CNN Cajoles Republicans to Hike Tax Rates

Once again, CNN pressed a Republican to support income tax hikes. On Thursday, Starting Point co-hosts Brooke Baldwin and John Berman tried to paint GOP opposition to tax increases as at odds with the American people and a financial expert.

"So here is one of the biggest guys in finance on the planet saying that maybe a tax rate increase should be part of a deal. Does he have a point? Can't it be part of a deal?" pushed Berman. He cited the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who said he "wouldn't preclude" the President's plan to raise tax rates.

Brooke Baldwin cited a poll showing 60 percent of respondents supporting a tax hike on incomes over $250,000 a year. "And you can see the numbers, 60 percent support, which is in contrast with what the majority of your party is saying. Are Americans wrong?" she posed to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

The previous evening, anchor Wolf Blitzer laid out the case for higher taxes. "The nation's leading conservative paper is on board, and most recently so is a leading Republican lawmaker," he noted.

"If Mr. Obama and the Democrats get their way doing a deal to raise just those rates would avoid the fiscal cliff, where all the Bush era cuts and all – on all tax brackets expire at the end of the year. That scenario, the election, popular opinion, and more, certainly give President Obama a lot of clout right now," he added.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 29 on Starting Point at 7:19 a.m. EST, is as follows:

BROOKE BALDWIN: Let's begin with a little something that's been reported on this morning by the Wall Street Journal. This is something we had heard a little bit of from Erskine-Bowles a couple days ago. The fact that the President now appears to be flexible when it comes to that top two percent. Let me read this to you from the Wall Street Journal, quote, "President Barack Obama signaled he wouldn't insist tax rates on upper income Americans rise to Clinton era peaks as part of a deficit reduction deal. The White House's flexibility, first described by Democrat Erskine Bowles, after meetings with Mr. Obama and others, are confirmed by administration officials could envision tax rates increase from their current levels but less than Clinton era levels." You know, the Clinton era levels, right around that 39.6 percent, currently around 35. Would you agree to a deal, Senator? Let's call it in the middle, 37 percent.

Sen. JOHN BARRASSO (R-Wyo.): Well the problem with all of that is raising those tax rates on those folks really doesn't address the major problem, which is the spending that's going on in this country –  

BALDWIN: But let me stop you there, and I understand. Forgive me for interrupting you. And I know you want to talk about spending. But on that particular point, on the top two percent, would you agree to a deal in the middle, say taxing at 37 percent?

BARRASSO: I don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes on anybody at times like this. But it only would fund the government for less than seven days. So it's not a solution. And the markets need a credible solution and a signal that we are serious at dealing with the issue of our major debt and our problem of spending.

Taxes is such a very small part of it that unless we deal with Medicare and deal with Social Security, which are the two big tidal waves coming at us, and now the President's health care law, until we deal with that, there is no way we can get our financial house back in order. So I agree with the President. We need to be focused on jobs, and growth, get more people working. And that's the way to increase revenue.

BALDWIN: The President talks about, of course, spending cuts, as well and perhaps that's where you can see eye to eye with him. But then you have the American public. Let me point to this ABC News/Washington Post poll taken recently. The question was about raising taxes on incomes over the $250,000 amount per year. And you can see the numbers, 60 percent support, which is in contrast with what the majority of your party is saying. Are Americans wrong?

BARRASSO: Well, the American people know their mind. They say let's tax somebody else. My concern is if those taxes are going on to small businesses who are creating jobs, we need to get more people actually working. The other poll also said that people believe that if they send more money in taxes, the government's just going to spend it, much of it is going to be wasted, and the dollar figures are so large, that it's sometimes hard to fathom the debt we have. It's $16 trillion. It's an incredible amount. We have added another trillion dollars in just the last year. We need to get the spending under control.

JOHN BERMAN: Senator, you talk about the importance to business of tax rates. One guy who presumably does know something about business is the Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. He met with President Obama yesterday. Then he went to talk with Wolf Blitzer who asked if he would support the President's plan of bringing the rates back up on the wealthiest Americans. Let's listen to what he said.

(Video Clip)

LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, Goldman Sachs: I think if that's what it took to make the math work, when you looked at the entitlement side and you looked at the revenue side, I wouldn't preclude that. Of course we would have to do that if the numbers drive that way.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: So here is one of the biggest guys in finance on the planet saying that maybe a tax rate increase should be part of a deal. Does he have a point? Can't it be part of a deal? Not the whole deal but part of the deal?

BARRASSO: I met with a number of these same business leaders that met with the President yesterday. And we did take a look at the entire picture of the spending cuts, dealing with Medicare, dealing with Social Security, dealing with the issue of tax revenue. You need to have all of these things on the table if you're going to get a solution that sends a credible signal to the markets not just here but around the world that we are serious at dealing with our debt. But unless you really focus on the big drivers which are the entitlements with the coming baby boom generation hitting Social Security and Medicare age, we're not going to be able to solve the problems with raising taxes.
 

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