NPR’s Nina Totenberg declared on this weekend’s Inside Washington that the House vote to extend the current tax rates on dividends and capital gains was “immoral” as she ridiculously claimed, in the face of ever-soaring entitlement spending, that Congress is cutting aid to the poor. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas backed her up, asserting that “we need to raise taxes...and who better to raise them on than the super-rich?" Totenberg argued of the tax rate extension vote: “I just think it's immoral to do that, not to mention fiscally irresponsible, when you're cutting people who have nothing -- from children off of Medicaid and mothers who depend on childcare losing the childcare and can't work. And then what do they do? Go back on welfare? I mean, it is, it's, I just think it's immoral." Columnist Charles Krauthammer tried to insert some rationality into the tax hike advocacy of Totenberg, Thomas and columnist Mark Shields, as he pointed ot that if the House position does not prevail and "you abolish" the current rate "you are essentially raising" taxes when that current rate expires in two years. (Transcript follows.)
I caught Totenberg’s latest outburst on the Friday night airing of Inside Washington on WETA-TV channel 26, Washington, DC’s PBS affiliate. The program is taped at ABC’s Washington, DC affiliate, WJLA-TV, channel 7 (actually in Arlington, Virginia), where it airs Sunday morning at 10am after This Week. It also runs Saturday nights at 7pm on NewsChannel 8, the local all-news cable channel owned by the ABC affiliate.
Since the tax talk came in the very last segment of the PBS airing, about 25 minutes into the show, I suspect this portion of the program will not appear in the re-airings which include advertising breaks.
A transcript of the exchange from the show as aired December 9 on WETA-TV:
Moderator Gordon Peterson, a WJLA-TV anchor: "How about tax cuts? Are they everything? The House this week gave us good news and bad news on tax cuts. One is the alternative income tax. A lot of middle people would not get whacked so badly on that. On the other hand, they're going to keep cutting."
Nina Totenberg: "Well, there are some relatively minor tax cuts and fixes in the first part of the week and then came the big benefit for investors in capital gains and all of that. Now, you know, I would benefit from that. Probably everybody here would benefit from that, but I just think it's immoral to do that, not to mention fiscally irresponsible, when you're cutting people who have nothing -- from children off of Medicaid and mothers who depend on childcare losing the childcare and can't work. And then what do they do? Go back on welfare? I mean, it is, it’s, I just think it’s immoral."
Mark Shields, with a new weekend TV home after the demise of CNN’sC apital Gang: "I want to say a good word for the Republicans in Congress. I admire their tenacity and their determination to close that dangerous social gap between the rich and the super-rich. That's commendable. I mean you have to really say they’re wiling to stand up and say we’re her to comfort the comfortable. God love ‘em."
Charles Krauthammer: "It's funny but it isn’t exactly. AMT is not about the super rich. The alternative minimum tax is something that was intended for the super rich thirty tears ago, was never indexed and is hitting a lot of ordinary folks. It ought to be repealed. Now, on the other issues, look, I'm not a great fan of this stuff but if you find as we have, that reducing capital gains and dividends has kept an economy strong in a rough economic period in the face of oil shocks, in the face of hurricanes and on all kinds of other pressures and also in a world in which Europe has been faltering and stagnant, you got to ask yourself, do you want to undo a policy which is keeping a strong economy, because ultimately it's the strong economy and the growth in economy that provides jobs-"
Totenberg: "There are already much lower capital gain taxes than there are other ones."
Krauthammer: "If you abolish the cut, you are essentially raising it. There's no way around that."
Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek: "And you know what? We need to raise taxes because we cannot, our official house is not in order. It's going to hurt our children-"
Totenberg: "Thank you."
Thomas: "-and who better to raise them on than the super rich?"
Shields: "The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Federal Reserve Board found out that the dividend tax cut had nothing or next to, negligible impact upon this change that Charles has just trumpeted. I think an administration that talks about family values has basically determined they're going to take $2 trillion in deficit spending and pass it on to children and grandchildren. We're not going to accept that responsibility like every other generation who fought a war have."
Peterson: "Has there ever been a war when they fought a war and then cut taxes at the same time?"
Shields: "Six times."
Krauthammer: "Our problem is not a temporary explosion of spending either because of a war or hurricanes or disasters. It's our entitlements which are draining our economy and which everybody, particularly the liberals, will not index for income."
Totenberg, talking over Krauthammer: "If you got rid, if you got rid of the top one percent benefits, you would be able to get rid of the Social Security problem for the next ten years."
Krauthammer: "But Democrats won’t allow it."
Earlier examples, as documented by NewsBusters, of Totenberg pushing tax hike or denouncing tax cuts: