This morning on "Early Start," Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) previews President Obama's State of the Union address and solutions for the economy, rocker Ted Nugent's scheduled appearance at the speech and North Korea's nuclear test.
Read the transcript after the jump.
BERMAN: Before we get to the politics of the State of the Union, let me ask you about the big news overnight, because people are waking up to the news that North Korea has tested a new nuclear bomb. A new nuclear explosion in North Korea - how much of a concern is this to you?
CARTWRIGHT: It is a concern. North Korea is a place in the world we can't take our eyes off of. I think it feeds into the larger question that we'll hear about tonight, is about this sequestration and the devastating effects it could have on our military capability in this country. I would suggest the message there is now is not the time to weaken our military might and power, because places like North Korea pay attention to those things.
BERMAN: You are bringing up the budget right now. You're bringing up spending. And, of course, the president has talked a great deal about spending, and the negotiations on and off with the Republicans it seems for almost two years now.
We understand that he just told Democrats at a retreat that he is prepared and eager, and anxious to get a big deal, a big package that will end governance by crisis. You think there is room for a big deal right now?
CARTWRIGHT: That's the whole plan, John, behind the sequestration idea. The idea is not it put sequestration in effect and indiscriminately slash budgets 8 percent, 9 percent, 10 percent, 11 percent. Everybody knows that's the dumb thing to do. The whole point of sequestration is to provide impetus to create a big deal. We need a big deal, because that's what business people need going forward is certainty about what the plan is.
BERMAN: What are you offering as a Democrat? What do you think Democrats should offer as their part of the big deal?
CARTWRIGHT: Well, insight I would say, is the biggest thing. And what I'm looking far tonight from the State of the Union address is more of what we've seen from President Obama, which is the appropriate response to what's going on with our national economy. Optimism.
Now is not the time to get scared. Now is not the time to retract and retrench. We all know that there is a debt issue in this country, but when you look at the debt, you have to look at the long term. The long term is compare the debt to the gross domestic product. If you don't compare the debt to the GDP, you are comparing apples and oranges. People are going to talk about $16 trillion, wow, what a big number. But you have to compare that to the size of the GDP.
After World War II, we had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 121 percent, and people were saying you will never pay this off. It's one of Robert Reich's favorite stories, his father telling him, you will never pay it off, your children will be paying it off, your grandchildren. But look at the way the economy grew in the '50s and '60s. After that time, nobody could complain about the Roosevelt debt with the straight face.
BERMAN: Can I ask quickly about the audience? Because there is some talk about who will be sitting there. The Republican congressman from Texas has invited Ted Nugent. The rock star and gun advocate.
How do you feel about that?
CARTWRIGHT: Well, I don't want to attack Ted Nugent and I don't want to attack the Republican particular guest choices. I will say that I know that on our side of the aisle, we have invited a lot of people who are victims of gun violence, and certainly that is a topic we're discussing these days.
BERMAN: You don't look particularly comfortable with having Ted Nugent there.
CARTWRIGHT: I wouldn't say I'm comfortable. I would say that wouldn't be my first choice, John. That's all.
BERMAN: Thank you very much. Matt Cartwright, the president of the freshman class, the Democratic president of the freshman class in Congress tonight, in Washington for your very first State of the Union address.
CARTWRIGHT: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Nice to meet you. Thanks for being here.