At a time when the American mood has turned against excessive government spending, Christiane Amanpour devoted Sunday’s This Week to four liberal Democratic billionaires, though she failed to identify their political orientation, who want higher income tax rates on the wealthy.
Unmentioned during the pre-taped interviews with Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, Ted Turner and Tom Steyer revolving around their participation in “The Giving Pledge” – the promise to give away at least half their wealth: how they are free now to give all the money they want to the federal government.
Amanpour began by touting: “Warren Buffett has been practically begging the country, begging Congress to tax him more. In fact, many of the richest Americans like Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner say that they should pay higher tax.” In between letting Buffett expound at length on why taxes should be hiked, she fretted to Bill Gates: “If people aren't going to pay for the services that they need, how are those services going to get funded, do you think?”
Later, she showcased Tom Steyer, founder of the San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management hedge fund and, like Buffett, a big donor to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign when Steyer gave over $100,000 to Democrats, a fact Amanpour ignored which makes his support for higher taxes a lot less surprising and hardly noteworthy. “You said that you would be willing to have your taxes higher,” she cued him up.
A complementary ABC News.com article by Joshua Miller, posted Sunday morning, screamed:
Billionaires Buffett and Gates: Tax Us More! Exclusive: Amanpour Interviews with Two of World's Richest Men
From the Sunday, November 28 This Week with Christiane Amanpour on ABC:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I traveled to Omaha, Seattle and New York to talk to each of them and find out what drives them and how they see the future of America and the world. But we began with the issue that will dominate the debate here in Washington when Congress returns this week, and that is tax cuts.
WARREN BUFFETT: There's been this increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, and we found out that a rising tide just lifted all yachts, not all boats.
AMANPOUR: Warren Buffett has been practically begging the country, begging Congress to tax him more. In fact, many of the richest Americans like Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner say that they should pay higher tax.
BUFFETT: The rich are always going to say, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and it will all trickle down to the rest of you, but that has not worked the last ten years, and I hope the American public is catching on.
AMANPOUR: The debate over whether the rich should pay more taxes takes pace outside Washington, DC as well. In Washington state, for instance, where Bill Gates Sr. has been passionately championing a new tax on the rich.
BILL GATES SR IN TV AD: People say Initiative 1098 is about soaking the rich.
AMANPOUR: Washington is one of seven states with no state income tax.
GATES SR: Vote yes on 1098.
AMANPOUR: Proposition 1098, that was in Washington state to try to bring a wealth tax, championed by Bill Gates Senior, supported by Bill Gates. It failed.
BUFFETT: Right. It got beat pretty badly, but I really admire Bill Senior for what he did on this. I mean, there's a guy that’s going out and trying to do something for his state and they, unfortunately, lost.
AMANPOUR: What do you say, though, to the executives, one apparently was even a Microsoft executive, who spent a lot of money trying to defeat that?
BUFFETT: Well, they're not alone in those. Look at who fights in terms of estate tax, in terms of higher tax rates. That's what K Street is all about in Washington, and, unfortunately, politics is a game of push and pull, and you get to push with money.
AMANPOUR: Are you disappointed that it got defeated?
BILL GATES JR: I voted yes and I was hoping that it would pass, but that's done now.
AMANPOUR: If people aren't going to pay for the services that they need, how are those services going to get funded, do you think?
BILL GATES JR: Well, taxes and spending have to match each other in the long run. There's many ways to tax. There's many ways to spend. That's all up to the voters. You know, some states, you rely on your legislators. Some you have lots of referendums.
AMANPOUR: Do you agree with the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that all Bush era tax cuts should come to an end?
BUFFETT: No, I think actually you might extend them further for the lower class, middle class, maybe upper middle class, but I think that you should raise taxes on the very rich. I lived in periods where capital gains taxes were 39.6 percent and earned income taxes were 70 percent and our economy did just fine.
AMANPOUR: Why do you think there isn't more of that kind of debate?
BUFFETT: I think that it hasn't been to the interest of the people in Washington to get as riled up about that as they get riled up about other things. You know, we're going to raise $2.2 trillion this year or something like that. $900 billion will come from individual income taxes. $900 billion will come from payroll taxes, so the payroll taxes become 40 percent of our total revenue just like the income tax, and people that talk about how the rich pay their share and that sort of thing, they totally ignore the payroll tax. You know, I did this little survey in my office a few years ago, and there were 16 people responded, and I had the lowest tax rate of the 16. I didn't have any tax shelters. I didn't have any tax planner. It was all courtesy of the U.S. Congress. I mean, they did my tax planning for me, and literally the average for the office, counting payroll taxes, was 32 percent and mine was 16 and a fraction percent.
AMANPOUR: Their rationale is that by giving you a tax break, so to speak, which is what it amounts to, you help all the others, that it trickles down.
BUFFETT: Yeah. Well, I guess it hasn't trickled. As I said, a rising tide has lifted all yachts but the row boats have been left behind.
TED TURNER: I still pay quite a bit of taxes, but not as -- not as much as I would if I didn't give so much money away. I get a lot of deductions.
AMANPOUR: So what do you think about the prospects of cutting Social Security and means testing it for people like you?
TURNER: I don't like it. I paid for Social Security. I mean I'm -- it's my own money I'm getting back in my opinion. I think Social Security -- once you -- since you paid for it, it's yours, and you're entitled to get it.
AMANPOUR: But each of these multi-billionaires sees needs that are not met, thus, their call to others like them to join the giving pledge....
AMANPOUR: Do you see austerity necessary like Europe is doing, deep cuts, rising taxes?
TURNER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We were spending too much, and that's what the conservative movement has said, we've spent too much. You know, I'm not exactly sure where it's too much but some places.
AMANPOUR: You said that you would be willing to have your taxes higher. Many Americans, particularly those who are successful, say hang on, I did this work. This is a capitalist society. This is my just reward. You disagree with that notion.
TOM STEYER: I certainly do.
STEYER: I think anyone who doesn't give credit to the system that they are born into is taking an awful lot on to themselves. I mean I really think that people have sacrificed a lot more than a little tax money to make that system available for all of us, and I would be ashamed of myself if I didn't give some credit to them.
AMANPOUR: It's emotional for you....
— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.