CNN's Ali Velshi Attacks Norquist's Pledge as Anti-Democratic, Demands Tax Hike With No Spending Limits

On Friday, CNN’s Ali Velshi perfectly represented the typical liberal journalist who cares only about raising taxes on the rich, and not about the larger picture. (He clearly doesn't care about looking objective.)

Velshi announced “the central question is whether it will hurt all that much to raise income taxes a little bit on the highest earners in the country. Well, to push the country to the edge of a recession over this is irresponsible. The increase will hardly affect the economy. But that's my opinion. And my opinion should count as much as anyone else's.” He was upset that Grover Norquist’s opinion seemed to count more than his:

 

VELSHI: The problem is that in Washington one person's opinion carries disproportionate weight and that person is Grover Norquist. He's the head of Americans for Tax Reform. They have got the pledge that mostly Rrepublican members of congress signed to say they won't increase taxes. Now, understand this. The top marginal tax rate going from 35 percent to 39.6 percent is not a tax increase. It's a return to tax rates that would have taken place after the temporary Bush tax cuts expired and got extended. So the way I see it, that cut was designed to be temporary, but clearly Norquist disagrees with me.

VELSHI [earlier interview]: Let's say we let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year and then Congress moved to increase tax rates. Would that count? Would that violate your pledge?

GROVER NORQUIST: That would clearly be – look, you can't go to the American people and say we raised taxes $500 billion and then we cut it $400 billion, please only look at the cut, not the overall rate. If you raise taxes $100 billion on the American people, they're going to notice it. It doesn't pass the laugh test. 

VELSHI: Now, people say he's just one guy. Grover likes to say the pledge isn't to him, it is to politicians' constituents. The truth is, Grover Norquist is not just a guy. He's a guy who heads a lobby group with very powerful resources. One that uses millions of dollars in funding to get candidates elected and get others defeated. That is not democracy at work. That is lobbying money at work. And pledges like this don't make sense in a dynamic economy. We've got to give our elected officials the tools and the leeway to do their jobs properly, and not hamstring them with promises that are made in a vacuum. Promises that are made without context. So if members of Congress, Republicans in particular, were able to free themselves from Norquist's shackles, and take a real look at the merits versus the risks of raising taxes, they would see something interesting.

While raising taxes is never ideal, the net effect to the economy of increasing the tax burden only on that portion of one's income that is higher than a quarter of a million dollars, by 4.6 percentage points, would have a negligible effect. That's because the proportion of what you need to spend on in life doesn't always go up in proportion to your income.

Let me put that another way. The more you earn, the less you need to spend on things that actually make the economy move. Now, this is not an argument in favor of raising taxes on the rich. It's an argument against those who say the cost of doing so is greater than the cost of going over the fiscal cliff.

I just assumed no one's taxes went up and, yes, the government does need to cut waste and spend your hard-earned tax dollars more efficiently. Most Americans think the tax system is rigged in favor of the rich. We need real tax reform in the United States. That's not going to happen by Tuesday. Neither is an agreement on how to cut spending. Washington has known this day would come for a year and a half, but everybody was too busy campaigning and politicking to do the hard work of figuring out what to raise and what to cut. Now we're down to the wire. We're backed into our corners, we're powered by ideology. It is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time. I've covered business for a long time and I've learned there are very few absolutes that stand the test of time.

It might be hard to identify which sentence is the most laughable in this lecture. Some nominations:

1. Velshi thinks it's not "democracy at work" for Norquist to make politicians promise in their campaigns not to to raise taxes, but it is apparently "democracy at work" apparently to have politicians pressured to raise taxes by unelected journalists. It's "lobbying money at work" to press from the right, and "democracy at work" for the media to press from the left. Norquist's pledge is clearly designed with the media's leftist pressure in mind.

2. Velshi thinks "his opinion" (as an "objective" journalist) should matter just as much as Norquist's, but he really means he it should matter much more than Norquist's, because that's why he's identifying his viewpoint as "democracy at work."

3. A pledge refusing to raise taxes is "shackles," and higher taxes are apparently liberating.

4. We can't get an agreement to cut spending by Tuesday, which is a perfect reason to raise taxes by Tuesday with no guarantees of a balanced deal of any kind. There's the media's "democracy at work" for you.

5. Norquist is "powered by ideology," but Velshi proclaims that he stands for "very few absolutes" -- except he demands Norquist's immediate defeat on tax hikes with no movement on spending limitation.

Later, Velshi belittled anti-tax opinion some more:

DON LEMON: Help me out here. They're not that far apart, are they? Is it really just politics at this point?

ALI VELSHI: No!

LEMON: They're not that far apart.

VELSHI: This is all politics. They're not that far apart. All the hard work's been done. And the danger of not getting a deal done far exceeds the danger of paying a little extra tax.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis