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STAFF: Hey, so, do you all remember the scene in "Dave" where the -- where the guide is saying, "Walking, walking, walking"? All right? We have the vice president walking towards us. It's a very exciting moment, getting to introduce the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. (APPLAUSE) BIDEN: You're amazed I can walk, huh? (LAUGHTER) I know I'm getting older, but the fact I can walk is news? (LAUGHTER) GREGORY: Well, to all those who were expecting Brian Williams, I'm -- I'm just pinch hitting as he was called off to -- to anchor our special report about the president, who'll be speaking in a little while, but... BIDEN: You mean, (inaudible) the president than me? GREGORY: I mean, you know. (LAUGHTER) I know where I am, OK? (LAUGHTER) BIDEN: Sorry. (LAUGHTER) GREGORY: Mr. Vice President, it's good to see you. BIDEN: It's great to see you, David. GREGORY: There's a lot to talk about this morning, but I'd like to start by asking you what you think the world has lost with the passing of Steve Jobs. BIDEN: You know, I was watching some of the shows last night and his commencement speech in '05 at Stanford. If you haven't seen it, you ought to see it. But -- and someone said -- I'm paraphrasing -- this guy democratized technology in a way that he put in the hands of ordinary people instruments that were only heretofore available to NASA scientists, to docs in an operating room. And he -- he put in the hands of ordinary people the ability to do some extraordinary things. And I -- that struck me, that he democratized the use of the most advanced technology on Earth. And he -- so I think his contribution is huge. And also his attitude. I -- watching him saying he gets up every morning, looks in the mirror, and asks himself whether or not, "If this were the last day of my life would I be doing what I'm doing today?" And that seemed like how he approached life. And I think that's a hell of a good way. My dad said it a different way. He used to say, "It's a lucky man or woman gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they're about to do, and thinks it still matters." And it matters. GREGORY: Is that democratization of how we get news and information that he was instrumental in ushering in, what kind of impact has that had, not just on news and information, but on the political and policy debates in the country? BIDEN: Well, I think it, in one sense, it's made policy debates a little more difficult to focus and have in a way that there's no one -- I remember when I first got elected, 400 years ago... (LAUGHTER) ... and David Halberstam had just written "The Powers That Be." And I remember thinking, "My goodness, this concentration of power -- three networks and three outlets." And I thought to myself, you know, "This is, you know, Halberstam's point about it should be more open." Sometimes I wish there were only three. I'm not being facetious. Because there was a marshaling of the single most important issues of the day in one place where the debate could be, a fora that was always available, that you had 70 percent of the people watching the evening news. There was -- and it was news. But the flip side of that is this democratization has taken on the ability to literally bring down governments, bring down tyranny, to fundamentally alter the way people organize themselves. So, on balance, it is -- it is much, much healthier. But it does have -- I mean, there is no -- there's no governor on any of this. There's no editor. There's no -- so a lot of material gets out into the public sphere that is just specious. But my view is, and my deceased wife used to always kid me when I'd say this, I'd say, "I have great faith in the judgment of the American people." And she'd look at me and say, "I wonder how much faith you'd had, had you lost your first election?" But... (LAUGHTER) But I really do. I think the American people and the people around the world are digesting this and starting to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. So, I think, on balance, it's overwhelmingly positive. GREGORY: Why is the economy getting worse? BIDEN: The economy is getting worse for a number of reasons. Let me be precise. It's not that it's getting worse. It's not getting better at the rate it should get better. And there's a number of reasons for that. Domestically, the things that we can control, I, quite frankly, will not surprise you to hear me say I think that -- that playing brinksmanship with the national debt was a serious mistake. I think that us being downgraded is a psychological impact on the markets here and people's thinking about where we were. It is -- it is not within our power, but it is within our orbit that the scare, the default, the possibility of the default of Greece, whether or not the Europeans are going to build a firewall strong enough with a billion or a trillion, $700 million dollars to prevent the contagion to move to banks in France or the collapse of Italy. There are roughly, depending on the estimate, 30,000 to 50,000 apartment -- 50 million -- 30 million to 50 million apartment units in China that are vacant and people worried about the real estate bubble there. But we should focus on the things we can control, we can now control. We can now give it a jump start by passing this jobs bill. Every -- every -- the vast majority of the -- of the independent validators said it would create between 1.7 million and 2 million jobs. It would increase the growth of the GDP by up to a couple percentage points. And, so, the things that we can control are the things that frustrate me the most that we're not able to get done. GREGORY: Well, what is going to get it done? The president's campaigning for it. We'll talk about it later this morning. But, even though you believe you're right, you know in this town that's not always enough. BIDEN: No, it's not. GREGORY: So what's going to have to happen for it to get passed? BIDEN: Well, I think what's going to happen for it to get passed, I think we have to challenge -- and I, as you've reported, I have a good personal relationship with Eric Cantor. I like him a lot. He's smart as heck. I have a great relationship with John Boehner. But I know what they're against. I don't know what they're for. And I worry whether or not -- there was a report that Pete Sessions, the congressman from Texas, one of the senior staff members either for him or the Republicans, said, after the job bill was introduced, "Obama has his back to the wall. Why should we help him now?" Well, the reason to help him is not him. Help the United States. And I look at the elements of the bill, I don't know any Republican in the past that's been against cutting the payroll tax for businesses, as well as for employees. He had 50 of them supporting that just a year ago, including some of the most conservative members. I don't know any Republican out there who has taken a position that we shouldn't be improving the infrastructure. I don't know any Republican out there who has taken the position that it doesn't make sense for us to figure out a way to get those 6 million people who are paying 6 percent on their mortgages to pay 4 percent on their mortgages. And, yet, I don't know what they're against. They say it's dead on arrival. Is this, as the president said, I thought so pointedly, and this was a month ago, to amend it now, we have 13 months to have this campaign. We'll have all the kinds of fights. But these folks can't wait (inaudible). How many people do you all know who are going to go bed tonight staring at the ceiling, literally wondering whether they're going to be in that house next month? GREGORY: But, Mr. Vice President, this president's campaigning, too. He's campaigning... BIDEN: Oh, yeah. GREGORY: ... on an argument about tax hikes on the wealthy... BIDEN: Exactly. GREGORY: ... and in selling this bill. So, he's very much in campaign mode. Do you support what Democrats are now saying, which is, "How about a surtax on the wealthy in order to pay for it?" BIDEN: Absolutely. Look, here -- here's what we said when we introduced that bill. We said this is how we would pay for it, but we're open. Look, you have-- you have overwhelmingly, literally, in recent polls, as of yesterday, millionaires think they should pay more. Tea party folks think millionaires should pay more. The middle class thinks. Republicans think. What's the problem? What is the problem? GREGORY: All right, but this is a argument. So, I asked you as somebody who understands tactically how to move legislation... BIDEN: All right. GREGORY: ... what happens that gets it passed? BIDEN: What happens that gets it passed is we have to go to the people. That's what the president has decided to do. And I've been -- as you know, that's been sort of my point of view for a while here. You have a lot of folks who were elected last time to the Congress, meaning 2010, who are in districts where it's not going to matter. But you have a lot of folks, like in the state of Pennsylvania, you have five folks who are tea party associated who represent swing districts. We should go to the people, and we should be asking every one of those congresspersons, "What are you against?" The only way we're going to change this is not -- we're not going to change it by getting the leadership of the Republican Party to take on their membership. We're only going to change it if we can communicate to the American people what we're proposing is sound, reasonable and something that there's no good reason why Republicans, who in the past have supported it, don't support it now. GREGORY: Does the economy slip into recession if the federal government fails to stimulate it further? BIDEN: I do not think the economy slips into recession if this does not pass, but I do think it stays sluggish and stagnant if this does not pass. Now, there is a concern about recession and I know it's one of the things you've talked about often on "Meet the Press" and -- and that is there is a real concern about Europe. We are working as hard as we can and being interlocutors with our -- our -- our counterparts from me to the secretary of treasury to the president and encouraging Europe to do what they know they have to do, but it's politically very difficult to do, to build this firewall. But -- they're -- you can picture a worst-case scenario in the eurozone that could have a international contagion that could be (inaudible). GREGORY: I -- I'm reading Michael Lewis' new book, "Boomerang," and what's interesting to me is a -- a fundamental point he makes, which is our subprime crisis did a lot of damage to our banks, but the government could still bail the banks out. Here, you have countries that are actually destroying their banking system. (CROSSTALK) GREGORY: Can the eurozone survive with countries like Greece failing to meet its budget targets? BIDEN: It -- it can, but it's going -- this is a wrenching moment that they're going through. They -- they -- they've got to have, you know, as they say in southern Delaware, an "altar call" here. They've got to figure out, are they willing to take the risk needed to take to maintain this union? And our belief is -- our belief is they can. And our belief is they will. And our ardent hope is that they will. But, you know, it's interesting to me, if you read "Boomerang," and I have not read it -- I've read -- I -- I -- I haven't even purchased it yet, but a lot of talk about it. If you think about what our Republican friends are talking about now, I listen to -- and he -- he really is a friend -- John Boehner's speech to the -- I think it was in the chamber -- and he talked about liberating the economy. The last time we liberated the economy, we put the middle class in shackles. The fact of the matter is everything they're talking about are the very things that got us in trouble -- release, liberate Wall Street from the new constraints on them; talk about how we're going to increase tax cuts for people, particularly at the upper end. I mean, all of the things that we tried before and the very things that got us where we are are the things that are being proposed. And we have to have a head-on debate in this country about -- there's frustration that what we've done has not totally corrected the problem, that people are still hurting. And we understand that. But there has to be debate here whether we continue along the path we're talking about and make the kind of changes that we have been unable to make, like fair distribution of the tax burden in this -- I was just watching CNBC on -- as I -- as I came in in the -- in the hold room and they had a corporate guy on there talking to the -- I don't know -- Squawk Box or whatever -- whatever the program is, saying, "You know, the problem is" -- they were talking about corporate tax cuts. We -- we think corporations should pay at 28 percent and make us more competitive worldwide, but the problem is, as this guy pointed out, he said, "Industries are paying at 35 percent, but the financial sector's paying at 20 percent." And so, our problem now is getting everybody to get in the game here. It's not that we're slowing up corporate tax reform. Corporations are in disagreement because there are going to be winners and losers. And, look, you know, we talk about the "Buffett rule" -- I call it the "Reagan rule," not the "Buffett rule." I -- I -- I came along a little quote, OK? This is Ronald Reagan, 1985. "In theory, some of those loopholes are understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while the bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary and that's crazy." Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more -- don't you think the -- the millionaire should pay more than the bus driver or do you think he should pay less? All this stuff about us talking about, you know, class warfare. Give me a break. GREGORY: But most millionaires do pay more. I mean, that's... BIDEN: Oh, no. No, look... (CROSSTALK) GREGORY: ... Warren Buffett's a bit of an outlier. BIDEN: By the way -- no, no, no. Most millionaires -- all millionaires -- not all. The vast majority of millionaires pay more money than the bus driver, but on a -- on a progressive tax (inaudible), they don't pay at the rate they should pay. And so, if you have -- what Warren Buffett was really talking about is his effective tax rate, I think -- I forget what he said it was -- 17, 18, 20 percent, whatever. And his secretary making 55,000 bucks or whatever it was is paying at 28 percent. That is not what Teddy Roosevelt had in mind. That's not what has been the process for the last 100 years. GREGORY: Let me ask you a question about what's happening on Wall Street right now, on the streets outside, on Wall Street, the "Occupy Wall Street" protest movement. Do you and the president stand in solidarity with those protestors? BIDEN: Look... (LAUGHTER) No, you know, I -- I think that's a really fair question. Let's -- let's be honest with one another. What is the core of that protest? And why is it increasing in terms of the people it's attracting? The core is the bargain has been breached with the American people. The core is the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level. That is the core of what you're seeing on Wall Street. And that's what -- that's what started, by the way, there's a lot in common with the tea party. The tea party started, why? TARP. They thought it was unfair we're bailing out the big guys. What are the people up there on the other end of the political spectrum saying the same thing? Look, guys, the bargain is not on the level anymore in the minds of the vast majority of the American -- the middle-class is getting screwed. GREGORY: Well, why is that? Are -- are banks the problems in this economy? BIDEN: Banks are part of the problem in the economy. But -- but, look, why do you think -- I know you know, but there's this overwhelming gut reaction to Bank of America putting a $5 fee. Now, look, the American people know -- they don't guess -- they know the reason the CEO of the Bank of America or any other body in that business is in the business is because they -- that guy making 50,000 bucks -- bailed him out. Bailed him out. Put his financial security on the line when his government said, "We're going to come up with a trillion-plus dollars to bail them out." And then they turn around and they say, "By the way, we're likely only projected to make seven or eight or whatever it is -- $17 billion next year, but, you know what? Here we're going to do. The middle-class folks, these guys with these debit cards, are on their back, and we're going to charge them five bucks more to use a debit card. At a minimum, they are incredibly tone deaf. At a minimum. (CROSSTALK) BIDEN: And at a maximum, they are not -- they are not paying their fair share of the bargain here and middle class people are getting killed. GREGORY: But, lead editorial in The Wall Street Journal this morning, said, "Hey, wait a minute, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. They're responding to your rules." (CROSSTALK) GREGORY: Are they not supposed to be profitable when there are restrictions on overdraft protection and so forth? BIDEN: Look, that's a little bit like saying to my kid. I say, "Look, here's the deal now. I not only don't want you driving the car when you don't have a license and I've now caught you and I'm stopping you from doing that." And my son says, "Well, I can't do that anymore, so now I've got to steal a car. I got to get around somehow." (LAUGHTER) You know what I mean? Come on. (CROSSTALK) GREGORY: Honestly, is that really -- is that really the analogy you want to make? BIDEN: (Inaudible) Look, yes. Yes. GREGORY: I'm asking seriously because you're suggesting that it's crime -- that it's somehow... BIDEN: No, it's not a crime. GREGORY: No, I know you're not suggesting that, even though that was the analogy. (LAUGHTER) You're suggesting that -- that they're wrong in seeking to make a profit in a different way based on new regulation and you know... BIDEN: Yes. Yes. GREGORY: ... that there are people who are going to hear this and say, "You see? This is the problem with these guys. They're fundamentally anti-business." BIDEN: Hey, guess what, 99 percent of the American people aren't going to think that. I am not worried about how that's going to be perceived by anybody listening to this program. What I am worried about is the failure of the banks to understand that in a circumstance where it was viewed by the Congress responding to the American people that the tax in effect that was being placed on their purchase of goods when they, in fact, swiped a card is now forcing them to go out there and force -- add another fee when they're already making a profit. The question is, you can make a lot more profit. There's a lot of things they can do. At least -- look, at least, when -- when you're charging extra for bags on airlines, people are really angry. But they have heard for the last 25 years how bank -- how airlines are going bankrupt. So, they go, "I hate this. I don't want to do it, but I guess if I don't do it the airline's going to go bankrupt." Nobody thinks the banks are going bankrupt right now. All they're thinking about is, "Hey, guess what? They're a lot more liquid than they ever were and they're not lending any money." That's what they're thinking. So, you can't blame the American people for feeling an overwhelming sense of frustration at this moment when they're hanging on by their fingernails and all of a sudden they come along and say, "OK, even though we're going to make a healthy profit next year, we think we have to have this additional income coming in." GREGORY: Let me ask you about accountability when it comes to the economy. The president's job approval rating stands at 42 percent. The view of -- of his and, by extension, your handling of the economy is pretty low. Now, either the big efforts that you made as an administration turned the economy around or they didn't. And they appear to not have done that. Either you're accountable or there's only so much government can do. BIDEN: Look, it's -- it's -- it's two things. If you look at all the polls that you've cited before as well, a clear majority of the American people blame their financial straits on the last administration. They understand what got us in this trouble. They understand it was no regulation, no documentation loans, these wacky instruments that they're taking risk on, being leveraged 10, 20, 30 to 1, et cetera. So, they get it. But we're in charge. We're in charge. So they're looking to us to fix it. And they are frustrated, and I don't blame them. If you ever were raised in a household where someone in the house, when a recession hit, lost their job, you understand the frustration and anger they feel. We are in charge. We have turned it around. We have, but for the local -- in the last 15 months, we've created 1.7 million jobs, not nearly enough. And it's been offset by the failure of the Republicans to support the stimulus efforts. We had to do counter-cyclical help for the counties and the cities and the states. And so they've laid off 300,000 teachers. They've laid off -- so, it, as net, is not, you know, is -- we've taken a hit. But I think what they understand is they understand that we've kept it from getting extremely worse. We've made it better, but not good enough. And I think what the 42 percent represents is how they feel. They don't think enough has been done. And that's what, I think, is you're beginning to see focused, David. That's why I think we have to take this to the American people and say, "This is what we want to continue to do to keep us on the road." It's like the car's out of the ditch; it's moving along, but it's only chugging along at 25 miles an hour ... GREGORY: But... BIDEN: And they -- and they're used to going 60. GREGORY: But -- I mean, that doesn't sound like a lot of accountability, to me, to say -- because, look, let's -- let's look at the -- look at the facts. The stimulus plan was big and you got it passed. Health care reform was... BIDEN: And it created -- it... GREGORY: Well, hold on. But health care reform, which you initially thought was a bad idea, in terms of political capital -- later supported, of course -- that got passed. That was sold as part of our economic security. And things have not turned around. BIDEN: Well... GREGORY: So, again, there's either limits to what government can do or you're -- you're in a position of saying, "Look, I know we're in charge, but really it's -- it's the other guy's fault." That's not real accountability. BIDEN: There are limits as to how fast government can make up for eight years of profligate spending, no oversight, putting two wars on -- two wars on a credit card, a health care bill on the credit card -- the -- the prescription drug bill that had -- a tax of several trillion dollars on the credit card. It takes time to get that done. So there are limits on how rapidly government can work. There are also limits on what government can do when one party decides we're going to do nothing. We're going to do nothing -- nothing. Let me say it again. We're going to do nothing. What have they proposed to stimulate economic growth, except the same exact things that, quote, "liberated" the economy before? Get rid of Dodd-Frank. Let Wall Street go back to its other ways. Make sure that you continue the tax cuts for the -- matter of fact, increase tax cuts for the wealthy. That has not worked. So, it's very difficult, in an environment where one team says, "Not only are we not going to compromise on moving it forward; we just think the old method that got us here works." And so the American people -- their frustration is real, but, at the end of the day -- you've heard me quote it before, David, I think, on your show. There used to be a mayor named Kevin White in Boston. I just got elected at age 29. I went up in my first year, at age 30, to do an event in Boston for the Democratic Party. I'm in the hotel shaving. And Kevin White was the phenom who got elected in '70 and, in '72, he was in trouble running for reelection. And the gaggle of press got him as he came out of the mayor's office and basically said, "Well, wise guy, hot shot, what's -- how do you feel now?" And -- much more nicely. And -- and he looked at them. I'll never forget what he said. He said, "Look, don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative." (LAUGHTER) This is about the alternative. GREGORY: Let me -- let me ask you. So, just to button that down, your view, as you talk about whether the jobs bill is going to be passed, is that this president does not have a partner among Republicans on Capitol Hill? BIDEN: I think he does have a partner in the bulk of the leadership, but they are seriously hamstrung. Look, I can tell you without in any way violating any confidence; I think John Boehner would tell you; I think Eric Cantor would tell you, we had a much bigger proposal that I was personally negotiating with them as to how to deal with the debt crisis. And they could not sell it. I believe that, if just Eric Cantor -- this is Joe Biden -- he's going to have to say no, but I'm just telling you as straight -- I have a bad habit of saying what I believe. GREGORY: I don't want to get in the way of that now. (LAUGHTER) BIDEN: Look, guys, I -- this is just Joe Biden's impression -- I truly believe, if Eric Cantor, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, John Boehner were allowed to settle a deal in the room, we would have had a deal... GREGORY: But that's not how it works. BIDEN: No, it's not how it works, which is... GREGORY: And they're not strong enough leaders to get it passed. Is that your view? BIDEN: No. My view is that their party is not the Republican Party that we all know. One of the worst things that has happened to us, in my view, is we need a strong Republican Party. We need a Republican Party that's united. We need a Republican Party you can sit down with and say, "OK, this is a deal. Can you deliver? Can you deliver on the deal?" And so I think part of what this -- this is about is going over the heads of the Congress to the people, to their constituents, and make the case, and for the people to respond either to our arguments or to theirs and decide whether or not they're going to put pressure on their congresspersons to support this jobs bill or not. GREGORY: You've said two things that interest me. One is, not the Almighty, the alternative, and that this is not a strong Republican party, not strong enough... BIDEN: It's not a united Republican Party. GREGORY: OK. Is it strong enough of a Republican Party for its nominee to beat this president? BIDEN: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's strong enough to beat both of us. It's strong enough -- look -- look, no matter what the circumstance, at the end of the day, the American people right now are -- many of them are in real trouble. An even larger percentage have stagnant wages. And a significant majority of the American people believe that the country is not moving in the right direction. That is never a good place to be going into reelection, whether it's your fault or not your fault. It's almost sometimes irrelevant. But what I'm counting on -- I'm counting on what I read out there, the judgment of the American people to decide -- they know the hole we're in; they know how far we've come out; they're dissatisfied how fast we're going; and they're going to have to choose whether or not the path we have set the country on is the path that we should continue to go or we should go back to "liberating" the economy, in the terms of... GREGORY: The -- the president said this week that he's an underdog. And my question is, as I asked Valerie Jarrett yesterday, with the enthusiasm with which he was swept into office, the tears on election night because people were so full of hope in his leadership, how in the world did that happen, that he became an underdog for reelection? BIDEN: Well, look, because we -- look, let me make a comparison. When Franklin Roosevelt came into office, we had been in flat depression for two years. No one had any doubt about how we got there. When we got sworn in and we had the inaugural parade and the president and I were sitting out there on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, afterwards, we both walked back into the Oval. And he sat behind a desk and he jokingly said, "Joe, we bought in too high." (LAUGHTER) If we had been sworn in on March the 20th, it would have been even clearer how we got where we were. But that doesn't matter. We are in charge. We are in charge now. And the fact of the matter is that the American people are dissatisfied for the state of the nation at the moment. That, all by itself, is enough to make you the underdog. If you just look at it in statistical terms, former presidents in positions where unemployment's been this high have had great difficulty winning. So, it's just looking at the facts. But the end of the day, this ends up being a situation where the American people are going to have to make a choice. And our job, as -- as leaders, is to lay out clearly for the American people, this is not a referendum. This is a choice. If you don't like what we're doing, understand it; got it. GREGORY: Do you prevail? BIDEN: I think we win. GREGORY: Who's the nominee against you? BIDEN: Look, I spent 30 years trying to figure out the Democratic Party, and... (LAUGHTER) ... and with little success, I might add... (LAUGHTER) ... on nominees. So I have no idea -- none. GREGORY: Mr. Vice President, thank you. I only wish this were Sunday morning. BIDEN: Thank you. (APPLAUSE) END