Q&A: Fiscal Summit

strong first step.  I only hope at the end of the day we can come out, maybe not in total agreement, but certainly in a bipartisan way.

THE PRESIDENT:  Just a quick thought on taxes, Charlie.  My instinct is, is that you’re absolutely right that the individual tax rate is always the hardest thing.  There’s some philosophical differences between the parties on this and I understand that.

On the corporate side, I at least have always maintained that if we try to think in the same ways that we thought about it in 1986, and if you closed loopholes, you could actually lower rates.

REPRESENTATIVE RANGEL:  No question about it.

THE PRESIDENT:  And that’s an area where there should be the potential for some bipartisan agreement, because I think, on the books, the rates in the United States are high.  In practice, depending on who it is that you can — what kind of accountant you can hire, they’re not so high.  And that’s an area where we can work on.  Simplification, same thing.  I don’t think there’s anybody out here who thinks that we are making it customer-friendly for the taxpayer.  And that’s an area where we can make some great progress.

REPRESENTATIVE RANGEL:  Well, if you’re looking for a fight and a partisan fight, any loophole you close is a tax increase.  We have to get over that and make certain that the vast majority of businesses recognize it’s in their best interest to do the right thing as relates to those who’ve taken unfair advantage of the government.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you were here in ’86 — it’s been done before.  We might be able to get it done this time.

REPRESENTATIVE RANGEL:  Well, under your leadership, I’m looking forward to it.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Eric, you got some thoughts?

REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR:  Mr. President, I want to thank you very much for having us.  It’s a great opportunity I think for us to really come together on some of these very, very big issues.

You said before when we were in discussions on the stimulus debate that we’re going to have some very tough choices to make.  And we look forward to your address tomorrow night and working through some of these very big issues, as well as trying to address what’s on Secretary Geithner’s plate in the immediate, as far as the bank fix, the housing fix and others.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.

Max, you were on the health care panel, but obviously you’ve got jurisdiction over everything.  (Laughter.)  I know how the Finance Committee works.  (Laughter.)

SENATOR BAUCUS:  Well, Mr. President, first, all of us are enormously grateful for what you’re doing here — not on the specific issues, but also our fiscal problems.  It needs to be done, and we deeply appreciate you taking this on together.

I’d like to just make a little bit of a pitch, if you will, on health care reform.  I think it’s very symbolic and very interesting that the first person you called upon was John McCain.  And that’s the approach I think

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