Yesterday, SiriusXM host Joe Madison interviewed President Obama for over ten minutes. The Black Eagle asked the President about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, dealing with congressional Republicans on sequestration, Rosa Parks and golfing with Tiger Woods. The most pressing issue on the President’s desk currently is the sequester.
If Congress doesn’t act in seven days, the following cuts would take place:
$42.7 billion in defense cuts (a 7.9 percent cut)
$28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts (a 5.3 percent cut)
$9.9 billion in Medicare cuts (a 2 percent cut)
$4 billion in other mandatory cuts (a 5.8 percent cut to nondefense programs, and a 7.8 percent cut to mandatory defense programs)
Madison also talked with the President about Rosa Parks. Obama is expected to speak at the dedication of the Parks statue in the Capitol next week. Parks will be the first African American woman to have a full statue in the U.S. Capitol.
Listen to the full audio of Madison’s interview here:
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “Do you want to break news and give me the score of your Tiger Woods golf game?”
President Barack Obama: “I think it is fair to say that his score was far better than mine, and fortunately as President of the United States, I had the option of choosing the teams, and he was on my team.”
Obama on the consequences of the Supreme Court were to strike down Section 5 of Voting Rights Act:
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “If the Supreme Court were to strike down Section 5 of Voting Rights Act…what are the consequences, in particular to the black and Latino communities?”
President Barack Obama: “Historically, the voting rights act was the lynchpin of expanding our democracy during the civil rights movement. By passing the Voting Rights Act what you did was to ensure that those regions of the country, those areas that had a history of preventing African-Americans or Latinos or other ethnic groups from voting, they would have to be cleared by the Justice Department in any changes they had to their voting practices.
And the idea was, basically, not only would you outlaw the kinds of tools that were used in the past—like charging people fees for voting or poll taxes and things like that—but what you would also then catch would be any new mechanisms that prevented people from voting.
If Section 5 of the Voting Rights A is struck down, then that pre-clearance process would go away. Now, you’d still have laws in place that would insist that everybody has the right to vote, but the difference is that you’d now have to wait until after…some of these mechanisms had been put into place before you filed suit to try to get them struck down.
And obviously, if it’s after an election, it’s a lot harder to give people relief and there are some parts of the country where obviously folks have been trying to make it harder for people to vote, and so generally speaking, you’d see less protection before an election with respect to voting rights and people could keep coming up with new schemes each election, even if ultimately they were ruled to violate the Voting Rights Act, it would be hard for us to catch those things up front to make sure that elections are done in an equitable way.
Now this is part of the reason why at my State of the Union I said it’s very important that we work together to make sure everybody gets a chance to vote, and we clear away a lot of this nonsense. And if we have some national guidelines and rules working with states [and] counties to make sure that people aren’t waiting in line for six, seven hours [and] that there aren’t new tricks that discourage people from voting. If we’ve got those in place, then obviously it’s not as good as if we keep Section 5 of the Voting Rights [Act] in place, which I think we should, but I think it’s still possible obviously to make us to make sure that everybody is able to exercise their rights.”
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “Section 5 obviously played a critical role in this last presidential election, didn’t it?”
President Barack Obama: “I think there were lawsuits that were brought under Section 5, [and] there were lawsuits that were brought under other parts of the Voting Rights Act. As I said, what’s probably most important about Section 5 has to do with this pre-clearance…essentially it says that there are sections of this country that have a history of voting discrimination, and we’re going to make sure that they have to check in with the Justice Department before they institute any particular voting practices.
But it’s not the only tool that we have. It’s a critical tool, but it’s not the only tool.
I know in the past some folks have worried that somehow, if the Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, somehow people are going to lose the right to vote. That’s not the case. People will still have the same rights to not be discriminated against when it comes to voting, you just won’t have this mechanism, this tool, that allows you to kind of stay ahead of certain practices that may discourage people from voting.”
On sequestration and how the Republican Congress has handled this issue:
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “Let me go to sequestration…[my listeners and I] talked about it this morning in great detail about its impact on minority communities. [During my SiriusXM show,] a lot of federal employees…called in and someone brought up the question about how it would impact their High-3, their federal retirement plan? I’ve not heard anyone talk about that. Also, [what is] the impact it would have on poor and working people and what you really want this audience to do?”
President Barack Obama: “This concept of sequestration is basically a series of automatic cuts to the federal government. The Republicans back in 2011 insisted that if we don’t have these cuts— or at least some deficit reduction plan that’s agreed to—then we are not going to pay America’s bills and we will let America go in default.
So this was a compromise position that said let’s give Congress a year and a half to work on a smart plan for deficit reduction. Congress failed to do so—now these automatic cuts are coming in to place. What it means as a practical matter is that you’re going to have big cuts across the board in every agency…and in some cases that means that good programs are going to be cut, in some cases bad programs are going to be cut less than they should.
What you are going to end up seeing is that Head Start programs are going to have fewer slots, mental health services that people need are going to be less available, basic functions of government like meat inspection and running our airports could be impaired, the Defense Department is going to be affected in terms of military readiness. Although people are soldiers, our troops, they’re going to continue to get their pay.
It’s estimated that hundreds or thousands of people, if they don’t lose their jobs in layoffs, will be furloughed so that they end up taking a 15 or a 20% pay cut. Which obviously any family would find extremely difficult.
And the sad thing is, it’s not necessary, because I’ve put forward a plan that says let’s make smart cuts on things we don’t need and combine that with some revenue increases by closing loopholes and tax breaks that only the well connected and the well off are taking advantage of, and if we do that we could put this whole sequestered idea aside.”
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “And didn’t the Republican Congress, at least the leadership, initially agreed to that or did they not agree to that?”
President Barack Obama: “They’ve said in the past that there are tax loopholes that need to be closed. But they, I think, at this point feel as if they don’t want the wealthy and the well connected to pay even a dime more in taxes. They would rather see this sequester go in to effect. The big problem, Joe, is not just the individual families; it’s also the fact that when you take that much money out of the economy…you know the federal government buys all kind of things, and obviously its employees are customers of businesses and restaurants and everything else…when you have that big of an impact that hurts our economy over all…so even non-federal employees end up being cut. It’s not just the family that suddenly is scrambling to figure out ‘Where are my kids going to be because the Head Start program doesn’t have any openings?’ It’s also that Head Start teacher who is now laid off or on furlough, now they’ve got less money to pay their mortgage which means we may end up seeing more foreclosures and the whole economy gets weaker.
In terms of what your listenership can do, obviously just insisting to their members of Congress, especially if they live in a Republican district, that this is a really bad idea and that they should compromise and come up with a more sensible approach. That’s our big priority. But I will be honest with you right now, it is not clear to me that the Republicans are going to agree to turn this sequester off despite the fact that 75% of the American people agree with me in terms of the approach and disagree with them.”
On the significance of the statue of Rosa Parks being added to the National Statuary Hall:
SiriusXM host Joe Madison: “I knew Rosa Parks personally, you’ve had an opportunity to know her and obviously that if there wasn’t a Rosa Parks there wouldn’t be a President Barack Obama, Joe Madison or most of us who are in these positions we now have. [What is] the significance of Rosa Parks’ statue next week, going into Statutory Hall? [What is] the significance to future generations in your opinion as we celebrate Black History Month?”
President Barack Obama: “To think that a seamstress who was subject to discrimination her entire life ends up in the same hall as some of the titans of American political history, I think says a story about how change comes about in this country. It doesn’t come from the top down— it comes from the bottom up. And she represented better than anybody the kind of strength and determination that so many ordinary Americans show every single day in pursuit of a better country. She was an inspiration not just to African-Americans but to all people who are looking for justice and sometimes feel as if maybe they don’t have an impact, that they don’t have power and then suddenly when they get organized and they join together, they can move the world.
It’s going to be a great honor to be with her and I think it is wonderful especially for young people to learn her story and to understand that Rosa Parks, yes, was a seamstress, but she was also an organizer and an activist who had trained, and had participated with the NAACP for many years so that when that opportunity came for her to go ahead and assert her rights it was based on many years of dedication and an entire community that was supportive of what she was doing.”