Blair: Sort out the fiscal cliff
December 4th, 2012
03:49 PM ET

Blair: Sort out the fiscal cliff

CNN speaks with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair about the fiscal cliff, Britain’s economy and what to do about the crisis in Syria.

Here in the United States, we talk about the fiscal cliff – unemployment 9.1 percent, millions of people would lose their jobs, the country would go back into a recession. What are the global implications, if, in fact, we do go over the fiscal cliff?

Very bad if it happens. So everyone hopes it doesn’t. I mean, I think right now you would expect people to be flatly rejecting the other side’s proposal…It’s going to be a really tough negotiation. The expectation by the way in the world is that you will sort it out. And if you do, I think the American economy – I would be probably more optimistic about the American economy right now than certainly any part of the rest of the Western world. So if you can get this sorted out, you can really move forward.

And therefore, I think now that your elections are out of the way, I’m just speaking as an outsider, now your election is out of the way, there’s going to be all this bargaining and positioning. But my expectations, and the desire of the world is sort it out, and we can move on, and then sort our own problems out.

For those of us in the United States, we see what seem to be two intractable issues. Republicans saying they will not raise taxes on the top two percent of earners, while the Democrats say they are certainly not going to have spending cuts that hurt the middle class. And as the proposals go on the table they seem intractable on it.

They do. But you would expect the Republicans to be more on the tax side and Democrats to be more on the “we’re not cutting spending side.” This is a pretty routine type of argument. The question is, you know, are they so far apart they can’t bridge the gap? I think they could bridge the gap. There have been proposals put forward on a cross-party basis before that very nearly resulted…we’ve just got to hope that after all the tough bargaining, if everyone just came together and said we’ve got an agreement, then that would be rather unlikely.

More from CNN: If talks fail, GOP gets blame, says poll

So, I hope it doesn’t run on too long because the world really is watching. And the single thing that would give the biggest boost to global confidence right now would be to resolve the fiscal cliff position…what a fantastic natural advantage is in this huge game change you’ve got in energy policy with the shale [gas] and so on, to see that economy really take its proper place again. And if that happens, I think that will also have an impact on the Eurozone, which is still very, very fragile.

A couple of big “ifs” in there. You have written an article, a special to CNN, called “Be bold to escape the economic crisis.” That’s the headline. What is the lesson? I think often the big superpowers don’t necessarily look to Africa, for example, for good lessons on how to strategize. But many of those countries, those emerging economies are growing at a rate faster than the United States, and faster than many others.

Yes, they’re moving ahead very fast as economies. But I think if you take Europe, they’ve got to take some really big decisions now, and, as it were, sort out the short-term issues to do with the single currency crisis, and then make the long-term reforms that we’re all going to have to make.

I mean, your fiscal cliff – some of the issues there, around entitlements and welfare and reform, they’ve got echoes of what we’re trying to do in Europe. And in the U.K., frankly a lot of the systems we’ve built up in the post-war years, as a result of technology, as a result of an aging population, as a result of rising costs in health care and elsewhere, you’re going to have to make some quite big fundamental changes. So I think the issue is to sort out the short-term problem and then get going on those long-term reforms that will allow us to start being competitive again and taking our places as strongly growing economies.

Let’s talk a little bit about Syria. Hillary Clinton had a statement out yesterday. She’s in the Czech Republic, and she said this: “I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event there’s credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.” First of all, what do you think that means, specifically? And, and what should it mean?

I think it means that it’s a red line for Americans and the world. If that were to happen then I would expect some form of very tough military response.

Which would be what?

[U]p to now what the West has been doing is giving some political support to the Syrian opposition, obviously trying to resolve the situation as far as is possible, and it’s not been possible so far.

And every day 100 people die or more.

There are a lot of people dying. Now the death toll probably would be around 40,000 since this began. That’s a large number of people. But if there were any sense at all that Assad was going to use chemical weapons or did use chemical weapons against his own people, I would expect a very tough response that would be military.

Would he use chemical weapons do you think?

I do know him, but I don’t know the answer to that question, except that you’ve got to take into account that he is content to have a situation which, as I say, almost 40,000 people have died so far. They’re dying every day…This is why large numbers of civilians are dying – essentially the Assad forces can no longer really combat Syrian opposition hand-to-hand on the ground. So what they’re doing is they’re just using their superior air power and fire power just to wipe out villages and towns. And that means you have an indifference to the loss of civilian life that I’m afraid is not a great character reference for what he might do.

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Now, he’s got to understand that the consequences of going that step further and using chemical weapons would, as Hillary Clinton has made clear and President Obama made clear, invoke a completely different response from us. I think, though, we’ve got to be looking for ways to try to bring this ghastly conflict to an end.

You said we need to ramp up pressure on Assad, and I think there are people in the State Department who said we’ve been trying to do that. What needs to be done?

Well, I think we are. But, I think we’ve also got to look at ways now that we give support to the Syrian opposition, especially around this notion of how you protect certain parts of the territory for them and really just send a signal to Assad that this will only have one outcome. The important thing here is to show that in the end it is a matter of time. It’s when and not if.

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Topics: Economy • Syria

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. JAL

    The analysis should be: Pragmatism and the Fiscal Cliff. Why are we at this point?

    December 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  2. John P Smith

    The fiscal cliff upon which we stand is a precipice made of our own devices.

    After indebting our children’s generation, our generation is now engaged in national debate about how much debt to pass on to our grandchildren’s and our great-grandchildren’s generations.

    Future generations should not be sentenced to a fiscal hell that is the product of our generation’s sinful spending and criminal governance.

    If this generation cannot implement honest fiscal reform, then no generation, other than our own, more rightly deserves to go over the fiscal cliff.

    December 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Despite the mistakes he made in the past, like fighting the war in Iraq, Tony Blair is still highly respected. He is more intelligent than David Cameron. His health and age might deter his comeback in national politics, but he can always make himself useful as an envoy.

    December 5, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    It suits Assad's psyche to use weapons of mass destruction to eradicate the Sunni opposition. There are around 2 million Alawites in Syria. If they start to leave Sunni areas, then, there's a sign that Assad might use his WMDs.

    December 5, 2012 at 5:17 am | Reply
  5. Muin

    Blair is wrong on this. U.S does have lot of wasteful social, defense programs and obviously no want wants to pay taxes but wants all the benefit of a developed country. So they should start to negotiate this once the new congress starts which is fair. Lot of the people in this congress are rejected by american people. So these members doesn't deserve to vote on this.

    December 5, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply
  6. USN Ret.

    A change! All tax payers get a $10,000 deduction per wage earner or 25,000 for married couples. Then pay tax at a 10% across the board no matter what your income is. Plus 2.5% fed. Sales tax so any one that currently is not paying any taxes will at least pay something. For instance drug dealers, illegals and any one else who want to stay of the grid.
    Why the extra for married couples? Now couples will have a finical reason to get married and raise their children with both parents no mater what their current social position is.
    Case: Family with an income of $30,000:
    $30,000-$25,000 = $5,000 – $500 tax = (4,500 x .025) = $112.50 sales tax.
    Total taxes = $612.50
    Case: Single with an income of $30,000:
    $30,000-$10,000 = $20,000 – $2,000 tax = (18,000 x .025) = $450 sales tax.
    Total Taxes = $2,450 about 8.16%
    Case: Family with an income of $1,000,000:
    $1,000,000-$25,000 = $975,000 – $97,500 tax = ($877,500 x .025) = $ 21,937.50 sales tax.
    Total taxes = $ 119,437.50 almost 20%
    Sales tax would apply to all personnel and business purchase.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahaha

      Nice try. But someone that makes 1,000,000 doesn't spend 877,500 to buy stuff. Therefore your sales tax figures are way off. Hahahahahahahaha

      December 5, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahaha

      You also have Singles spending more money than Families!!!!! Hahahahahahhahahaha

      December 5, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  7. USN Ret.

    Typo 20% should read 12% for $1,000,000 income

    December 5, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
  8. USN Ret.

    We all must remember that money already in the bank is not taxable just current income. So old money is just that old money can not be touched unless spent that’s why I ask for the sales tax also.
    Renters get some tax brake also like home buyers. Congress can still give that tax brake on top of the standard deduction.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahaha

      So the person that makes 1,000,000 in your example can save the 850,000 per year and not pay taxes on the capital gains or interest???? You must be Willard RoMoney!!!!!!!!! Hahahahaahaha

      December 5, 2012 at 11:19 am | Reply
  9. USN Ret.

    Hahahahahahahaha
    Capital gains and interest is income and taxable the principal is not you need to take a class or two in economics.

    December 5, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  10. USN Ret.

    And yes if tou save $850,000 this year then next year YOU do not pay taxes on it unless you spend IT. That is the laws TODAY. But if you spent that princpal next year NOT TAXES unles there is a sales tax.

    December 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  11. Hahahahahahahah

    So in your example the only thing that's different than today is that the poor pay MORE taxes and the Rich pay LESS taxes. You ARE Willard RoMoney!!!!!!!!!!! Hahaahahahhhaha

    December 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  12. USN Ret.

    Hahahahahahahah
    Sorry can't fix stupid. You really need to get some education on taxes and economics.
    Instead of blaming all YOUR problem on those who have worked hard for what they have.

    December 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahaha

      So you think it's SMART to tax Poor people MORE and Rich people LESS? You MUST be the republican Poster Child!!!! If your house burns down, are the wheels still useable? Hahaahahhahahahaha.

      By the way, why don't you tell us how "Rich" you are and what your "net worth" is and what your tax rate is. All you "rich" people are just dying to tell everyone. It will be hilarious!!!!!!! Hahahahahaha

      December 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
      • USN Ret.

        (1) 17 year old high school drop out
        (2) Joined U.S. Navy during Viet Nam War and Spent 20 years defending your rights.
        (3) Married at 20 and celebrated 44 years this past summer. Raised two great children.
        (4) Worked 2 jobs most of my navy career to support my family. Any Where from pumping gas to cleaning bathrooms to writing computer programs, what ever it took to feed my family.
        (5) Went to night school for 7 years and received B.S. in Aircraft Maintenance Management and A.S. in Computer Programming
        (6) Currently working Union Member with Major Railroad.
        (7) Have never taken ONE hand out.
        (8) Have earned my way from first job at 14 feeding hog and picking cotton on a farm now 64.
        (9) I have paid my dues, and I am not rich just a middle class working man. WHAT ABOUT YOU!!!!

        Also if you paid attention everyone had same taxi rate and the rich loses all of those deduction that now allow them to pay little or no taxes. As far as if they don’t spend they don’t pay taxes will the same is true now and we don’t have a sales tax. But the money is in some bank and will be used to provide funding for loans, for homes, cars, roads and god forbid a yacht. This would generate about 100 jobs while building and 5 to 10 during its service life. OH THOESE BAD RICH PEOPLE MAKING JOBS SO I CAN’T PULL MY MONTHLY CHECK.

        December 6, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • USN Ret.

      Hahahahahahahaha

      Almost forgot...
      Net worth.....About 200,000 because house is paid for.
      Tax bracket...18% Fed...6% State...2.5% local
      ..............then there are all those little hidden taxes on our water bill, property taxes, gas and fuel oil taxes. Medical co-pays and monthly premiums "I make TO much to get receive help"
      MY Tax Brake Even Date…15 June. OH MY Just before my birthday. I guess that my birthday gift from uncle sugar no more taxes for the rest of the year.

      December 6, 2012 at 7:34 am | Reply
      • Hahahahahahahaha

        And yet you THINK you are RICH and that the democrats want to tax YOU more. And you vote republican!!!!! And the republicans want to cut the Medicare and Social Security you worked for!!!!!!!!! They probably want to cut your pension too!! You fit the GOP voter profile perfectly!!! The GOP laugh when they get people like YOU to vote for them!!!! You're also Union. The GOP HATE unions!!! You're a barrel of laughs!!!! Hahahahahahahaha

        December 6, 2012 at 9:42 am |
      • USN Ret

        Well I see your not willing to have an intelligent exchange of options so good bye to you. Anyone who can not express themselves without trying to belittle their opponent dose not deservers any further comments.

        December 6, 2012 at 10:23 am |
      • USN Ret

        P.S. never said or indicated my party of choice. You sir make unfounded assumptions to fit you narrow view of the world. I just expressed an option to the current fed. tax law quagmire and you have suggested nothing but ridicule for anyone on this and other post who may disagree with you.

        December 6, 2012 at 10:30 am |
      • Hahahahahahahaha

        Your first post had stupid, redneck, republican written all over it. You probably can't even DO your own tax return!!!! And you're OK that Willard Romney pays a less percent of taxes than you!!! You're barely scraping by, and will absolutely need Medicare and SS to live when you retirement, yet you WANT the republicans to cut it!!! Classic stupid, redneck, republican!!!! Hahahahahahahah

        December 6, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  13. Quigley

    No one should ever listen to what this war criminal Tony Blair has to say! Like Desmond Tutu already said, this clown is a war criminal just like George W. Bush and needs to be indicted and prosecuted for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq! Unfortunely, that won't happen!

    December 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  14. Hate Wins

    Hahahahahahahahaha:
    How old are you 13 or 14? You immaturity is showing through. Left wing or right wing we all have opinions. But to ridicule anyone who disagrees with you show your true goal and that is to just create an environment of hate.

    December 6, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahaha

      Just trying to get the goat of a stupid, redneck, republican!!!! It's always fun!!!!!! Try it some time!!! Hahahahahahah

      December 6, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  15. Hate Wins

    Problem USN Ret. says he has 2 collage degrees and is a union member working for a railroad and appears to have worked all his life. Unions supported Obama so where did redneck come from.
    A flat tax is is most appeling to me. Using his formal any one making under $25,000 pays no taxes at all to the feds, with the exception of the sales tax.

    December 6, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • Derpa....Derpa

      Derpa...derpa. I went to collage (purposely misspelled). da took r jobs!!!!!!!

      December 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  16. Hate Wins

    Quigley:
    Saddam Husain is responsible for the deaths of over 1,000,000 during the Iraq – Iran war, started gulf war 1, killed thousands with poisonous gas, paid families of suicide bomber $20,000 for killing Israelis. Did we hear Mr. Tutu condemn him NO, did we hear anyone with a far left option condemn him before 9-11 or after, NO. If you want to hang war criminals then be consistent. Saddam is just the tip of an iceberg. Also several reports states that 90+% of the civilian deaths in Iraq are from Shiites and Sunnis killing each other. Just be consistent in condemnation.

    December 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  17. Dia Mattingly

    Although one programmer has the necessary skills and knowledge to work competently on a problem or even create a program, he or she can only do so much. Creating the source code for an operating system, for example, will require thousands of manhours from a single programmer and most probably, he or she will only be halfway through. There just isn’t enough time for one or even two programmers to work effectively to produce a usable program.,.

    Please do have a look at our favorite website
    <http://www.healthmedicinentral.com

    May 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Reply

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