot of this is ideological. The House Republicans again want to -- they'd like to end the NEA. They've now cut the funding by 25 percent. But if you look around the country, it's arts funding for elementary school students where you develop a love for the arts and you develop people's talents. I think that's where it hurts the most.
And then you have a lot of ideologues talking about how much they want to cut government. And then when they get in office, like Nikki Haley in South Carolina, she goes after two agencies that fund the arts that are minuscule in the overall budget but prove some sort of ideological point. I don't -- maybe Tim can tell me. Why do Republicans hate the arts?
MR. CARNEY: They hate subsidies. And the fact of the matter is -- yeah, the Beatles are a great example -- they make tons of profit. Why should we have to be subsidizing them?
MS. CLIFT: What about the oil companies? They make tons of profit too.
MR. CARNEY: Yes. All right. And some Republicans hate oil subsidies, while not most. The fact of the matter is that arts can be very profitable. And arts for kids, if that fits into a school budget, that's one thing.
But another problem is the cultural clashes that's brought here. When my money is going to subsidize the submersion of a crucifix in a vat of urine, that's the sort of thing where you might think it's OK. I might think that's wrong. Let's call a truce and make it so that I don't have to pay for it. That's where the Republican objective comes from.
MS. CLIFT: What about First Amendment rights?
MR. CARNEY: So my First Amendment --
MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible) -- can't attach too many strings.
MR. CARNEY: OK. So that's a reason not to give them money in the first place. MR. BUCHANAN: John, look at what we've done.
MS. CLIFT: The work you're citing is --
MR. BUCHANAN: John, rock and roll -- the Beatles, Elvis, jazz, all these things came up in the arts and music in America without a single dime from the National Endowment for the Arts. The most famous things are Mapplethorpe, the crucifix in urine and all these pornographic, stupid things. In the end, John, it is cultural pork.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Cantor is very talented, John, but I predict that he does not become speaker of the House and he's blocked from running for governor because we've got two outstanding guys there. And you've got two Democrats and Republicans who are going to have the Senate seats locked up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: Republicans will return to work after Labor Day, chastened by the anger that they will have heard from their constituents about their performance and the anger over a debt-ceiling bill that seems to have further flattened the economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tim, prediction.
MR. CARNEY: Rick Perry is going to win the Iowa caucus in January. Michele Bachmann's going to drop out and endorse him. And then it'll be a one on one between Perry and Romney.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wow.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, and Jon Huntsman will drop out of the race if he doesn't come first or second in New Hampshire.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Marco Rubio, senator from Florida, will be the Republican vice presidential candidate in the next presidential election.
Happy Labor Day. Bye-bye.