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The State of the U.S. Economy; Interview with Dwyane Wade

Aired September 8, 2012 - 09:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: No matter how many hours you spent watching the Democratic convention this week, I promise you, you didn't hear this. I'm about to tell you the three big mistakes the president made that could cost him his job.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans. Almost four years after the last presidential election, the economy is still struggling. We know President Obama did not cause the economic crisis, but is he fixing it? Remember, regardless of what political party you associate with, how much money you make, where you live, or any social issues you feel passionately about, Barack Obama is your president.

Last week I showed you how GOP-backed policies helped run up the debt. This week I'll show you the three mistakes President Obama has made that could keep him from another term. First, underestimating the economic crisis. The most important issue to voters in this country today is the same as it was four years ago, jobs.

In the summer of 2008, then candidate Obama, he held a significant lead over Republican nominee John McCain on this issue. 57 percent of voters said Obama could better handle the job situation. Three months later, President Obama was elected. Fast forward to "Today," 46 percent say the president will be better able to handle jobs in the economy. But more people, 48 percent favor Mitt Romney.

The second mistake the Obama administration has, a messaging problem. And you know what, the president knows it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The mistake of my first couple of years was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that's important. But you know, the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people.


ROMANS: Speaking of messaging and telling that story, the Democrats had a moment. They controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. And what did the president do?


MICHELLE OBAMA: Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn't care whether it was the easy thing to do politically, no, that's not how he was raised. He cared that it was the right thing to do.



ROMANS: Many of you would agree it was the right thing to do. Some of you don't. But it addresses a very serious issue in the country. But the president spent all of his political capital on this one issue. Today, more than 12 million Americans are still out of work. Let's bring in former "New York Times" columnist Bob Herbert. He is a distinguished senior fellow at Demos. Robert Samuelson is also with us. He is a columnist at the "Washington Post." Thank you both for joining us this morning. Bob, I want to start with you. Bob Herbert as a liberal. I asked him if I could call him a liberal. He said put in "proud." So, as a proud liberal, can you defend the Obama economy without using the words Bush, Romney or Ryan?

BOB HERBERT, SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: Sure, I can defend it. You know, we have to remember and you touched on this in your introduction. When Barack Obama took office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. The economy -- the GDP, gross domestic product was plunging and we were on the verge of a great depression. He and his policies stopped that, prevented that from occurring. Now, you know, we've been -- we've had a recovery, but everybody knows that it's a weak recovery, weak recovery, and I think that the president did not do enough. In fact, you know, you mentioned liberal. I think the policy should have been more liberal.

ROMANS: Robert Samuelson, you gave the president this week a C plus on his economic report card. You gave an A minus for the first six months, I guess, avoiding that Great depression, after that, though, you give him lower grades. Why?

ROBERT SAMUELSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, you have to realize that this recovery has been about half speed of the normal post World War II recovery. We've been growing at about two percent a year. Then average for post World War II recovery is about four percent. I agree with Mr. Herbert that the administration's policies in cooperation with the Federal Reserve probably prevented us from going into a much deeper downturn, conceivably a Great Depression. And I would give the president an A or A minus for that.

ROMANS: But then, after that ...

SAMUELSON: But once -- once ...

ROMANS: ... you consider a mistake.

SAMUELSON: Well, that precisely what you said earlier, that he diverted his attention to other things, mainly health care and lost focus. And I would say contributed to the excessively contentious atmosphere in Washington and the sort of sequence of showdowns between the White House and Congress.

ROMANS: And you think he contributed to that?

SAMUELSON: And undermine ...

ROMANS: Because the narrative from the Democrats is that it's the Republicans that have caused all these showdowns and this is the conciliator in chief until two years into it when he had to really start to get tough on politics. Do you think the president helped cause this -- this, you know, this impasse?

SAMUELSON: I absolutely think, you know, you have the president is the country's major political leader. He has to work with the opposition. When you pick health care as your main legislative goal, getting universal coverage, you know that that is going to be polarizing. You know that it's going to evoke an enormous amount of opposition from the Republicans and when you are in the midst of an economic crisis, that's not a kind of fight you want to be looking for.

ROMANS: I want to talk to both of you about this construct this week, they've been framing -- framing this election at least for the week, about this "Are you better off?" This whole argument, it's a bumper sticker ...


ROMANS: It's a bumper sticker that feeds right into politicians and people who believe in bumper sticker politics. But I want to show you some things. It's flashback exactly four years ago, not to when the president took office. But to September 2008. Lehman collapsed on September 15th, the economy in the third quarter shrank by 3.7 percent, we lost 1.1 million jobs between August and October that year. And you think back to then candidate John McCain saying he was going to suspend campaigning for a moment to come back to Washington because we were on the brink of something so horrible. The back room conversations between both parties, the Fed, Treasury secretaries, you know, titans of business saying what is happening here. Robert Samuelson, are we better off than we were four years ago?

SAMUELSON: Well, it's interesting. If you take a snapshot of the economy now and a snapshot of the economy when Obama took office, they are almost identical. Payroll employment is 133 million now. It was 133 million when he came into office. The unemployment rate is 8.3 percent now. It was just about 8.8 percent when he came into office. If you look at per capita incomes and adjust for inflation, there's basically been no change. The same is true of hourly -- average hourly wages. So, I would say we're not better off, we are not substantially worse off. I think the major difference is psychological. That when the president came into office, people were terrified. They didn't know what was going on. They didn't -- they feared for the worst. That, I think, is gone. But I think it's been replaced by a kind of quiet fatalism that insecurity and stagnation have become our permanent economic clock.

ROMANS: That's interesting.

SAMUELSON: So, it's -- it's -- it's -- I would say we are not any worse off than we were, but we're not much better off. ROMANS: Bob Herbert, terrified versus fatalistic. I can't remember exactly what he said. But they both sounded bad but they are different.

SAMUELSON: Yeah, you know, people talk about what America was like in the post-war world and they compare it to the way it is now. We're much better off now than we were in the 1950s and '60s. But one of the big differences, I always say, is that in the '50s and '60s people thought we were moving in the right direction.

ROMANS: Right.

SAMUELSON: People thought that they could handle their problems. The reason I think people feel sort of the way they do now, it's almost like a psychological depression is that they feel that we're either stagnating or going backwards. And they don't feel that we have a handle on our problems. And that's a big difficulty.

ROMANS: Bob Herbert, Robert Samuelson, you both give the president a C plus. The president himself this week gave himself an incomplete. I think voters will give him the final grade in November. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Coming up ...


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R ), NEW JERSEY: They believe in teachers unions. We believe in teachers.


ROMANS: Can you support teachers but not teachers unions? We'll ask the president of the country's biggest teachers union, the NEA. And later, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade's other full-time job. He both got on being a father. His advice to other dads and what he tells his own kids about money.


ROMANS: Pop quiz. Can you love your teacher and hate their union? The president and his opponent both support paying teachers for their performance not their seniority. They both support charter schools. Both parties want education reform. But the GOP is more likely to say unions are standing in the way of that reform. I wonder what the president of the nation's largest teachers union thinks about that. Dennis Van Roekel is the president of the NEA. He joins me now. Good morning, sir. Thanks for joining us. Dennis ...

DENNIS VAN ROEKEL, NEA PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for having me.

ROMANS: Are you losing sleep at all over the thought of President Romney?

VAN ROEKEL: Well, you know, President -- Governor Romney has a very different vision for America than President Obama does, and our educators -- we believe in President Obama's vision for America. And especially for education. And when they listen to Romney that he believes that every student not have all the education they can afford or if that if you're having trouble financing higher education, ask your parents for a loan. We understand that he's really disconnected from most of the families with whom we deal and our students.

ROMANS: But, you know, this is a tough time for education. You've got 300,000 education jobs gone since June of 2009, you disagree with parts of the president's reform program raise to the top, particularly the expansion of charter schools and tying teacher compensation to student performance. President Obama has even endorsed firing teachers at an underperforming school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, but you're still -- you are still endorsing the president. Is it -- is the question of -- I guess the candidate you least like most? Did I even say that right?

VAN ROEKEL: No, it's definitely about the candidate we believe in and like most. Absolutely we've had disagreements on policy statements, but that is not a problem for me. You see, we believe in his vision for America. We believe where it ought to go. He believes in access for all students. He believes in the continuum from early childhood through graduate school. He supported Pell grants, increasing those. He changed the student loan program. So we believe in what he's done, we believe in his vision. And I would much rather disagree on how to reach a commonly held vision than argue about where we want to go. And with Governor Romney, we don't believe in his vision. We don't believe it solves the problems of education.

ROMANS: We know that both parties have talked about more vouchers -- charter schools, not vouchers, sorry. The Republicans talking about vouchers. But charter schools, and more choice for students. Republicans really hammered the school choice issue and the voucher. So, let's take -- take a listen what the former Florida governor Jeb Bush recently said.


JEB BUSH: There are many people who say they support strong schools but draw the line at school choice. Sorry, kid, giving you equal opportunity would be too risky and it would upset powerful political forces that we need to win elections.


ROMANS: Dennis, that's you, the powerful political forces to win elections for the president. He says, you know, voters can help unions or voters can help students. It's one or the other. What's wrong with allowing parents to choose their child's school?

VAN ROEKEL: I just don't understand why in America we want to find a solution that solves the problem for some students. The richest and most powerful nation in the world, I want the mental model, I want the vision to be that we provided for every student in America, no matter where you live, no matter who your parents are, what their economic status. So, when we're working together to find solutions, let's define a solution that works for every single child in America. President Obama understands the need to do that. He supports that vision. And that's why the members of NEA, over 3 million of them, who work in classrooms from early childhood to graduate school, we believe that President Obama deserves and America needs him for another four years.

ROMANS: And I know you spent an awful lot of money lobbying, I mean this is a very powerful organization, teachers' union, last year the NEA spent more than $7 million lobbying. I want to show you a new Gallup poll, though, that found that just 29 percent of Americans want labor unions to have more influence. 41 percent want labor unions to have less influence. Why are they wrong?

VAN ROEKEL: Well, you know, I started teaching many years ago. I was a high school math teacher for 23 years. And my first year of teaching, I thought if I cared enough and I worked hard enough, I could deliver for all of my students. But I soon realized I couldn't because too many decisions were made outside of my classroom. I wanted a voice. If I'm teaching every day all day, I needed someone to be advocating for me and my students and that was my union.

In this day and age, unions are needed more than ever. I want that voice heard of the people who spend their professional life with students. So I absolutely believe that we cannot only, is there a need for us to be there, but we need to play a leadership role in defining solutions for kids.

ROMANS: Supporting -- supporting the president, you're there in Charlotte, supporting the president for another term, even as -- on the campaign trail, and clearly education something being hammered by the Romney camp. Dennis Van Roekel, thank you for joining us. Come back again soon.

VAN ROEKEL: Oh, you bet. Thank you for having me.

ROMANS: All right, up next, he's been appointed by the president to teach fathers to become more involved in their kids lives.


DWYANE WADE: Well, someone said back to me you have the money to do that. I said it doesn't take money to sit across the table from your son and sit there and help him with his math work until he gets it. That takes time. That takes dedication.


ROMANS: Dwyane Wade on fame, fortune and being a father next.


ROMANS: NBA star Dwyane Wade, he's got two full-time jobs, basketball and fatherhood. And when you talk to him, it's pretty clear how passionate he is about both. Wade was recently appointed by President Obama to help lead a program that encourages fathers to be more involved in their kids' lives. It's something important to Wade, who was a dad by the time he was 20, while he was a sophomore at Marquette University. He has had a remarkable ten years since, both on and off the court, and being a father is the center of it all.


WADE: Obviously, you know, I'm not going to discredit what basketball has done for me and my family and how important the sport is, but you know, it's a little something that's a little bit more important, you know, to me, and it's being a father, and it's really understanding that. And I think once I understood that, and I think I was happier in life. And you know, when you're young, basketball's everything, basketball's everything, but you know, when you find something outside of basketball that you really love doing, and for me, it's being a father, you know, it makes -- it makes losing -- you can take it a little bit easier.

ROMANS: How old is -- how old is Zaire?

WADE: Zaire is ten.

ROMANS: Ten. And he -- his favorite player is LeBron.

WADE: Well, his favorite player is LeBron, but he is -- he likes K.B. now, too. You know, in the finals, I was like, well, who are you going to root for? I mean you know, you've got me, LeBron, you've got K.B. Who are you going to root for?

ROMANS: Does he critique you?

WADE: He's my toughest critic.

ROMANS: Really?

WADE: Oh, my goodness. He's worse than any media can ever be.

ROMANS: And he watches.

WADE: He watches it, he's a fan. He enjoys the game. It's kind of a sick. This is sickening.

ROMANS: Tell me about "man time."

WADE: Man time.

ROMANS: I love it.

WADE: Yeah, that's when all these -- when all the boys get together. It's just us.

ROMANS: Right.

WADE: You know. And we have so many parts of our lives and so many different people in it, but that's the moment where it's just me, Zaire and my nephew Dana (ph), we're all together and we do different things. Some man time is about sitting across from each other, it's asking each other questions, you know, the, you know, questions about life, you know, questions about anything they want. Sometimes it's going out, hanging out, going to get ice cream or just, you know, going out, just being with each other, getting in the car, going for a drive with the top down. They like to ride on the expressway with this top down. Just anything when it's just us, you know, we call it man time. And they -- when I come home, they'll be like, man time? I'd just -- let me put my bags down.

ROMANS: There's a picture in the book where you are 20 years old, you are at Marquette University, you've already got a baby. You're only 20.

WADE: Yeah.

ROMANS: You went on to an amazing ten years of fame and great talent and fortune as well, but there are a lot of young men that age who aren't going to have the money and the fame that follows them. What's your advice to young men who are young fathers ...

WADE: Yes.

ROMANS: And what they need to do?

WADE: Well, you know, I always like to say it's everyone has their own path. And, you know, just because you don't have the fame and the fortune that someone else has doesn't mean that you can't, you know, be successful in life, doesn't mean you can't continue to be a great parent. You know, I get sometime when people -- when I talk about my kids, someone said back to me once, well, you have the money to do that. I say it doesn't take money to sit across the table from your son and sit there and help him with his math work until he gets it. That takes time, that takes dedication, you know, that takes one to see him succeed. You know, money has nothing to do with that. So, it's a lot of ways to be an unbelievable father without having a dime.

ROMANS: Let me ask you about the president recently appointed you to his -- a program to encourage fathers to be more involved in their kids' lives. How is it going? What are you going to -- how are you working with the White House on that?

WADE: Well, first of all, it's an honor. And I got appointed in 2011, you know, so before I even got custody, and I think that they've seen the efforts of me really, you know, focusing on being a father and how important it was for me to be appointed to be one of the voices of it, to sit, you know, in the room full of fathers and kind of talk to them and be, you know, kind of the one to say, you know, this is how I do things, not telling you guys this is how you should do it ...


WADE: But just sharing my experiences, but also let them know, listen, guys, we -- it's time for us to take our place back in the household and what's important in our kids' lives is they need fathers in their lives just as much as they need their mothers. They need their fathers and fathers are very, very important, your voice are important. So, you know, kind of being a guy whose voice has been heard in that space, it's truly an honor for me that they would even look for me to even be involved in it. So ... ROMANS: I know that you've played basketball with the president, I know you've been a supporter of the president. We know, I mean he's got such a reputation as a great father, but it's an election season. And people criticize his leadership. Do you think he's been a good president?

WADE: I think he's been a good president. I mean, you know, I couldn't imagine being in his shoes, you know, and to deal with the things you have to deal with. So, I think he's done a good job. I mean, obviously, everyone wants and needs more time to really complete the task at hand, so you know, hopefully, he gets that. But you know, he's an unbelievable person, and I think what everyone loves about they feel -- everyone feel like they can, you know, that you can sit -- you could sit with him and have lunch.

ROMANS: Really?

WADE: You can sit with him and have a conversation, and, you know, and just be like one of your friends. It's not like someone you look at like he's untouchable. You know, he's just like the rest of us. You know, he just has, you know, a lot more knowledge on a lot of different things, but you know, he's a great guy. Like I said, I played basketball with him. I mean that's the dream come true to play with the president.

ROMANS: Is he any good?

WADE: He's actually -- he's actually not bad.

ROMANS: He's not bad.

WADE: He's not bad. He's a point guard, and to his teammates, he's a lefty and he can (ph) pull a midrange shot, so he's not bad.


ROMANS: He may be only 30 years old, but the all-star NBA champion and gold medalist has a lot of wisdom to share, especially for young fathers.

Coming up, the parties are all over in Tampa and Charlotte as the conventions have come and gone, and now voters want to hear straight talk from the president and his opponent. Will we hear real plans that address the standard of living for America's struggling middle class? Let's hope so.


ROMANS: The last look one last time at the closing scenes of both conventions. Largely choreographed, few surprises, except for that empty chair. Oh, yeah, and a fight among Democrats over God and Jerusalem. But the closing arguments are next, the debates. Maybe that's where we'll find out information we've not yet heard from the candidates, but it will decide the standard of living for America's middle class. What happens, Governor Romney, to the mortgage interest deduction? I've read your 59-point plan. I'm not quite sure. What is the risk to Americans if China's booming economy comes back down to earth with a crash, Mr. President? Oh, and our biggest customer, the Euro zone, it falls deeper into recession. Neither man can stop it, but why are they ignoring it? Oh yeah, and there's the fiscal cliff and almost certain recession next year, but what are you hearing about that? Until now, it's been attack ads, campaign music, fuzzy math.

Let's look forward to closing the door on the choreography and get to the real debates. I can't wait. What haven't you heard yet that will help you decide who to vote for? Tell me at Christineromans.cnn on Facebook or via Twitter. Christine Romans, let's keep the conversation going up. This invitation, by the way, is not for wingnuts, I'm tired of you people. Back now to "CNN SATURDAY" for the latest headlines. Have a great weekend.