Appearing as a guest on Wednesday's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof declared that he finds President Donald Trump's tax policy to be "kind of as scary as I find him on North Korea" as he and host O'Donnell fretted over whether he has been showing enough "empathy" on both Hurricane Harvey and on tax reform. The Times columnist also showed his dissatisfaction for any presidential response to the hurricane that does not involve a discussion of "climate change."
At about 10:12 p.m. ET, Kristof reacted to Trump's speech about the hurricane:
I thought his comments about the hurricane were perfectly unobjectionable, but that's a pretty low bar. And, at the end of the day, of course, a President's response to a hurricane is not about words on the following day after recovering, but it's about policies. And, you know, that it seems to me will need to focus on. You can't have a serious discussion about the response to a hurricane unless you begin to talk about climate change. And you can't have that conversation without talking about Paris.
And you also need to talk about adaptation so that coastal communities around the country to prepare for the next big event. And so I thought his words today were perfectly fine as words, but, you know, that's not a response that we need as a country to what happened.
A bit later, O'Donnell brought up "empathy" and suggested that Trump has not shown enough "empathy" in his tax reform plan:
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And, Nick, when we're talking about empathy this week, and we're talking about it in terms of those moments that we've seen with other Presidents in situations like this -- including specifically hugging people who are there, making comments and public statements about the situation that feel empathetic -- but empathy is a factor throughout government, including the subject the President was talking about today in the tax structure in this country.
And there was not one empathetic word in what he had to say today about the people who live at the bottom end of the tax bracket -- people who some of whom get the earned income tax credit. Is there any consideration that they might get a larger earned income tax credit, for example? There's not a hint of any thought to anyone who lives anywhere in that tax code that's a different neighborhood than Donald Trump's position in that tax code.
Kristof began with sarcasm:
KRISTOF: But, Lawrence, you missed all the empathy in the speech for corporations.
O'DONNELL: Yes. Oh, yeah.
The liberal Times columnist laughed and then added:
It was full of discussion about lowering the corporate tax rate. And of course, I mean, there are legitimate reasons to lower the marginal corporate tax rate, but you do that by broadening the base and taking away deductions like those that go to the real estate world, like the deductibility of interest by people exactly like Trump. And so, you know, I found Trump on tax reform kind of as scary as I find him on North Korea. And also, in a sense, it's misleading. One of the main points he made today in Missouri is that the U.S. has a higher corporate tax burden than other countries.
And it's true that the marginal 35 percent rate is higher than in other countries. But nobody pays that. And so indeed -- as a percentage of GDP in the U.S. it's about two percent -- which is lower than in France, lower than in Canada, lower than in Japan. And so I thought the central message of his speech today was fundamentally misleading.
Kristof then predicted that lowering taxes would not help the economy:
Trump talked a lot about creating jobs, and the one thing we know that won't create jobs is his effort to give a huge break to corporations to bring back $3 trillion or more that is parked overseas. We've tried that, and it's used to buy back stock for example. If you want to create jobs, you lower payroll taxes. And, you know, that is something that is clearly not on his agenda.