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MSNBC Touts Washington Post Columnist 'Taking Apart' GOP Budget Argument by Claiming U.S. 'Not Broke'

On Wednesday's Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, fill-in host Norah O'Donnell spoke with liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne about his claim that the United States is "not broke," but simply needs to "raise revenue" through higher taxes. She teased the segment by wondering: "Is Washington really as broke as lawmakers make it seem?"

O'Donnell described Dionne's latest column as "provocative" and asked, "How can you say there is no crisis?" Dionne argued: "...we are in this strait partly because of an economic downturn, when things get better, when the economy gets better, revenue comes in. We're also in this trouble because we cut taxes and started two wars at the same time back at the beginning of the last decade."

After O'Donnell pointed out the nation's $14 trillion debt, Dionne contended: "If you went back to Bill Clinton's tax rates - and as I recall, a lot of rich people did very well, the country did very well, we added over 20 million jobs - you'd raise $4 trillion over ten years."

O'Donnell countered: "Well why do you need to raise taxes if we're not broke?" Dionne responded: "What I'm saying is we have a deficit problem but we're not broke. And there's a difference. And I think the people who want to say we're broke are not willing to look at any kind of revenue."

Dionne went on to proclaim: "...if you cut and cut and cut, you might get there. But people don't want that. Polls show they don't want that, it would cause enormous problems. We need some revenue. But we're not going broke in this country....when people say we're broke, it creates this fake crisis. We don't have a crisis. We have a problem. When you have a problem, you don't rush to do something that doesn't make sense." Apparently, the government spending within its means just "doesn't make sense" to Dionne.

O'Donnell wrapped up the segment this way: "Alright, no crisis, but revenue's got to be part of it. E.J. Dionne, great column today, really sort of taking apart the Republicans' argument. Thanks so much. Appreciate it."

Here is a full transcript of the March 16 segment:

1:14PM ET TEASE:

NORAH O'DONNELL: Up next, some news on the budget battle here in Washington. Is Washington really as broke as lawmakers make it seem?

1:17PM ET SEGMENT:

NORAH O'DONNELL: Back here in Washington, the House narrowly passed its sixth temporary spending bill. And today, Republican leaders signaled it's likely to be the last one. And in a mini-rebellion, 54 Republicans broke with their speaker, Speaker Boehner, saying the bill just stalls a showdown with the President that they want to have. They say the country is just too broke for half-measures.

STEVE KING [REP. R-IA]: The President of the United States who has the audacity to send us a budget with a $1.65 trillion deficit-

STEVE WOMACK [REP. R-AR]: Look, America gets it. We're a trillion and half dollars in deficit.

RICH NUGENT [REP. R-FL]: They kept kicking the can down the road, refusing to make hard decisions as it relates to spending.

CHARLIE DENT [REP. R-PA]: I say let's cut some spending and let's cut it now. And let's cut it today.

O'DONNELL: Well, in a provocative new column, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne says the country isn't broke. Alright, E.J., what do you mean? How can you say there is no crisis?

E.J. DIONNE: What does it mean - good to be with you, by the way - what does it mean when we say we're 'broke'? It means we've run out of money, we can't increase our income, we've got to go into bankruptcy court or something like that. If you take the federal government, we are in this strait partly because of an economic downturn, when things get better, when the economy gets better, revenue comes in. We're also in this trouble because we cut taxes and started two wars at the same time back at the beginning of the last decade. And-

O'DONNELL: But how can you say we're not broke? We are $14 trillion in debt. We've got to raise the debt ceiling for the tenth time in ten years again, in April.

DIONNE: If you went back to Bill Clinton's tax rates - and as I recall, a lot of rich people did very well, the country did very well, we added over 20 million jobs - you'd raise $4 trillion over ten years, about the same amount as you get if you do all this stuff that Simpson Bowles-

O'DONNELL: Well why do you need to raise taxes if we're not broke?

DIONNE: Well no, what I'm saying is we have a deficit problem but we're not broke. And there's a difference. And I think the people who want to say we're broke are not willing to look at any kind of revenue. I mean, the President's been reluctant on revenue, but he has said, 'Look, let's go after the special breaks for the oil companies, let's put some limits on the deductions.'

In other words, we can cut all these programs and go after Social Security and Medicare. And yeah, if you cut and cut and cut, you might get there. But people don't want that. Polls show they don't want that, it would cause enormous problems. We need some revenue. But we're not going broke in this country. People are still buying our bonds. They're still at a very low rate.

And what I worry about when people say we're broke, it creates this fake crisis. We don't have a crisis. We have a problem. When you have a problem, you don't rush to do something that doesn't make sense. You sit down and say, 'How do we solve this problem rationally?' I don't - metaphors with the family aren't perfect, but when a family has a problem, they sort of try to figure it out. We can figure this out, but revenue's got to be part of the package.

O'DONNELL: Alright, no crisis, but revenue's got to be part of it. E.J. Dionne, great column today, really sort of taking apart the Republicans' argument. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

DIONNE: Thank you, good to be with you.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.