GOP Congressman Schools Liberal Comedian on Taxes

CNN may claim to be the serious, centrist news network but it says something about its broadcast when a liberal comedian is a regular panel member and is allowed to toss slanted, obnoxious questions at a Republican guest. Such was the case on Tuesday's Starting Point when comedian John Fugelsang tried to stick it to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.)

Discussing the Buffett Rule, Fugelsang framed the debate on simplistic liberal terms. He asked the congressman if he thought persons "who don't work for their income" – who live off their investments – should have a lower tax rate than those "who work for their income."

Fugelsang's premise reads as if there's no work involved or risk involved in becoming a successful investor. It discounts the path people may have taken to get to a lucrative career.

Hensarling responded that many of the investors are taxed twice because of the corporate tax rate, and that the top one percent pay more taxes than Americans think.

"[I]f you look at the facts, the top 1 percent of all Americans are paying about 38 percent of the income taxes," the congressman stated, adding that according to IRS data, millionaires pay an average of 24 percent in income taxes versus the $50-100,000 bracket which pays an average of only 9 percent.

"Again, we can have a debate about what's fair, but we ought to have a debate about what are the facts," the congressman schooled the comedian.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 17 on Starting Point at 7:50 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

JOHN FUGELSANG: Good morning, Congressman. I have a simple yes or no question for you. Thank you for joining us.

Rep. JEB HENSARLING (R-Tex.): Well, good luck.

FUGELSANG: Okay. Do you believe that individuals who don't work for their income, that is individuals who live off investments and interest, deserve to pay a lower percentage of their taxes than individuals who work for their income?

HENSARLING: Well, I think a lot of those people are paying taxes twice because of the corporate income tax rate.

FUGELSAND: A lower percent?

HENSARLING: Corporations don't pay taxes. People pay taxes. So if you would get rid of the corporate income tax, then I think a very good case can be made about equalizing the two. But again, if you look at the facts, the top 1 percent of all Americans are paying about 38 percent of the income taxes. We can debate whether that's fair or not.

According to IRS data, those who paid between 50,000 and 100,000 in income are paying an average of 9 percent. Millionaires pay an average of about 24 percent. Again, we can have a debate about what's fair, but we ought to have a debate about what are the facts.

And the President wants to single out six or seven loopholes in the tax code. Republicans want to pick up the internal revenue code and throw it in the nearest trash can and start over again with something that is fair, flatter, and simpler for all Americans. Not trying to have the politics and division and envy, which the President is trying to have.

FUGELSANG: So that's yes. Thank you.

HENSARLING: Again, if you get rid of the corporate income tax, otherwise you're paying twice. I mean, a lot of times dividend and capital gains is taxed at a 35 percent rate first. Then it goes on to the individual for the second go-around, which is another 15 percent. So it may give the illusion of paying a lower tax rate, but in fact, it's a higher tax rate. 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014