George Stephanopoulos Chides Michele Bachmann: Why Is It 'Okay' to Extend Tax Cuts?

For the second time in two days, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday lobbied for tax increases, wondering why it's "okay" for the "wealthiest Americans" to continue to receive a tax cut.

The GMA host pushed Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to accept a deal in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts. After the conservative leader expressed skepticism about extending unemployment benefits, Stephanopoulos complained, "But, why is it okay for the wealthiest Americans, earning over $250,000 a year– And remember, the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $250,000."

He continued, worrying about why it's acceptable for the wealthy to get "tax cuts extended, but for people who are out of a job and needing unemployment benefits not to have their benefits extended?"

Stephanopoulos set up the offer by playing negotiator. He coaxed Bachmann, "Some Democrats are now saying they might be able to go along with [extending the tax cuts] as well, if it's tied to extension of the unemployment benefits that run out for millions of Americans on November 30th. Is that a deal you can support?"

On Monday, Stephanopoulos pressed Democrat Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of a debt commission about extending the tax cuts: "By extending them, that's going to cost about $4 trillion...Couldn't some of this be avoided by keeping the tax rates where they are? I mean, by letting them go back to where they were in 1998 when you were White House chief of staff?"

More examples of Stephanopoulos' arguing for tax increases can be found in the MRC's Profile in Bias.

A transcript of the November 16 segment, which aired at 7:16am EST, follows:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And for more on this, we're now joined the leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Good morning, congresswoman.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Good morning, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we saw there, Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he's going to back the ban on earmarks. Are you convinced this is going to stick, even if congressional Democrats don't go along?

BACHMANN: You know, I think it's a very good sign. And if Mitch McConnell has gone to the microphone and said that, I think that he means it and we should take him at his word. This is all very good for the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you're the leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House. But you lost out on your bid to officially join the House Republican leadership. Does that give you a sense that there's a limit on Tea Party influence in the House?

BACHMANN: You know, I don't think so, George. I think that the leadership has sent a very strong signal that they have listened. And they woke up. And they want to do right by the American people. And the main thing here is that they want to stick to fiscal sanity. And they want to make sure that they aren't spending more money than what the government is taking in. And that's a good first step, I think, moving forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The biggest issue in this lame duck session of Congress is going to be whether or not to extend those tax cuts first passed under President Bush. You signaled that you're willing to accept a compromise. That you would be willing to have a temporary extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy, even though you prefer that it be permanent. Some Democrats are now saying they might be able to go along with that, as well, if it's tied to extension of the unemployment benefits that run out for millions of Americans on November 30th. Is that a deal you can support?

BACHMANN: Well, remember what this really is is a massive tax increase. It's President Obama's massive tax increase. That's what he is wanting going forward. None of us on the Republican side believe that anyone's taxes should go up. So, it's important to characterize it for what it is. It is a massive tax increase one second after midnight on January 1st of 2011. And it will lead to tremendous job losses going forward. As far as a compromise goes, I want to get the tax, the tax, current tax policy extended as far into the future as we possibly can. If we can only get it extended for two years, that's great. But I don't think the American people should have to pay for that by having to have some new spending tied to that. If that's the case, I don't think you're going to see the Republicans go along with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, why is it okay for the wealthiest Americans, earning over $250,000 a year– And remember, the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $250,000– for them to get tax cuts extended but for people who are out of a job and needing unemployment benefits not to have their benefits extended?

BACHMANN: Well, remember again what this is. It's a massive tax increase. And it's on the people who are the job creators. And people want to think these are millionaires, sitting in leather chairs, lighting their cigars with $100 bills. That's not what we're talking about. These are people who are carpet layers that maybe employ two or three other guys. Or a plumber, maybe himself and his brother. And it's $250,000 in gross sales for their business. They're the ones that are looking at mass tax increases. So, for instance, in Minnesota, in my district, it would mean 2,000 jobs lost, if we don't extend the current tax policy. That's going to hurt more people than anything, if we can't have job creation. And this is a job-killer, if we raise taxes on the job creators.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Representative Bachmann, thanks very much for your time. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org