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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Obama's Budget Delivered This Morning; Interview with Virgin CEO Richard Branson; College Seniors Face Tough Job Market; "Breastaurant" Brawl; The Flying Racoona

Aired April 10, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. What are we looking at there?

BERMAN: Happening any minute now, President Obama's budget for fiscal 2014 will be delivered to the government printing office.

ROMANS: Look at the drama.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: There's no drama like in office, the government printing office right there. That man in the midst of that drama. The budget will be sent to Capitol Hill this morning, the leading members of Congress. For everyone, we'll get to take a look at that.

ROMANS: Zoraida Sambolin has the rest of the day's top stories, while we keep our eyes focused on that room --

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": All right. Well, look out. Heavy snow, tornadoes, hail, that spring superstorm that made a mighty mess out west, it is slowly on the move this morning. Where is it headed? That's what we want to know. Jennifer Delgado here to tell us. Good morning.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, Zoraida, we are talking about another wild day today. Showers and thunderstorms up and down parts of the midsection of the U.S. You can see right now, streaming from Michigan all the way down towards Texas with a lot of lightning out there.

The area in pink, well, that is that wintry mix and that is going to make for very messy travel commute. And look at the warnings for areas down towards the south, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Those are in place until today, this afternoon, but the areas up toward the north, they are looking for some very big snow. We're talking a foot of snowfall for areas like Minneapolis, as well as into Green Bay, and these warnings will be in place for the north through tomorrow morning. So it may say spring on the calendar, but, unfortunately, it feels more winterlike out there.

Now, today, we also have the severe weather threat. What you are looking at for areas including Baltimore, Maryland, all the way down towards Houston, a severe weather threat. That means some storms today potentially could develop tornadoes and that is going to be in place today, even for tomorrow as well. This is why, because we have the warm air on the south side, cold air in north. You see the 80 and the 40s and the 30s. It's just plain old cold in the west and cold air shifting to the east.

Zoraida, we'll send it back over to you. Today high of 78 degrees and partly sunny in New York, and nearly 90 in D.C.

SAMBOLIN: We are just loving that. Thank you.

We have breaking news this morning. What you're taking a look there -- I know we're are laughing abbot this, but what are you looking at? This is the government printing office and we are on standby. That is the budget being delivered there. We're taking a live look at that right now. Those are the boxes, I presume, here that are filled with the president's budget. Yep.

ROMANS: Berman, what are the chances that the budget passed as it is written in the boxes?

BERMAN: Minus infinity.

SAMBOLIN: OK, let's go to Brianna Keilar. She's standing by live for us. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. You're taking a look at the budget here obviously. The chances that they are passed exactly as you see them there in those, obviously very nil. But this is sort of President Obama's official opening salvo in this discussion that he will be having about deficit reduction with Republicans and, of course, also with members of his own party.

But today, this morning, President Obama in the Rose Garden as his budget is officially unveiled and he'll be talking about how deficit reduction is important, but he'll say it's not the only thing that needs to be done. The deficit reduction can't be done at the expense of investing in things like education and job training and infrastructure, which are some new areas of spending we are expected to see in the budget because we have seen the outline in recent days.

One of the big talking - one of the big headlines that folks will be talking about today will be what the carrot to Republicans. It is -- you may have heard referred to as chained CPI. Well, what the heck is that, you may say? That is an adjustment to how Social Security benefits are doled out. This is something that Republicans are happy that is in his proposal and many liberals are very upset about, because it would reduce the spending to Social Security recipients, which is obviously a huge driver of the deficit. But it would reduce the spending by decreasing the cost of living adjustments, those increases that seniors see. And this would have a very real impact for a lot of seniors who rely on Social Security for their income; they're on a fixed income and this is where they get their money just to do their household expenses.

So if you take a look, we actually have a chart to show the very real effects of this to folks on Social Security and how it would change over time. As seniors get older, as in the up years, age 80 to 85, 90, 95, you can see how this would mean less money to Social Security recipients over time compared to if the numbers were to stay as they are right now.

So this is something, as I said, that Republicans are happy about, but there's also things in here, guys, that Republicans unhappy about. And that would be tax increases which they would be loath to agree, about $600 billion in tax increases over ten years mainly by limiting that mortgage interest deduction that so many people take, and they get money back in their tax return for. I know a lot of people are thinking about that right now at this time of the year.

So sort of something here that is upsetting both sides as President Obama prepares to officially unveil his budget today.

ROMANS: And you know, Brianna, I will say the progressives do not like what they call Social Security benefit cuts. They say that the president to appease, to throw a bone to the GOP, is hurting seniors. He does have in that proposal, we're told, he has protections for the disabled, for the very elderly, for very, very low income seniors, who would not see any change to their Social Security benefits, but I guarantee you that is going to be a battlefield with progressives and liberals over that chained CPI. It's a wonky mathematical way to try to close a budget deficit that actually would lead to smaller checks for some people.

KEILAR: That's right and, Christine, you are exactly right. There are a lot of liberals who feel like it's an outright betrayal to be talking about doing something like this. They say that it's something that will really hurt seniors as well as other vulnerable Americans and this will be a big battle.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Brianna. Let's go back to Zoraida for the rest of the day's news.

SAMBOLIN: I just want to mention again that we're expecting the president in the Rose Garden to have an address at 11:00 a.m. So stay tuned for that here.

And take a look at this video. The MTA setting off a powerful underground explosion right underneath New York City. Can you believe that? Breaking through tough bedrock and making way for a huge subway expansion here on Manhattan's east side. The project is set to cost $8.3 billion and create six new miles of underground tunnels. It's being called the largest construction endeavor in U.S. history.

BERMAN: That's a cool explosion.

ROMANS: It is. It's a big explosion.

So it could have been a miracle or life-saving adrenaline rush. Whatever the case, two brave daughters defied gravity to rescue their dad after he was accidentally pinned under a 3,000-pound tractor. It happened last Monday in Lebanon, Oregon. Jeff Smith doesn't know how his daughters, 14-year-old Haylee and 16-year-old Hannah, were able to lift the monster piece of equipment off his chest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SMITH, FATHER: Brave girls, but I mean, that's a lot of weight, just to think -- honestly, I don't know -- I'm a big guy, and I don't know if I could do that.

HAYLEE SMITH, DAUGHTER: I was saying, "God help me," over and over, because I knew I obviously could not lift it myself. It was heavy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: I know how they did it, it's called L-O-V-E. Thanks to his daughters, Jeff survived with just a broken wrist and some minor cuts and some minor bruises.

ROMANS: And, ladies, now is the time to ask for a later curfew and the keys to the car.

SAMBOLIN: My goodness.

BERMAN: Ask for anything you want.

ROMANS: Because saving Dad's life...

SAMBOLIN: They're just grateful to have their dad.

BERMAN: All right, 36 minutes after the hour right now.

And after a battle that lasted half a decade, Virgin America Airlines is operating flights out of Newark airport direct to San Francisco. Virgin's flamboyant owner Richard Branson looking to shake up the industry airline industry by offering fares up to 40 percent lower than the major carriers.

I caught up with Richard Branson yesterday. I asked him about the need to overcome obstacles and about the business horizon he faces every day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So explain to me why we're sitting on the runway in the front row of this airplane in Newark, New Jersey.

RICHARD BRANSON, CEO, VIRGIN AMERICA: Well, we had a five-year battle to get flights out of Newark to fly to San Francisco and to Los Angeles. The major airlines stopped us getting them, and it was only actually when American Airlines went bust that we managed to get some slots.

BERMAN: I think the smile on your face is pretty revealing. I mean, you like this. You like breaking down barriers. BRANSON: Yes, we love breaking down barriers, and that's what Virgin is all about. One of the kids back there just said to me, "Were you knighted to slay Goliath? Or slay a dragon?" And the modern day David versus Goliath is trying to bring competition to big companies.

BERMAN: You've done pretty well for yourself. There's Virgin Atlantic, there's Virgin America, and there's Virgin Mobile, there's Virgin Finance. I mean, there was Virgin Records, which you founded, Virgin Megastores, Virgin Galactic -- I'm sure I'm leaving out, like, Virgin cocktail wieners or something. There's something I'm leaving out here, but you still consider yourself the underdog?

BRANSON: Well, in each of the sectors we're in, we are obviously -- take Virgin America, we're a minnow compared to United or American or Delta. So what we have to do, as has happened today, we've just been voted the best airline in America, United was voted the worst, we have to always be the best.

BERMAN: Do you think your companies would have this success if you were not so public? You're so out there. I mean, you're a very, very public figure. People see you on TV in a hot air balloon. They read about you on Twitter. They read your blogs. They just see you all over the place. Without you, could Virgin be as successful?

BRANSON: I think that, in the building of a company, it's very important to have somebody who is willing to, you know -- CNN wants to do an interview, you say yes, don't say no.

BERMAN: Very wise decision, by the way.

Let's talk about space travel, for a second, and Virgin Galactic, because you've just done another test flight last week of Spaceship 2. Your goal is by 2014 to put people up in space who are willing to pay some $200,000 a ticket. Private space travel by 2014. Still realistic?

BRANSON: Yes, I think by the end of this year, our new spaceship will have done a number of flights into space, so it's very, very close. And then I think the first quarter of next year we'll be up and away. So, yes, I have been talking about it a number of years; we are almost finally there. One day, we're going to be able to take you from New York to Australia in an hour and a half. You know, there's enormously exciting things in the future. And if you want to go to Mars, maybe a one-way trip to Mars.

BERMAN: Good frequent flier miles to Mars, I understand.

BRANSON: Yes, very good miles. I think you'll be able to fly on any Virgin plane for the rest of your life.

BERMAN: You were in the news in an interesting way last winter. It had to do with Melissa Mayer of Yahoo! When she stopped the policy of allowing her employees to work from home, you said you found that decision perplexing. You said it was backwards to no longer let your employees work from home. BRANSON: I just think this was a mistake and particularly, as a female CEO, she should realize that for most mums, they can't sort of bring their child into work and have them in a play pen at work, working at home may be their only option.

BERMAN: What are the biggest challenges to doing business in this economy, particularly in the U.S. and Europe?

BRANSON: Companies like Virgin have got to get out there and expand it in this kind of economy.

BERMAN: Even during the cutbacks? Even with austerity?

BRANSON: Even more so. I think if we freeze like a rabbit in the headlights and don't expand, then there's no chance of the economy coming out. I mean, what you need is companies who have got resources to get out there, be in the (INAUDIBLE), expand their airlines, expand their spaceship companies, and take on new people.

BERMAN: On Facebook, I asked if people had any questions for you. And the question was, you know, what's the single piece of advice you would give to a budding entrepreneur?

BRANSON: Well, I'm assuming that they have come up with a good idea and that they feel that idea can make a difference to other people's lives. A real difference. And if they have done that, then they got a gem of a business and then just surround yourselves with people who are better than you and get on, and my advice -- I say it often, screw it. Just do it. Get on with it. And good luck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: So screw it. Just do it. That's Richard Branson.

Now lest you think it's all success for Richard Branson, he recently lost a bet with another airline mogul and next month, as a result of losing this bet, on a flight in Asia, he will have to work as a flight attendant, dressed as a female flight attendant. So next month, in Asia, flying, Richard Branson in drag.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible.

ROMANS: Oh, to be on that flight. But I like the first part of his advice, which you clearly took, which is to surround yourself by people who are better than you.

BERMAN: That's the first thing I thought of. That's my life every day; that's life for me at this table. Exactly.

ROMANS: Berman, I'm just teasing.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, wings, beers, and waitresses with outfits that are barely there. Yes, it's standard fare for Hooters and similar chains.

SAMBOLIN: This is Berman's favorite story today. BERMAN: No!

SAMBOLIN: It is, it is.

ROMANS: One senator wants to own the term breastaurant. I have never heard that term before, and it just shocks me that I just said it.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. "Minding your Business" this morning.

Stocks headed for a higher open after the Dow closed at a record high yesterday.

Big news this morning about the President and his budget. He's going to unveil that at long last and here is what's already out there on the President. We are looking for a limit on high balanced retirement accounts. The budget will call for removing the tax benefits for IRAs or 401(k)s with balances and excess of $3 million.

The White House says the move will save over $9 billion and less than one-tenth of one percent of people with retirement accounts would be effective (SIC). A lot of people talking to their accountant on what that means for all of their saving and whether it could be them.

Bad news for college seniors a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute finds the class of 2013 faces the labor market in which 52 percent of their slightly older colleagues are working in jobs that do not require a bachelor's degrees, 8.8 percent of recent college grads are unemployed, 18 percent are underemployed. The report says the best way to improve the situation for this grads is to improve the overall labor market.

I would say the best way to improve the situation for everyone in the job market is to improve the overall labor market. That is still been the tough nut to crack.

BERMAN: So the big sports news this week the Masters upon us. The odds makers say Tiger Woods could end his five-year drought in major championships there in Augusta this weekend. Large crowds are already gathering today, of course, it's the par three concept, a really fun day. It's a friendly 9-hole competition, held every Wednesday of Master's week. They will tee it up officially tomorrow.

Here is how Las Vegas sees the real odds. Tiger 3-1 favorite to win his fifth green jacket. Rory McIlroy is the second favorite, 8-1 and of course lefty Phil Mickelson listed at 10-1.

ROMANS: They are called "Breastaurants" and they are the fastest growing segment of the restaurant business. Hooters, Twin Peaks, Cans, oh please you get the picture. Now the Texas based chain "Bikinis Bar and Grill". I didn't know all those names "Cans and Twin Peaks? This one they launched a pre-emptive strike against its competitors trademarking the term, officially it making America's only Breastaurant.

BERMAN: First of all I have been here for the last 20 minutes and you guys have been looking at me like it's my fault. That the existence of these restaurants is my fault.

SAMBOLIN: No, no, it's just the way that you focus in on this story when it's up is the problem.

BERMAN: It's just the news. All I want to make sure is that we report the news correctly.

Let me ask you this, Zoraida Sambolin. I have never been to a Hooters'. Can you say the same?

SAMBOLIN: I know. No. I have been to Hooters'. I do drive-bys, I love their wings.

ROMANS: I never knew there was a whole restaurant category.

SAMBOLIN: Oh yes I know.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT. High-wire hijinks, a raccoon caught on video walking a tightrope.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

BERMAN: This is better than breastaurants, ladies and gentlemen.

Stay with us it's coming up after the break.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't that the cutest thing ever?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Ok a racoon goes rogue walking a tightrope Walenda style.

BERMAN: Feast your eyes on the flying racoona. Here is Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Usually you see them in your garbage, but when Mavis Knight looked out her kitchen window and saw what this raccoon was doing, she thought --

MAVIS KNIGHT, RECORDED RACCOON: My eyes were playing funny with me. I actually rubbed my eyes.

MOOS: There outside her Toronto home, she saw a raccoon upright, using utility wires as a tightrope.

KNIGHT: Very, very clever.

MOOS: She figured her husband might not believe her story, so she took out her phone to document it.

KNIGHT: Keeps going, keeps going. MOOS: Going from a tree in Mavis' yard to trees across the way.

Sure you can see plenty of trained animals walk a tightrope on YouTube, like Rodney the rat. It took nine months of training for Ozzy dog to do this, and a circus can teach a goat to walk a rope with a monkey on its back. But a wild raccoon?

KNIGHT: It's so clever. It's got actually some brains.

Moos: Raccoons are known for having extremely dexterous hyper- sensitive front paws. In honor of its daring hijinks, one YouTuber added the James Bond theme. But it was less 007, more Flying Walenda. You know, Nick Walenda, the daredevil who crossed Niagara Falls last summer on a high wire.

The trip took Flying Walenda 25 minutes. It took Flying Raccoona one minute. Flying Walenda held a balancing pole, Flying Raccoona clutched a second wire.

KNIGHT: Oh, dear.

MOOS: Flying Walenda was required to wear a safety harness. No harness for Flying Raccoona.

KNIGHT: My word.

MOOS: When Flying Walenda made it to the other side, he pumped a fist and blew a kiss, but we swoon for the no-drama raccoon.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: No-drama raccoon.

ROMANS: Love it.

BERMAN: Simple. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. That's it for STARTING POINT. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.