MSNBC’s Velshi Fawns Over Dutch Socialist Demanding Dems Move Farther Left

During his 3:00 p.m. ET hour show Tuesday afternoon, MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi welcomed Dutch journalist and author Rutger Bregman on the program to demand that the Democratic Party move farther left and embrace European-style socialism. Not only did Velshi lob softballs, the host eagerly sought advice from Bregman on how such radical views could be made “mainstream” in the U.S.  

“Well, the battle for the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign isn’t just about who will get to take on President Trump next year....It’s also what the Democratic Party stands for,” Velshi proclaimed as he touted a poll of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers expressing support for “candidates who favor new taxes on the wealthy, the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all,” among other left-wing policies.  

 

 

The anchor then cited a recent tweet from Bregman touting the poll results:

Dutch journalist and historian Rutger Bregman seized on that, tweeting on Sunday, quote, “The real radicals in the Democratic Party are the so-called ‘centrists,’ who don’t support Medicare for all, higher taxes on the rich, free tuition, legalizing marijuana, and the Green New Deal. They are completely out of touch with the electorate.”

Bringing the radical leftist on the show, Velshi invited him to explain his comments: “What do you mean by that? That the real radicals are the centrists?” Bregman ranted:

Well, take things like Medicare-for-all, which 70% of Americans support, or higher taxes on the rich, which is supported by 75% of all Americans, basically since the early ’90s. These are utterly mainstream positions. And it’s good news that now it’s finally moving into the mainstream. That’s what most Americans want. So it seems to me pretty bizarre that we call these people who are against that, that we call them “moderates” or “centrists.”

Moments later, Velshi cited Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel warning fellow Democrats to avoid being tagged with the “socialist” label. He then lamented: “There has been a lack of control over the language of this in that over the last few years we’ve been able to talk about progressive policies, even as progressive policies.” As an example, Velshi argued: “I mean, I tell people $15-an-hour minimum wage isn’t really all that much money. It’s not some wild, radical plan.”

Bregman agreed and sneered: “You know, I must say from a European perspective, this whole debate in America about capitalism versus socialism, it seems rather ridiculous to be honest.” The socialist further lectured: “I mean, what we’re talking about are policies that are supported by the vast majority of Americans and work really, really well in the countries that tried them and are actually investments that save money in the long run, right?”

Continuing to be an adoring fan of the far-left pundit, Velshi gushed: “We were both at Davos, and one of the interesting things at the World Economic Forum is the degree to which a lot of very smart people do seem a little bit out of touch with things that have happened....I want to play what you said about taxes in Davos. Let’s listen.”

A clip ran of Bregman complaining to the elite crowd:

Ten years ago, the World Economic Forum asked a question, “What must industry do to prevent abrupt social backlash?” The answer’s very simple, just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes. We've got to be talking about taxes. That’s it, taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is [bleep], in my opinion.  

Following the soundbite, Velshi lamented that “the problem” with Bregman’s argument was that: “There are a lot of people who are not in the top tax brackets...who still think that higher taxes means higher taxes for them, the middle class.” Trying to come up with a political strategy for Democrats to push tax hikes, the host asked: “How do we mainstream this argument to say a progressive tax system charges people who earn more money, higher taxes on the marginal bit?”

Bregman assured him: “But it’s already mainstream....Democrats have to realize that. That they can, you know, win big-time if they actually support that position.” Velshi followed up: “You think they can win when you say – when you run on a campaign of higher taxes?” Bregman replied: “Obviously, obviously.”

Wrapping up the friendly exchange, Velshi just wished they had more time: “I would love to sit and talk about this for a long time, but unfortunately, my show runs out.” He urged his liberal audience to read Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build a Better World, the cover of which advertises leftist ideas like “Open Borders,” “Universal Basic Income,” and a “15-Hour Workweek.”

Velshi hailed the book for having “a lot of interesting suggestions” and invited Bregman back on the show to discuss it: “Will you come back and we can have some conversations about the details in there?”  

Apparently the Canadian-born Velshi is longing for the socialism of home.

Here is a full transcript of the March 12 exchange:

3:50 PM ET

ALI VELSHI: Well, the battle for the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign isn’t just about who will get to take on President Trump next year and debate topics like this [climate change]. It’s also what the Democratic Party stands for. And we’ve got a hint, we may have a hint of where things are going. A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found that they are more likely to support candidates who favor new taxes on the wealthy, the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, the legislation [sic] of marijuana, and free tuition at public four-year colleges.

I want to go into this a little deeper. Dutch journalist and historian Rutger Bregman seized on that, tweeting on Sunday, quote, “The real radicals in the Democratic Party are the so-called ‘centrists,’ who don’t support Medicare for all, higher taxes on the rich, free tuition, legalizing marijuana, and the Green New Deal. They are completely out of touch with the electorate.” Rutger Bregman joins me now. Thank you for being with us.

RUTGER BREGMAN: It’s great to be here.

VELSHI: What do you mean by that? That the real radicals are the centrists? You know, recent polling has indicated 40-some percent of the Democratic Party would like it to be more progressive, 50-some would like it to be more moderate.

BREGMAN: Well, take things like Medicare-for-all, which 70% of Americans support, or higher taxes on the rich, which is supported by 75% of all Americans, basically since the early ’90s. These are utterly mainstream positions. And it’s good news that now it’s finally moving into the mainstream. That’s what most Americans want. So it seems to me pretty bizarre that we call these people who are against that, that we call them “moderates” or “centrists.”

VELSHI: I mean, in much of the developed world or the OECD world, these are not only mainstream, but they’re, in some cases, positions held by conservatives.

BREGMAN: Indeed, indeed. The Torys in the UK love universal health care. Conservatives in Canada love universal health care, right? So America really is the exception here.

VELSHI: Rahm Emmanuel had an article in The Atlantic in which he says, “Republicans are telling you something when they gleefully schedule votes on proposals like the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, and a 70% marginal tax rate. When they’re more eager to vote on the Democratic agenda than we are, we should take a step back and ask ourselves whether we’re inadvertently letting the political battle play out on their turf rather than our own. If Trump’s only hope for winning a second term turns on his ability to paint us as socialists, we shouldn’t play to type.” There has been a lack of control over the language of this...

BREGMAN: Yeah.

VELSHI: ...in that over the last few years we’ve been able to talk about progressive policies, even as progressive policies. I’m not sure – I mean, I tell people $15-an-hour minimum wage isn’t really all that much money.

BREGMAN: No, no, no.

VELSHI: It’s not some wild, radical plan.

BREGMAN: You know, I must say from a European perspective, this whole debate in America about capitalism versus socialism, it seems rather ridiculous to be honest. I mean, what we’re talking about are policies that are supported by the vast majority of Americans and work really, really well in the countries that tried them and are actually investments that save money in the long run, right? So take a look at health care.

VELSHI: Sure.

BREGMAN: America has the most expensive health care system in the world, life expectancy is going down. So in the long run, you’ll save money with Medicare-for-all. It shouldn’t be a left versus right thing or a progressive versus conservative thing. It’s just common sense.

VELSHI: We were both at Davos, and one of the interesting things at the World Economic Forum is the degree to which a lot of very smart people do seem a little bit out of touch with things that have happened.

BREGMAN: Definitely, yeah.

VELSHI: A lot of people, men of a certain age in America will know a time when marginal tax rates were very high.  

BREGMAN: Indeed.

VELSHI: In excess of 60 and 70%. I want to play what you said about taxes in Davos. Let’s listen.

BREGMAN: I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean, it feels like I’m at a firefighter’s conference and no one is allowed to speak about water. Ten years ago, the World Economic Forum asked a question, “What must industry do to prevent abrupt social backlash?” The answer’s very simple, just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes. We got to be talking about taxes. That’s it, taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is [bleep], in my opinion.  

VELSHI: So here’s the problem, Rutger. There are a lot of people who are not in the top tax brackets, the top 1% or the top 5% or the top .1%, as you’ve got at Davos, who still think that higher taxes means higher taxes for them, the middle class. How do you make the argument for higher marginal taxes, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – by the way, she talks about a marginal tax rate of 70%, that’s after $10 million. How do we mainstream this argument to say a progressive tax system charges people who earn more money, higher taxes on the marginal bit?

BREGMAN: But it’s already mainstream. So if you just ask people the question in polls,
“Do you support higher taxes on the rich?” Almost all Americans say, “Yes, I do support that.” It’s already completely mainstream. It’s only, I mean, Democrats have to realize that. That they can, you know, win big-time if they actually support that position.

VELSHI: You think they can win when you say – when you run on a campaign of higher taxes?

BREGMAN: Obviously, obviously. Also, if you look at the Green New Deal, which has the support, according to the latest poll, of 81% of Americans. It really goes back, you know, in my mind, to American tradition of a can-do mentality, right? Of another moon shot. I can imagine that people here me talking like, “Oh, here’s this socialist Dutch guy, you know, from lunatic leftist Europe, right? But you got to know that, for example, breaking up companies like Amazon...

VELSHI: Yeah.

BREGMAN: It’s part of the American tradition.

VELSHI: It’s not a socialist –  

BREGMAN: No, it happened in 1911.

VELSHI: I would love to sit and talk about this for a long time, but unfortunately, my show runs out. But you should read this, there’s actually a lot in here I want to talk to you about. Utopia for Realists is Rutger Bregman’s book, How We Can Build the Ideal World. It’s got a lot of interesting suggestions. Will you come back and we can have some conversations about the details in there?  

BREGMAN: Sure.

VELSHI: Alright, thank you.

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