Smiley and West have been two of President Obama's most high-profile African American critics. They are currently on a nationwide "Poverty Tour" to highlight what they say is the lack of attention given to poor people in America. Smiley and West appeared on "American Morning" Monday to discuss the tour. Smiley was blunt about what he saw as the damage done by Obama in the recent debt deal.
"I think this debt ceiling deal, Carol, was really a declaration of war on the poor," he said. "The Congress, the president, respectfully, have declared war on the poor...no unemployment extensions for poor people. No closing of a single corporate loophole, not one new tax, not one cent of new tax on the rich and the lucky."
Costello didn't seem to be buying this line of thinking. In response, she cited a Heritage Foundation study which, she said, claimed that poor Americans lived relatively comfortably.
"What are they complaining about?" she asked, and, citing the study again, continued, "[rich] people pay the taxes in America and the poor don't pay any." West called this a "lie," saying that "most of the taxes are paid by middle class. One out of four corporations don't pay a penny of taxes."
After Smiley ran through some of the things he would like President Obama to do to tackle poverty--including discussing the issue more and having a national conference on poverty--Costello asked another skeptical question.
"The president represents everybody in America," she said. "[He's] dealing with a lot of stuff right now so why concentrate on one segment of the population?"
"When the banks had a national emergency, they bailed out and found $700 billion," West shot back. "When we go to war, we find $1.3 trillion."