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PBS's Tavis Smiley Claims 2011 Budget Deal 'An Immoral Document'

As part of the political panel on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, PBS host Tavis Smiley decried the recent budget deal in Congress to fund the government through the rest of 2011: "I believe that budgets are moral documents....And I'm not so sure that this is not anything more than an immoral document where the poor are concerned."

Smiley went on to lament how the budget negotiations "effectively locked out the American people, namely, the poor." He further ranted: "I don't understand why it is in this town that every debate about money always begins and ends with how we can further reward the rich and more punish the poor. I don't get that."

Following former Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm describing the possibility of compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the 2012 budget, Smiley went after President Obama for not fighting harder against spending cuts: "...a week ago, the President comes out and congratulates Republicans on the biggest budget cuts ever in the history of this country, then the next week, you're slamming them about their deficit reduction priorities. So I'm not even sure I understand what side of his mouth the President's really speaking out of, respectfully."

Near the end of the program, Smiley shared some concluding thoughts with the rest of the panel: "The only thing I want to add to this conversation, because I would not - I couldn't live with myself if I didn't say this.... this conversation is not disconnected from these wars that we are engaged in. I have to say that. Dr. King said all the time that war is the enemy of the poor. If we're going to get this country back on the right track and get these poor and the underemployed and the unemployed lifted up, we have to understand that war is the enemy of the poor. And I just got to say that."

Here is a transcript of the April 17 exchange:

JENNIFER GRANHOLM [FMR. GOVERNOR, D-MI]: But here's the great thing, is that this week, the President gave the parameters on the Democratic side, and Congressman Ryan gave the parameters on the Republican side. So, now we know what the arena is, and they agree that the deficit reduction should be about $4 trillion.

They agree that everybody should put entitlements on the table. They disagree on how to get there. And they agree on what they're going to do about business taxes, or at least in concept, that we should have a more competitive business tax that doesn't have all these loopholes. I think that is a huge arena for compromise, and I think the President really spoke to a lot of Democrats-

DAVID GREGORY: But does that assume, Tavis, that that's really the arena that we're operating in, or is this the land of fantasy, in terms of what's actually going to get passed?

TAVIS SMILEY: I think it's the latter, and I'm not even sure what the arena is. I note, with respect to the Governor, that a week ago, the President comes out and congratulates Republicans on the biggest budget cuts ever in the history of this country, then the next week, you're slamming them about their deficit reduction priorities. So I'm not even sure I understand what side of his mouth the President's really speaking out of, respectfully.

What I know is this, I believe that budgets are moral documents. Budgets are moral documents. You can say what you say, but you are what you are. And when you put your budget on the table, that's when we learn who you really are. And I'm not so sure that this is not anything more than an immoral document where the poor are concerned.

Yes to your point, David, we avoided a shutdown of government, but we effectively locked out the American people, namely, the poor. And I don't understand why it is in this town that every debate about money always begins and ends with how we can further reward the rich and more punish the poor. I don't get that.

(...)

SMILEY: The only thing I want to add to this conversation, because I would not - I couldn't live with myself if I didn't say this. Because these things seem so disconnected when we're talking about budget policy in this country, but this conversation is not disconnected from these wars that we are engaged in. I have to say that.

Dr. King said all the time that war is the enemy of the poor. If we're going to get this country back on the right track and get these poor and the underemployed and the unemployed lifted up, we have to understand that war is the enemy of the poor. And I just got to say that.

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