NBC's Lauer Tees Up Warren Buffett to Demand Tax Hikes and Dismiss GOP Opposition

In an interview with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer was puzzled by GOP opposition to the billionaire investor's call for higher taxes: "One of the ideas being pushed out there by the Right is that if you raise taxes on the wealthy it will have a chilling effect on hiring and investment in this country....Why do you think Republicans are clinging so tightly to that idea?" Buffett replied: "Well, I think they're worried about primaries next time, but I think you're seeing people peel away from that." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Earlier in the discussion, Lauer wondered: "...you favor a minimum tax rate for the wealthy....Do you see the political will in Washington right now to accomplish that and come up with a compromise?" Buffett replied: "I think there's a general feeling among the American public certainly, and even among many in Congress, that the rich like me have been getting away with low tax rates, and that it's time to make the tax rates more progressive."

Lauer quoted at length Buffett's recent New York Times op-ed on the subject:

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. "This is a good one," he says enthusiastically. "I'm in it, I think you should be, too." Would your reply possibly be this? "Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you're saying we're going to make. If the taxes are too high, I'd rather leave the money in my savings account earning a quarter of 1 percent." Only in Grover Norquist's imagination does such a response exist.

Wrapping up the exchange, Lauer gave Buffett yet another opportunity to push his liberal agenda: "So bottom line, would raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans have a chilling effect on hiring in this country?" Buffett proclaimed: "No, and I think would have a great effect in terms of the morale of the middle class, who have seen themselves paying high payroll taxes, income taxes, and then they watch guys like me end up paying a rate that's below that, you know, paid by the people in my office."

No opponents to tax increases were featured on Tuesday's show.

On Monday's Today, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie touted Republicans "peeling off" of the pledge to not raise taxes.


Here is a transcript of the November 27 exchange:

7:07AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: As we come to the fiscal cliff in the next month or so, and one of the sticking points, tax rates for the wealthy, you favor a minimum tax rate for the wealthy of 30% for taxable income between $1 and $10 million, 35% for income over that. Do you see the political will in Washington right now to accomplish that and come up with a compromise?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Today Exclusive; Warren Buffett on the Economy & Taxing the Rich]

WARREN BUFFETT: I wouldn't be surprised if it happens. I mean, who knows what happens.

LAUER: That deal?

BUFFETT: That deal could happen, sure. I mean, I think there's a general feeling among the American public certainly, and even among many in Congress, that the rich like me have been getting away with low tax rates, and that it's time to make the tax rates more progressive.

LAUER: One of the ideas being pushed out there by the Right is that if you raise taxes on the wealthy it will have a chilling effect on hiring and investment in this country. Part of the op-ed you wrote in the New York Times is this, bear with me: "Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. 'This is a good one,' he says enthusiastically. 'I'm in it, I think you should be, too.' Would your reply possibly be this? 'Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you're saying we're going to make. If the taxes are too high, I'd rather leave the money in my savings account earning a quarter of 1 percent.' Only in Grover Norquist's imagination does such a response exist." Why do you think Republicans are clinging so tightly to that idea?

BUFFETT: Well, I think they're worried about primaries next time, but I think you're seeing people peel away from that. I'll call you at midnight tonight, Matt, and I'll tell you I've got the greatest stock I've ever seen. You're not gonna say, "What's the tax rate gonna be?" You're gonna say, "What's the name of it?"

LAUER: So bottom line, would raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans have a chilling effect on hiring in this country?

BUFFETT: No. No, and I think would have a great effect in terms of the morale of the middle class, who have seen themselves paying high payroll taxes, income taxes, and then they watch guys like me end up paying a rate that's below that, you know, paid by the people in my office.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC