Morning Joe: Republican Tax Reform ‘Biggest Heist in History’

On Monday’s Morning Joe, the panel brought on liberal economist Jeffrey Sachs to talk about the Republican tax reform bill currently making its way through Congress. Somewhat predictably, Sachs used his platform to attack the plan as a form of “theft,” the “biggest heist in history,” and a plot by America’s “richest gazillionaires” to “bankrupt” the country for their own personal enrichment. Although the panelists repeatedly tried to get Sachs to say something sane about the Republican plan’s corporate tax cuts, he instead insisted on reverting to his talking points and never explained how letting people keep more of their own money is “theft.”

Right out of the gate, after bringing Sachs on, MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan prompted him to explain why he didn’t like the tax reform proposal:

JORDAN: So you oppose this tax bill. You don’t like this tax bill at all. You were [abruptly stops].

SACHS: Well, if you’re a billionaire, it’s wonderful. If you’re all the rest of us mortals, it’s unbelievable.

JORDAN: What do you think of the corporate tax form, and do you think that there needs to be some corporate tax reform? What about this plan?

SACHS: This is a complete giveaway to the richest people in this country at the expense of everybody else. It’s pure and simple. They want to cut the taxes on the people who own the companies. That’s why the stock market has already gone up in anticipation of that. But for everyone else, whether you’ve a homeowner, whether you pay property tax, whether you pay state and local income tax, whether you have student loans, or whether you’ll just be one of us average people who ends up paying off the interest on the one and a half trillion dollars or more of debt that they are taking to give to the richest people in the country, we all lose. So this is, as he said, Brady said, it’s time. But you know what it’s time for? It’s time for payback to the Republican donors, to the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are these two multi gazillionaires who have funded the Republican party for the last 15 years. They say: Okay, now it’s time for our billions and billions; we want our estate tax ended, we want capital gains. It’s shocking actually.

It’s somewhat amusing how upset Sachs was by the prospect of cutting taxes on “people who own the companies.” Who exactly does Sachs think invests in capital and pays workers to produce goods and services? There are real concerns about whether or not the tax bill that Republicans are currently trying to sell will accomplish its lofty goals of, for example, increasing average household income by $4,000 over the coming years. However, instead of making any sort of intelligent argument countering specific claims like this, Sachs apparently felt it was enough to state that it was the “pure and simple” truth that the bill will only help “gazillionaires.”

Guest host Nicolle Wallace moved the discussion forward by indirectly pressing Sachs to clarify what tax reform he would support: “Are you against all tax reform or just this tax reform proposal?” Sachs responded by magically transforming into a deficit hawk:

SACHS: Well, I’d be in favor of tax reform that actually helped workers, for example, expanding the earned income tax credit. This would be something so absolutely basic. I’m against anything which builds the debt right now. You know how much debt we have in this country? We are already — have doubled the public debt in the last eight years and it’s on a trajectory that with this will reach 100% of our national income.

WALLACE: Republicans used to care about that. Robert Costa?

SACHS: It’s unbelievable. What happened?

COSTA: It’s true that it, it changed.

Sachs then explicitly introduced his tax-cuts-are-theft argument:

We’re about to create the deepest fiscal crisis that this country has ever had, knowingly. And why? To give money to the richest gazillionaires in this country. It’s the biggest theft I’ve ever seen even proposed. It may be the biggest heist in history – one and a half trillion dollars.

Instead of asking Sachs to explain why tax cuts are theft, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tried to push Sachs for his specific opinion about whether or not the proposed corporate tax cuts would be helpful for the economy. Like a broken record, Sachs couldn’t help but revert back to his inane talking points:

It can’t stick because we can’t pay for it. And so all that’s gonna happen is a temporary gift to the world’s richest people and then it’s gonna be reversed. And what will also happen is that other countries will follow us in this race to the bottom. Now, of course, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin and Trump and others are: Oh, that’s great; we get taxes cut everywhere. But all they do is break the budgets everywhere. This would be the most unbelievable wealth transfer, but leave all the rest of America saying: My god, we have a public debt we cannot afford. And why are the Republicans doing it? The Republicans used to be the paragon of fiscal responsibility. They’re doing it for one reason only. They all say it by the way, you just parse the news every day: We have to deliver for our donors; our donors will abandon us. Who are the donors? David and Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, billionaires who are seeing: We could pull in a trillion and a half dollar heist before anybody realizes what’s happening and then have a public debt which burdens America for the next generation while China is zooming forward in global leadership.

If Sachs was really so concerned about America’s future generations being burdened by the federal debt, why has he continuously pushed for billions in economic aid to be given to failing third-world countries for decades? Foreign aid is usually a relatively small part of the federal budget, so cutting it wouldn’t solve America’s fiscal crisis timebomb, but it would probably help the debt situation at least a little bit if we weren’t actively taxing American economic activity to give billions of dollars to unproductive, dysfunctional countries in Africa and the Middle-East every year.

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Absolved of the responsibility of having to explain his support for such programs, Sachs continued to riff on tax cuts being theft. He even diagnosed “incredible income inequality” as the truly necessary target of any “real tax reform,” failing to mention that the top 50% of income earners in the U.S. already bear more than 95% of America’s income tax burden (with the top 1% alone bearing more than a third of that amount).

Sachs went on from his “income inequality” argument to complain about many of the largest companies in the U.S. offshoring vast sums of money that don’t end up getting taxed. Jordan tried to build off of this point by asking him to explain more specifically whether or not lower corporate tax rates might encourage American companies to bring their assets back for domestic investment. Unsurprisingly, Sachs just rehashed his “theft” claim before the segment closed out:

The day after this heist, everyone realizes the U.S. Government is gonna go bankrupt, so how much incentive is that gonna be? The builders are gonna stop building because of higher property taxes. Housing values are gonna go down. This is nonsense. It’s theft.

It really is quite stunning how the Left just assumes that all your money belongs to them and their constituents with no debate or consideration about how nuts that sounds to normal working people.

Take a look at the segment’s full transcript below:

8:41 AM EST

NICOLLE WALLACE: And joining us now, professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, economist Jeffrey Sachs. Elise Jordan has a question for you.

ELISE JORDAN [MSNBC, POLITICAL ANALYST]: So you oppose this tax bill. You don’t like this tax bill at all. You were [abruptly stops].

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, if you’re a billionaire, it’s wonderful. If you’re all the rest of us mortals, it’s unbelievable.

JORDAN: What do you think of the corporate tax form, and do you think that there needs to be some corporate tax reform? What about this plan?

SACHS: This is a complete giveaway to the richest people in this country at the expense of everybody else. It’s pure and simple. They want to cut the taxes on the people who own the companies. That’s why the stock market has already gone up in anticipation of that. But for everyone else, whether you’ve a homeowner, whether you pay property tax, whether you pay state and local income tax, whether you have student loans, or whether you’ll just be one of us average people who ends up paying off the interest on the one and a half trillion dollars or more of debt that they are taking to give to the richest people in the country, we all lose. So this is, as he said, Brady said, it’s time. But you know what it’s time for? It’s time for payback to the Republican donors, to the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are these two multi gazillionaires who have funded the Republican party for the last 15 years. They say: Okay, now it’s time for our billions and billions; we want our estate tax ended, we want capital gains. It’s shocking actually.

WALLACE: Are you against all tax reform or just this tax reform proposal?

SACHS: Well, I’d be in favor of tax reform that actually helped workers, for example, expanding the earned income tax credit. This would be something so absolutely basic. I’m against anything which builds the debt right now. You know how much debt we have in this country? We are already — have doubled the public debt in the last eight years and it’s on a trajectory that with this will reach 100% of our national income.

WALLACE: Republicans used to care about that. Robert Costa?

SACHS: It’s unbelievable. What happened?

ROBERT COSTA [WASHINGTON POST, REPORTER]: [talking under Sachs] It’s true that it, it changed.

SACHS: We’re about to create the deepest fiscal crisis that this country has ever had, knowingly. And why? To give money to the richest gazillionaires in this country. It’s the biggest theft I’ve ever seen even proposed. It may be the biggest heist in history – one and a half trillion dollars.

COSTA: And there’s a lot of consternation on the Republican side about this corporate tax cut. It would bring the corporate rate down from 35% to 20%. House Republicans wanted to come in immediately. Senate Republicans, wary of the political implications, are saying: Maybe delay it for a year. As an economist, what would it mean for the economy if that corporate rate did come down from 35 to 20?

SACHS: It can’t stick because we can’t pay for it. And so all that’s gonna happen is a temporary gift to the world’s richest people and then it’s gonna be reversed. And what will also happen is that other countries will follow us in this race to the bottom. Now, of course, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin and Trump and others are: Oh, that’s great; we get taxes cut everywhere. But all they do is break the budgets everywhere. This would be the most unbelievable wealth transfer, but leave all the rest of America saying: My god, we have a public debt we cannot afford. And why are the Republicans doing it? The Republicans used to be the paragon of fiscal responsibility. They’re doing it for one reason only. They all say it by the way, you just parse the news every day: We have to deliver for our donors; our donors will abandon us. Who are the donors? David and Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, billionaires who are seeing: We could pull in a trillion and a half dollar heist before anybody realizes what’s happening and then have a public debt which burdens America for the next generation while China is zooming forward in global leadership.

WALLACE: I don’t speak for the Republicans anymore. I’m not defending this bill, but there has been bi-,-

SACHS: [interjecting] You can’t!

WALLACE: -but there has been a bi- — I mean, Barack Obama talked about tax reform and he talked about doing it with his Republican friend Tom Coburn.

SACHS: Right.

WALLACE: Tom Coburn. I mean, there has been talk of reforming the tax code for a long time.

SACHS: Yeah, they’ve talked about-

WALLACE: [interrupting] You just don’t like this specific proposal.

SACHS: This proposal is just a theft. Real tax reform, you know, if we could have it-

NICOLAS CONFESSORE [NYT, REPORTER]: [interrupting] Looks like what?

SACHS: Hmm? Real tax reform-

CONFESSORE: [softly]  Looks like what?

SACHS: -would recognize the incredible inequality in this country, the cheating by our companies, again, shown in the Paradise Papers. The biggest companies in this country, the most profitable, the highest market cap companies like Apple and Amazon, they’re not paying taxes on their vast profits. They’re all in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. That would be real tax reform.

JORDAN: [starts talking over Sachs] But wouldn’t, but wouldn’t this bill, wouldn’t the corporate tax reform though incentivize these companies to bring their businesses back? That’s what the Trump administration’s arguing, and that all of the unnecessary regulation, that it would, by lowering the rate, it would take away the incentive for people to find these tax shelters.

SACHS: The day after this heist, everyone realizes the U.S. Government is gonna go bankrupt, so how much incentive is that gonna be? The builders are gonna stop building because of higher property taxes. Housing values are gonna go down. This is nonsense. It’s theft.

(…)

This post originally appeared on NewsBusters

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