POLITICO reports the conversation in this transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you believe that passing health care is central for getting the deficit under control. But independent analysts say even with that you are going to need to find new government revenues. The former deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman said it is no longer a matter of whether tax revenues should increase but how. Is he right?
GEITHNER: George it is absolutely right and very important for everyone to understand we will not get this economy back on track, recovery will not be strong enough to sustain unless we can convince the American people that we’re going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established. Remember we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. The cumulative consequences of the policies this country pursued over the last eight years left us with $6 million of more debt than we would have had by making a bunch of commitments to cut taxes and add to spending without paying for those. We are not going to be able to afford to do that. And it is very important that people understand that. Our first priority now though is to get this economy back on track, make sure this financial system is repaired. Without that, we’re not going to get our deficits under control and the necessary path to fiscal responsibility, the necessary path to getting this country living within our means again is not just health-care reform, to bring down those costs, but we’re going to a range of other things and that’s going to be a very difficult challenge for this country. We can do this, it just requires the will to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Including new revenues?
GEITHNER: Well, we're going to have to look at - we're going to have to do what's necessary. Remember the critical thing is people understand that when we have recovery established, led by the private sector, then we have to bring these deficits down very dramatically. We have to bring them down to a level where the amount we're borrowing from the world is stable at a reasonable level. And that's going to require some very hard choices. And we're going to have to do that in a way that does not add unfairly to the burdens that the average American already faces.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s the dilemma, isn’t it?
GEITHNER: That is the dilemma.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Because when you look at health-care reform again – I know you believe it’s going to bend the cost curve over time. But the Congressional Budget Office says, at best, the health-care reform plans out there are going to be deficit-neutral over the next 10 years. So to bring the deficits down, there is not enough money in the discretionary budget, we all know that. That means more revenues. The president has said that taxes won’t go up for any Americans earning under $250,000, but it doesn’t appear that he’s going to be able to keep that promise if you’re going to bring the deficits down.
GEITHNER: George, we can’t make these judgments yet about what exactly it’s going to take and we’re going to get there. But the very important thing, and no one is going to care about this more than the president of the United States, is for people to understand that we do not have a choice as a country, that if we want an economy that is going to grow in the future, people have to understand that we have to bring those deficits down. And it's going to difficult - hard for us to do and the path to that is through health-care reform. But that's necessary but not sufficient. We [are] going to do some other things too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So revenues are on the table, as well?
GEITHNER: Again, we're not at the point yet where we're going to make a judgment about what it's going to take. But the important thing…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not ruling it out, you can't rule it out.
GEITHNER: I think what the country needs to do is understand we're going to have to do what it takes, we're going to do what's necessary.