CBS's Bob Schieffer Presses Speaker Pelosi to Raise Taxes

Whether the newest elected politician is a Republican or a Democrat, the primary interest of the Washington press corps is always the same: push them to increase taxes. The latest example came in a taped interview aired on Sunday's Face the Nation during which CBS's Bob Schieffer pressed new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the left to raise taxes and was appalled when she suggested Democrats may actually cut taxes for some. Schieffer proposed: "President Bush said last week that he wanted to work with the Congress to balance the budget in five years. But he also rejected any tax increases and obviously he's not in a mood to reduce spending on the war. Is it possible to balance the budget under those conditions?" Without any consideration for reduced spending in areas other than the war, Schieffer quickly followed up on how to balance the budget: "Can you do it without raising taxes?"

When Pelosi suggested Democrats are looking at “making permanent and modernizing the research and development tax credit for small business. We're talking about helping families with higher education of their children with tax credits," an astounded Schieffer retorted: "So you're talking about more tax cuts?" Pelosi, however, soon acceded to Schieffer's preference as she explained that “we're not going to start with repealing tax cuts, but they certainly are not off the table for people making over half a million dollars a year." That seemed to please Schieffer: "So they may see their taxes go up?"

The relevant portion of the interview taped in Pelosi's Capitol office and aired on the January 7 Face the Nation:
Bob Schieffer: “President Bush said last week that he wanted to work with the Congress to balance the budget in five years. But he also rejected any tax increases and obviously he's not in a mood to reduce spending on the war. Is it possible to balance the budget under those conditions?”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Well, the war in Iraq and the tax cuts to the highest end people in our country make it difficult and challenging to balance the budget. There's no question. But we'd like to see what the President's version of a balanced budget is. He's never sent one to the
Congress.”

Schieffer: “Can you do it without raising taxes?”

Pelosi: “I think you can put everything on the table and start by saying that there's $300 billion in taxes which are not collected in our country each year. Can you imagine that? You can probably start also with cutting waste fraud and abuse. Congressman, well now Chairman Henry Waxman, has taken the lead on that issue as the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee. Waste, fraud and abuse, collect taxes that are not collected, close corporate loopholes. You start there, you can find some money to make investments in education which brings more money back into the treasury than any initiative that you can name. The President's willing to join with us in fighting waste, fraud and abuse, collecting the taxes and closing the loopholes, we can start there.”

Schieffer: “President Bush seems to almost be daring Democrats to not fool with his tax cuts, to leave his tax cuts in place. Do you see it that way?”

Pelosi: “Do I think his tone is a daring one?”

Schieffer: “Daring you not to make his tax cuts permanent, for example.”

Pelosi: “Well, I would hope not. I hope that's not a dare here. What we'd like to do is come to the table, as I say, put all of our priorities on the table, join together in selecting them. The education of our children, access to health care, issues that we will have in the first 100 hours, reducing the cost of college education, et cetera. But again, we have, we are committed to pay as you go. No new deficit spending. We passed that in our rules package on Friday. And we're very proud of that. We're committed to it.”

Schieffer: “But let's go back to taxes. Are you promising no new taxes for anybody?”

Pelosi: “No. I'm talking about tax cuts for many in the middle class. We've had tax cuts for small businesses to provide health insurance to their workers. R and D, making permanent and modernizing the research and development tax credit for small business. We're talking about helping families with higher education of their children with tax credits.”

Schieffer, astonished: “So you're talking about more tax cuts?”

Pelosi: “We're talking about tax cuts for the middle class. And as we review what we get from again collecting our taxes and reducing waste, fraud and abuse, investing in education and in initiatives which will bring money into the treasury, it may be that tax cuts for those making over a certain amount of money, $500,000 a year, might be more important to the American people than ignoring the educational and health needs of America's children.”

Schieffer helpfully explained: “So what you're talking about is you may have to raise taxes for some people in the upper income levels in order to cut taxes for some below there?”

Pelosi: “What we're saying is Democrats propose tax cuts for middle income families. We want to have pay-go, no new deficit spending. We're not going to start with repealing tax cuts, but they certainly are not off the table for people making over half a million dollars a year.”

Schieffer: “So they may see their taxes go up?”

Pelosi: “They may. But as I say that's not where we'll begin. It's an option. It's not a first resort.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center