At the beginning of the July 24 edition of Fast Money, CNBC aired an exclusive interview of President Obama by the network's Steve Liesman focused primarily on taxes and tax reform, particularly the president's call to prevent large corporations from capitalizing on an "inversion" to lessen their federal tax bite.
But after the interview was aired, CNBC panelists excoriated the president as "duplicitous" and "disingenuous" for pretending like he has no share in the blame for a lack of movement on tax reform during his tenure in office and for offering an inaccurate, misleading description of what exactly happens to a U.S. corporation's tax obligations after it undergoes an inversion.
"We have had broad-based tax reform on the table for several years, the president has not lifted a finger. He is completely disengaged from congressional relations, on this and many other things," CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow reacted. "He's never lifted a finger to work on tax reform," Kudlow insisted, noting Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and former Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) work presenting a bipartisan package to kick start debate on the matter.
Later in the segment, Kudlow remembered the Simpson-Bowles proposal, "a terrific, bipartisan" plan but "nothing ever came of it" because "the White House never engaged, the president never engaged."
"I thought the president was a little disingenuous in describing some of it, but at the same time, I take the president at his word," about wanting to move forward on tax reform, Democrat and former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford noted.
Moments later, Ben White of Politico added his analysis:
What you do with a one-off inversion proposal is you wind up punishing these companies who are doing something that makes perfect economic sense for them. And it's just with their overseas income, not their domestic income, so the president described it in an inaccurate way.
So you know, he's basically doing something in that proposal that would be deleterious to U.S. companies where you could do it in the context of corporate tax reform that is revenue neutral, that you know brings in actually more revenue through faster growth, but he has not put any muscle behind that. So to do this one-off proposal, when you have never pushed for corporate tax reform in the past, I think Larry's absolutely right when he says it's a duplicitous move.
"There has been a lot of enthusiasm about tax reform among the Republicans, they never stop talking about it," American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks noted, adding "the reason is because this is fundamental to American competitiveness."
"We have the highest marginal corporate rates in OECD countries. It's ridiculous and so the result is that Republicans have been yelling about this forever and it's a lack of presidential leadership that's actually brought this to the fore," Brooks added.
"Even today Ron Wyden is trying to put something together, okay, I'm going to give Democrats credit," Kudlow added, but noted that Harry Reid's obstruction on the Senate floor and the looming November midterms make it "easier for the Democrats... to attack the rich, to attack a couple corporations who are trying to protect their shareholders than to do the hard blocking and tackling of reform."