TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning to one and all and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog, your fast-typingest, hungover-est, gulp-and-vomit and regret it later recollection of the Sunday morning political shows. My name is Jason, and a reminder that tomorrow is Tax Day. Normally it would have been Friday, except Friday was Emancipation Day in Washington DC. That did two things for America: first it moved Tax Day to the 18th, and second it let people know that there was this thing called "Emancipation Day." (Most people had to work anyway, so, don't expect me to have an Emancipation Day scrapbook to share with you or anything.)

If you want to know what happens if you don't do your taxes, click here! And here are nine things that rich people don't want you to know about taxes.

Speaking of having trouble doing your taxes, Tm Geithner is on several of these shows today, which means we are in for some non-stop excitement. As always, you should feel free to leave a comment or send an email. And, as life progresses, you can follow me on Twitter (though if you like fake Twitter accounts that rage in the style of Fake Rahm Emanuel and make constant in-jokes about Washington, DC, follow this person).


Fox News Sunday is leading with the recent spate of air traffic controllers falling asleep, and will talk to Ray LaHood. So, WOO YEAH, sweet Secretary of Transportation on Sunday morning, everyone!

But yeah, the air traffic controllers? They sit up awake in dark rooms all night probably listening to Floyd, eating those Tacos After Midnight Doritos cold waitin' for those 3am flights to come in, and lately they've just been straight up falling asleep at their desks, forcing planes to land themselves. What's to be done about it? Here's LaHood, to tell us. And yes, I mainly blame the Doritos.

There have been six incidents of similar variety, which means we have enough for a trend piece.

Anyway, LaHood doesn't remember a time where "he's ever been madder." HE IS A SEETHING BALL OF WHITE HOT RAGE, this Ray LaHood. "Controllers need to take personal responsibility," says LaHood, or he will play their ribcage like a xylophone.

Changes are coming! First, controllers will get more time to rest. DAMN IT, RAY LAHOOD IS ANGRY AND YOU WILL GET MORE SLEEP. TAKE THAT! Also: Controllers will have long weekends. YES, THAT'S RIGHT, JERKS! You have asked for it, with your behavior, and now guess what? LONG WEEKEND. MANDATORY. SUCK ON THAT, SLEEPYHEADS.

Ha, I kid! COntrollers schedules are nuts! Chris Wallace: "Why have these schedules been so nuts?"

LaHood says that if it turns out their study doesn't yield optimal results, they'll change up again. "Safety is number one." Wallace says that the NTSB said that these schedules were wrong back in 2007. "We're stepping up," says LaHood, "And this will change on my watch."

"BOOGA BOOGA UNIONS BOO!" says Wallace. LaHood says that the controllers are just as concerned about their good name and have been willing to work on changes and they've agreed to them. But why wasn't that Seattle controller fired? LaHood says that there's an investigation happening. "We're not going to countenance controllers falling asleep and coming back on the job," says LaHood. Wallace is skeptical. LaHood says that it's about due diligence and reviewing the matter. (We aren't able to fire gangster bankers or people from BP, so I don't know why this is surprising to anyone.)

Wallace asks if they need more controllers? Because the House wants to cut their budget. LaHood says they have enough people doing the work.

LIGHTNING ROUND! What about that hole in the Southwest flight? Was it Gremlins? LaHood says these planes have been inspected and are back in service.

What about planes straight running into each other at JFK? "Obviously there was error there." The NTSB is investigating.

The TSA, though, they are cold pattin' down little girls! LaHood reminds us that he is not in charge of the TSA, but he doesn't like it, not one bit.

Back to the controllers! LaHood says that he is "really, really just ticked off, really mad about it...I'M REALLY MAD ABOUT IT...I'm like every other American...we are going to work 24/7 to make sure these controllers are alert and awake, someone is concerned about safety!"

Beardless Tom Coburn is up in the teevee. He is part of the Gang Of Six. And Chris Van Hollen is here, too. He is on the "bipartisan team" that will be chillaxing with Joe Biden, playing some X Box, eating bagel bites, and negotiating on the budget. Dueling dudes from dueling bipartisan "gangs." This is like the Crips and Bloods if the Crips and Bloods were boring old middle aged white people who talked about discretionary spending.

Wallace says "Please throw away your talking points." And for the next fifteen minutes Tom Coburn and Chris Van Hollen stammer and make cuckoo noises and get flushed with embarassment, except for this brief moment where Coburn and Wallace and Van Hollen all sing "Rosalita" together.

KIDDING. They will totally use talking points, I bet.

Wallace asks about the extent to which the Ryan plan screws seniors, and Coburn says "There's no way to fix Medicare without driving down costs and there's no way for the government to drive down costs without rationing." What can Van Hollen do about that? "We have to enforce the Affordable Care Act, which drives down costs in Medicare." Van Hollen says that he's accommodated Coburn by getting rid of the redundant costs in Medicare advantage.

On taxes, the GOP won't have none of this raising taxes. But Coburn himself is open to break with that and add revenue, but he's not likely to increase taxes on the rich, just close some loopholes and deductions. Or is he? No. He says that tax reform will be "revenue-neutral" -- which is pointless! Like a "calorie neutral diet." But the added revenue will come through the "dynamic expansion" of the market. (This sounds like an invitation to return to bubble economies.)

Van Hollen and Wallace and Coburn are now fighting over who the fiscal commission endorsed and who they didn't, and the answer is that some members liked Obama's plan and some didn't -- like Coburn, who is sitting right here. That said, Coburn says that the Gang Of Six will create a plan the "everyone can swallow...the left isn't gonna like it and the right isn't gonna like it." So it will be like lima beans. (In my imagining, everyone hates lima beans, sorry.)

Raising the debt ceiling? Will Van Hollen agree to spending cuts in return for raising it? Van Hollen says, you know, we need to reduce the deficits, but it's wrong to link the two. Wallace points out that Obama has linked the two. Van Hollen says he's willing to "work out a plan" to reduce the deficits and increase revenue, but that's not a linkage.

Coburn says the "debt limit is ridiculous" and he won't raise it unless "everyone's agreed to make the critical changes that are necessary to put this country back where it needs to go." So there's your terribly specific ransom note, world economy! TOM COBURN DEMANDS SOME STUFF AND JUNK AND YOU KNOW...THINGS? OKAY? OR EVERYONE DIES.

Panel time, with Dana Perino, Nina Easton, Kevin Madden, and Juan Williams. Madden worked for Romney in 2008 and may yet again, someday. What's never ever disclosed that Easton is a big supporter of Mittens, too (though, it should be said, she could be a lot more helpful than she is).

Anyway, it's a safe bet that two of these panelists are going to say that Mittens is the bees knees.

SO, America wants to tax the rich and make very little changes to Medicare. Perino says, well, that's a "problem with communicators." And then there's some word soup about the debt ceiling and Tom Coburn. "The GOP is willing to lose elections over it," Perino suggests. Easton says that the GOP seems willing to put out a marker and start a debate, but all the President wants to do is campaign for President, and "go after millionaires and billionaires." (And that's what the majority of Americans want, so it's opportunistic without being reformative. Worth getting chafed about, but it's hardly surprising behavior from politicians in America. Easton acts like it's super-crazy and unexpected.)

What are Democrats going to be willing to give, and what are Republicans willing to accept? Perino answers that question by nursing her old grudge about Obama not voting to raise the debt ceiling under Bush. But okay, we agree: the purpose of this debt ceiling seems to be "as a means for everyone to demagogue their opponent." And this bothers me, if for no other reason than I really don't think it's okay to use the word "demagogue" as a verb.

Oh, yes, I'm not listening to a lot of this conversation this panel is having. You won't mind, I'm sure.

Okay, so now we'll get to Mittens mumblecore movie about how he's forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Wallace says that he had solemnly sworn to not mention Trump's name until he officially got in the race, and wouldn't be doing so now if it weren't for the fact that Trump was leading the GOP field. Chris, in that regard, you're a better man than I.

But yeah, Trump is ahead, BECAUSE IT IS EARLY and NOT MANY PEOPLE CARE about 2012. Perino says that he's said some controversial things and he's talked about jobs. Has he? He's talked about "creating" the jobs of "birth certificate super sleuths" who may or may not exist.

Easton discloses that her husband is an advisor for Mittens, so yay, that's pretty good. She pretty much ridicules the entire "birther" conspiracy, and wonders "where does this take" Trump's campaign. "I think of him as a performance artist," Easton says, of Trump. So, basically, Donald Trump is the Marina Abramovic of American fringe politics. THE COMBOVER IS PRESENT.

Has Romney figured out what to do about RomneyCare, which begat ObamaCare? Madden says that Romney will confront it head on and seek for contrasts with the rest of the GOP field. No worries there! The rest of the GOP field will be "contrasting" themselves with Romney by beating him to death over his health care plan. At any rate, Madden says that Romney will call "federal standards" for health care reform a mistake and that RomneyCare dealt with a specific population. That's all well and good, but the people who advised Romney disagree with him on that.

Will some noob, like Paul Ryan or Chris Christie, jump into the presidential race? Perino says maybe. And she says, also, Obama's criticism of Paul Ryan is the equivalent of barking mad Trump criticism. Jesus! When did Paul Ryan become Bambi's mom? Can't even mildly criticize him, just thank him for genially laying the entire debt burden on the working class.

Nina Easton believes that Mike Huckabee is running, which makes her one of a very small group of people who still think that. Madden believes that Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin will get in the race, too, but Trump won't. Williams says the Huckabee might get in. Perino says that it sounds like Palin is running.


Today we'll have Paul Ryan, thin-skinned creator of a plan to eliminate affordable care for old people, undermine the social safety net, raise taxes on most Americans and give money away to banks. You have to call this "courageous" or Ryan will weep on teevee and complain how everyone is mean to him. Hopefully, Mark Warner will find a way to make Ryan feel like a special snowflake, even if he has mild disagreements wth Ryan.

Schieffer reports that Tim Geithner has said that the GOP leadership has said they won't stand in the way of raising the debt ceiling. Ryan says that this was going to be done in exchange for other things. Schieffer says that this is not how Geithner is characterizing this. Ryan objects, Schieffer says, "So there's no news here," and Ryan says that this is correct.

Meanwhile, Obama was "caught" on an open mike criticising Paul Ryan. You know, "by accident." It was a total "mistake," that time Obama was overheard laying the wood to Paul Ryan in a manner that Democratic voters would cheer. Schieffer plays the whole recording to Ryan on the teevee, almost as if someone imagined, "Hey, if I said these things out loud and made it look like it was accidental, someone might play the whole thing on the teevee."

Ryan responds by saying, "I could go point by point on those things," but he doesn't! Ha! Wuss. "There's plenty of time for us to campaign later, we need to put the campaign aside, both parties do this."

Ryan basically wants to be known as the only person who has "put ideas on the table," but the White House has now, too. They're just not the ideas that Ryan wants to see "on the table" -- raising taxes on the rich and preserving health care for older Americans. Remember: the people who say things like "everything should be on the table," are the first to get shirty when you put something on the table that they don't like. This whole idea that people are willing to have an "adult conversation" is basically bunk.

Ryan points out that there's no change coming to Medicare to current recipients, since he'd like to keep their votes. "We don't think government rationing is the answer," says Ryan, the guy who plans to ration health care in the form of vouchers that diminish in relative value over time, until they aren't valuable at all anymore.

Schieffer doesn't understand why Ryan's plan would lower taxes on the rich, and comes at his disbelief-seeking query in two ways. "It seems to me that's where you get revenue." That just allows Ryan to use his "we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem" talking point. I also am confused, because Ryan has several times now suggested that revenue would be increased by keeping current levels and instituting tax reform -- but the only tax reform anyone seems interested in is the pointless "revenue neutral" tax reform.

If Ryan doesn't get the agreements on reform and control, will he vote to raise the debt limit? Ryan says that he "rejects the premise of the question." Schieffer points out that he was simply asking if he'll vote to raise the debt ceiling without concessions, Ryan basically says "no," without saying no.

Now here's Mark Warner, who has been "Gang of Sixing" it up lately.

Warner says that "it's dangerous to roll the dice on the debt limit," because you could "scare the bond markets" and "light the match that could burn down the house." By which he means, the economy, not your literal house. I think, anyway. Test your smoke alarms! That's just good advice. Warner says that he's trying to start with a "bipartisan plan" on taxes and the deficit, and "build out" from there.

Warner says that he finds it "hard to believe" that a serious person would "roll the dice" with debt ceiling "brinksmanship," but believes all the cooler heads will prevail.

Warner says he credits Ryan with having a "serious plan," and then goes on to list the ways it isn't serious -- it gets revenue from nowhere, leaves the defense budget out of spending cuts, offloads debt problems onto seniors, and suggests that they will have a more comprehensive and serious plan that -- guess what! -- "puts everything on the table." (Except for the critical stuff that Mark Warner doesn't like.)

At any rate, he wants to "start with a bipartisan plan," so probably the Gang Of Six meets in the basement and talks to David Broder with ouija boards and voodoo. Warner won't raise taxes either -- he'll eliminate deductions and lower rates. That seems only partially serious. I shouldn't be offended if Ryan didn't return this "this is serious" compliment. (How about, for instance, eliminate deductions and not touch tax rates?)

Warner says that he hopes that the discussions don't devolve into "right versus left," and promises that the Gang of Six will do something Simpson-Bowles-y that will anger people on all sides. Warner says that he hopes that people will approach the issue having "checked their Democratic/Republican hat" at the door. (And everything will be "on the table." Except hats.)

Bob Schieffer has some thoughts about the cuts that averted the government shutdown and is amazed that the $38 billion in cuts are actually $352,000,000 and a bunch of accounting gimmicks, where unspent money is called a "spending cut." Schieffer is disappointed and appalled at how nobody tells the truth about these things. He's right! It's pretty awful. I'd imagine that, unbeknownst to Schieffer, there was a good deal of non-truth that came out during the two interviews he conducted, though.


Tim Geithner is here, plus a 2012 circle jerk, and Alan Greenspan? This is going to hurt.

First, Geithner and the Debt Ceiling, a new band coming to Dischord records. Geithner says that Congress understands that it has to raise the debt ceiling and fulfill the obligations, but that the White House will move forward with getting our long term fiscal position in line. These activities are not to be "linked," but can work in parallel. He says that the leadership in both parties understand the risk and that the matter cannot be "taken to the brink." Geithner says that he heard the right people say the right things to the President and he isn't worried.

Geithner also says that the president's plan to cut the deficit will take longer because it's more "gradual" but will achieve about the same level that everyone is talking about.

But what if we play to Congress' strengths and agree to do nothing? What then? The deficit gets reduced, actually. So next week, with Congress out of session, it's fair to say that our lawmakers will have never been more serious about curbing the deficits.

Geithner says that he wants Congress to agree on timelines and triggers that will force Congress to live within its means.

Gregory says that once upon a time, Obama called debt increases a "failure of leadership," but since the debt's gone up under his watch, isn't that a failure, too. i sort of think that in terms of indebtedness, there's a pretty good way of visualizing where the "failure" happened:

But, yeah, once upon a time, Obama (and Steny Hoyer!) likes to use the debt ceiling as a weapon, and they are sorry now, and believe that to be a mistake, and God knows that when the shoe is on the other foot, they'll say the previous iteration was also a mistake. WHATEVER WE ARE DOING NOW IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO, MAYBE. (Unless it isn't! Sorry!)

Energy troubles and gas prices and Japan will slow down the economy modestly, Geithner says, but not disastrously so.

What does Geithner say to Mittens, who says that Obama's policies have failed and that no one knows how to create private sector jobs. Geithner says, "it's just politics, I understand that people have to say those things," and he goes on to say that we've added jobs to the economy. "Don't bet against this economy," he says. (You know...don't bet on it either. Why are you betting in this economy at all? Stop that!)

I think it would be awesome for the economy if Tim Geithner went as the guy from Eraserhead at Halloween.

What about tax cuts for the wealthy and the refusal to extend them again? Geithner says that Americans have never paid lower taxes than they do right now, and that further cuts require either cutting all sorts of programs or pushing the elderly out to see on ice floes or asking Tim Geithner to beg money from China, and that's not realistic.

Geithner says there is "plenty of room" in the tax code to raise revenue and preserve health care for seniors, etc.

Gregory wants to know if Obama hasn't "poisoned the well" because of that time he mildly disagreed with Paul Ryan and said that he wouldn't just up and let him run the entire country. Geithner says that the White House is going to do what needs to be done and do it in concert with the loyal opposition. Gregory seems to think that failing to just put the Ryan plan on a pedestal is tantamount to complete loggerheads.

Geithner says it's perfectly within our capability to fix the situation without endangering the economy or making staggering cuts to programs.

David Gregory seems to believe that what's impressive about Ryan is that "it does something fundamental." It makes me wonder what he'd think of my plan to fundamentally chop his legs off at the knee? "You know, I don't like this plan, and I don't look forward to hopping around on my little stump legs, but I credit Jason for a serious plan that achieves something fundamental."

Geithner says the President's strategy reduces the rate of growth in the costs of health care, and the Ryan plan shifts the cost burden, allows costs to escalate, and solves neither problem long term, and is that really "serious?"

Gregory asks if there are too many loopholes in the corporate tax code, and Geithner says yes and that it's untenable for corporations to be taxed not on their value but on the efficacy of their lobbying efforts, which is funny since the bailout helped a lot of people buy a lot of lobbyists.

Geithner is confident that both parties will come together this year on deficit reduction and tax reform.

Gregory has to offer a disclosure about General Electric, since they are the partial owner of NBC News. (Geithner should disclose, "And tax dodger Jeffrey Immelt is the CEO of GE and the White House has appointed him to be the guy who gets everyone a job again, for some reason.)

Will Geithner serve a second term at Treasury? Geithner says that he won't be making news on that topic today. Gregory laughs. Har.

Okay, panel time around the trapezoidal Tron table with Alan Greenspan, Senator Mike Lee, Jon Meacham, Tavis Smiley, and Jennifer Granholm.

What does Mike Lee think about unlinking the debt ceiling vote with debt reducing concessions. Mike Lee isn't happy about it! Lee says that it "doesn't make sense," and will "vote no without a deal."

Greenspan says, "I have a more fundamental question. Why do we have a debt ceiling in the first place. Why we need suspenders and belts is something I've never understood." (If Alan Greenspan exposes himself to you in McPherson Square this afternoon, now you'll know why that happened.) Anyway, he thinks we shouldn't not raise the debt ceiling, but he doesn't understand the whole deal anyway.

David Gregory makes Granholm listen to the recording that Obama "accidentally" made. Granholm says that both sides have set the parameters of the debate and now there is a "huge arena for compromise." Of course, there is also a huge arena now for people to attack each other with pole-axes and maces also. (Actually, I think that all future debates on debt limits should take place at Medieval Times restaurant.)

Ugh, Jon Meacham starts talking and my brain starts a series of autonomic nervous responses that my doctor calls the "Sleep Or Kill Yourself Immediately Defensive Response." It's like "fight or flight," except I have no one to fight and nowhere to escape.

David Gregory tells Mike Lee that Walter Mondale totally won the election by losing it and Reagan had to raise taxes and that's why everyone thinks of Walter Mondale when you think of Great Americans. Lee doesn't really accept that argument. Greenspan says that all the Bush tax cuts should expire, and taxes should go back to Clinton-era rates, which is why you probably thought you heard the shrieks of Ayn Rand's poltergeist. Greenspan says that he is actually very confident that these major issues are going to be confronted realistically and overcome.

Jon Meacham seems to think he's the host of the show, and starts asking Jennifer Granholm questions, and now Tavis Smiley's mike isn't working, and it's a mess! But Smiley is pretty awesome and unimpressed by speeches and plans and the re-election ambitions of politicians, like maybe someone does have to be the Mondale? Smiley goes on: "I'm less concerned about Republicans and Democrats than I am about lobbyists. Now that he's drawn a line in the sand, will he stand behind it?" (Well, if it's drawn in the sand...but yeah, go Tavis!)

Why is the stock market going up while everyone stays jobless? Greenspan says that productivity increased and asset values went up. Gregory: "Companies doing more with less, but where are the jobs?" Greenspan says that now that productivity growth is flattening, there are jobs being created. But there are "headwinds" and "profit margins are tilting downwards" and if that continues, "tough problems ahead."

Does Greenspan worry about inflation and the Fed doing too much to prop up the economy? He says that the Fed understands that the excess liquidity will have to be withdrawn to get a stable system, but doesn't think the "bloated balances" of the Federal Reserve and commercial banks are having that large an effect on the economy.

Gregory asks Meacham to wrestle with the fact that Donald Trump is atop the GOP field. "Trump is an emblem of the triumph of celebrity culture." Ha, well, he stole that emblem from Sarah Palin, didn't he? Meacham thinks "Trump is an interesting figure" but anticipates that Romney will emerge as the actual GOP candidate. Smiley adds that Trump is "laughing all the way to the bank."

Smiley says he understands the angst of the Tea Party but cautions them (and Mike Lee) that if they get behind the ridiculousness of Donald Trump, no one will take their substantive issues very seriously.

Lee says that Romney is the frontrunner and has "come into this race strong." He says that "Donald Trump is not the Tea Party candidate."

We move on to Jon Huntsman, who is a controversial figure because he likes Barack Obama. Lee says that this won't be a great benefit to a Huntsman campaign, nor will it be the "death knell." (Does anything other than death have a "knell" by the way?)

Gregory shows a clip of his interview with Deval Patrick to remind people that Meet The Press has a website. Anyway, Deval Patrick says that the Tea Party isn't optimistic, Lee disagrees, it's really good that so much mixed media bandwidth was devoted to that important question.

Now I don't know what's happening on this show? Gregory is reporting that Geithner made news today on Meet The Press when he came on Meet The Press and answered a question about the debt ceiling -- specifically, that he thought that there should be no debt ceiling ransoming, that the GOP leadership evidently agrees, and that budget/tax reform will be accomplished in "parallel track" but not as a part of debt limit hostage taking. We've already been over this? But Gregory is now acting as if this was all new stuff because the AP reported it, so he asks Mike Lee the same basic question he began with, and Mike Lee says, "Let me reiterate..." and then he goes on to do just that, and...uhm...what was all that about?

Oh, wow, so now Gregory wants to talk about the Tweetdeck and what's "trending on it," and GAH, PROBABLY JUSTIN BIEBER.

Tavis Smiley basically says: Uhm, I'm not going to indulge your conversation about Twitter and I'll instead invoke MLK and point out that these wars we are fighting are expensive and their cost falls very heavily on the poor. Again, props to Tavis.

Is this something Meet The Press is going to do, now? Monitor the tweetdeck for trends? Please get the hashtag "#davidgregoryhasabunnytail" trending next week, okay?

Okay, well, that's that for another week. Next week: Easter, I think! Great day for brunch! God, I remember brunching with friends, and how much fun that was. Sunday mornings: they are like night-terrors for me.

Anyway, have a great week!

[So that's that for another Sunday. We'll see you next time. If you're still bored, read about that time WorldNetDaily got into a tiff with Salon. It's pretty funny.]