Carl Bernstein: If the Country Was Serious About Cutting the Deficit, We'd Have a Gas Tax

Twice within the span of a few minutes on Wednesday's Morning Joe, journalist Carl Bernstein pressed for a gas tax to be implemented to help deal with the nation's budget crisis.

The panel was covering the debate over the deficit taking place in Washington when Bernstein voiced his sentiments. When the question was if the country is truly serious about fixing the deficit, Bernstein replied in the negative. "I'm not sure we are [serious] as a country either, because again, you'd have a gas tax if we were," he quipped. Liberal co-host Mika Brzezinski immediately chimed in with her approval.

The liberal Watergate "legend" also hit Republicans for cutting programs that "for the most part...really help people." Could Bernstein have meant National Public Radio as one of these "helpful" programs?

Earlier in the show, Bernstein lashed out at the debate over cutting NPR, calling it "cultural warfare" and dismissing it as a non-story. "NPR has a real function," he insisted, "plays more country music than almost anything for the red state folks."

Bernstein also favored raising the retirement age to 67, as former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) proposed. "That would have a hell of an effect," Bernstein quipped.

Other members of the panel varied in their opinions of federal funding of NPR, but all seemed to scoff at the video sting conducted by James O'Keefe. The sting captured a top NPR foundation executive making derogatory comments about tea partiers, among other things.

Mike Barnicle proposed that NPR should cut the amount of federal funding it receives, but not in entirety. "Why doesn't NPR just sign up, along with every other federal agency, or whatever - everybody receiving federal funding to take a 15 to 20 percent haircut across the board and end it?" he asked.

"All we really should care about is, is there bias in the journalism or not? I don't really care what some development VP thinks. What's the difference? Is the journalism biased, or is it not? It's biased, there's an argument. If it's not biased, there's not an argument, end of story," remarked New York magazine's John Heilemann.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 9 edition of Morning Joe follows:

[6:47 a.m. EST]

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Is Harry Reid right, Carl, in saying that the Republicans are satisfying a narrow base and in ultimately sacrificing jobs, American jobs?

CARL BERNSTEIN: Yeah, he's right, because the Republican approach is simply cut spending in meaningful ways that are not where we need to go. The real - Simpson is right here about something, and that is go ahead and move Social Security to age 67. That would have a hell of an effect. Have a gas tax in this country. We could solve a lot of economic problems if we raised the gas tax. We're not willing to do the things that involve sacrifice and hard work. What the Republicans are calling for is the elimination of programs, for the most part that really help people.


MIKE BARNICLE: They think, in Washington, D.C., in two-year or six-year increments, depending on their election. They're never going to think down the road.

BERNSTEIN: Well they've been playing kick-the-can on the deficit and the budget as long as I've been around. We had a surplus at the end of the Clinton administration, when we had a chance to really do something when we were flush about our problems. We squandered the opportunity, and now here we are and we're in a terrible mess, and we're not serious as a country about how to deal with it.

BARNICLE: Well as a country we are, but they're not in Washington.

BERNSTEIN: I'm not sure we are as a country either, because again, you'd have a gas tax if we were.

BRZEZINSKI: I agree with that, by the way.