CNN Laces Tax Reform Debate With Questions Mostly From Left

With the Senate Republicans’ Tax reform bill making it out of committee on Tuesday, CNN held a previously scheduled debate on tax reform where GOP Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Tim Scott (SC) teamed up to go against liberal Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Maria Cantwell (WA). The matchup promised to make it an interesting discussion, but CNN’s prescreened questions skewed heavily to left. In total, their nine audience questions came from the left at a ratio of 7:2.

CNN’s Jake Tapper kicked off the questioning with a single mother of four who was worried the GOP Tax plan would take away her government benefits. In introducing her Tapper announced:

The first question comes from Sharon Stefan. She’s from Charleston, South Carolina. She makes $23,000 a year. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as you know, says Americans in her salary range could end up getting fewer government benefits under the Senate Republican plan and she has a question for home state senator, Senator Tim Scott.

Dana Bash followed up with a New Jersey resident who claimed to have voted for Cruz in the 2016 GOP primary because he stood for conservative principles. But after parroting Democratic talking points saying the tax reform bill was only cuts for the wealthy and a hike for the middle-class, the man chided Cruz by asking: “Do you believe hiking taxes on the middle-class is in line with conservative principles?

There was a question to Senator Cantwell that seemed like it was neutral. “Why has there been no apparent effort to sideline the most ideologically ridged of your Senate colleagues and work on a compromised bill that can gain support from both Republicans and Democrats,” a Virginia man asked. But the liberal media really only frame the Republican Party as the one that has a problem with ideologues halting compromise.

The next liberal question came from a CEO who told Senator Scott that his company would never look into raising wages if his company got a tax cut. “What do you say to employees of companies like mine and many millions of others who won't get higher wages as a direct resulted of lower corporate taxes, but the corporate investors and the executives like myself will get a very large benefit,” he wanted to know from the Senator.

CNN was also concerned about the national debt, a problem they didn’t really care about for the last eight years for some reason, so they selected one man who shared that concern and who wonder if a tax cut was really needed. “Corporations are making as much or more money they've ever made in the history of the United States. A tax cut is a phenomenal weapon that a government can use when they need it,” the man exclaimed. Do we really need a tax cut like this right now in this booming economy that we've got?

The Senate Republican bill would repeal the ObamaCare mandate that forced people to buy insurance or pay a heavy tax. So obviously, CNN picked a woman who obnoxiously asked Senator Scott: “How do you justify its removal, and why are corporations prioritized over providing affordable health care for the Americans of the United States?

And the final question of the night came from a graduate student who wanted to know if the Republican Senators would “guarantee that graduate students don’t bear the burden of new corporate tax cuts? Will you commit to keeping new taxes on graduate tuition waivers out of the final plan?

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There were only two questions that came from people who were obviously from the right. The first was a woman who immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua and owned a restaurant with her Cuban husband. She called out Senator Sanders for pushing the same failed policies she and her husband fled from:

I'm from Nicaragua and my husband is from Cuba. We both lived under regimes where the way -- the interpretation of the equality is to deny the right of entrepreneurship … Why don't you agree to give you say tax break for small businesses like ours and to create more jobs and possibly giving better benefits to the workers that we already have?

The second was a man who was one of Senator Cantwell’s constituents and who voted for President Trump. He raked her over the coals for not standing with Trump to help the middle-class:

You know I voted for President Trump, and I am the middle class. I voted for Trump because he said he's going to help us. So if you could please, like Senator Cruz does so well, explain it to us and the American people, break it down Barney style if you have to, can you please explain it to us, why are you not with President Trump to help the middle class?

Clearly, CNN prescreened and selected questions purposely to give the Republican Senators a more difficult time getting through the night. But despite CNN’s best efforts, it appeared as though Senators Cruz and Scott did a fine job.

Transcript below:

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CNN
Debate Night: The Fight Over Tax Reform
November 28, 2017
9:00:29 PM Eastern

(…)

JAKE TAPPER: The first question comes from Sharon Stefan. She’s from Charleston, South Carolina. She makes $23,000 a year. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as you know, says Americans in her salary range could end up getting fewer government benefits under the Senate Republican plan and she has a question for home state senator, Senator Tim Scott. Sharon?

SHARON STEFAN: Hi, Mr. Scott, how are you?

TIM SCOTT: Doing well, Sharon. How are you?

STEFAN: Well, what I want to talk about is the fact that I'm the single mom of four it's not been easy. I take the lion's share of the financial responsibility from driving a flatbed truck to running landscaping crews, anything I can do to bring money in. And from what I understand, you were raised by a single mom who had multiple jobs. So what I want to know is, how is this going to help other single moms if this goes through?

(…)

DANA BASH: Senators thank you. We want to get to another audience question. George Silos is from New Jersey and says that his middle-class family would pay more under your Republican plan because it eliminates the state and local deduction known as SALT. Senator Cruz, this is for you.

GEORGE SILOS: Senator Cruz, I voted for you in the 2016 New Jersey presidential primary in part because I saw you as a defender of conservative principles. This tax reform bill includes tax reductions for the wealthy in the form of the elimination of the alternative minimum tax and the federal estate tax. However, this tax reform bill also includes a large middle-class tax increase because it eliminates the state and local income and property tax deduction otherwise known as the SALT deduction. Do you believe hiking taxes on the middle-class is in line with conservative principles?

(…)

TAPPER: I want to bring in Andrew John, he’s an investment risk manager from Arlington, Virginia. And his question is for Senator Cantwell. Andrew.

ANDREW JOHN: Thank you Jake. Senator Cantwell, I believe there are opportunities to make compromises in reforming our tax code that can gain support from people on both sides of the political divide. Why has there been no apparent effort to sideline the most ideologically ridged of your Senate colleagues and work on a compromised bill that can gain support from both Republicans and Democrats?

(…)

BASH: We want to talk about the fact that the Republican tax plan effectively gives small businesses a lower tax rate through a new deduction. And the next question comes from Dina Rubio. She and her husband own a Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida, and currently employ 18 people. And Dina has a question for Senator Sanders.

DINA RUBIO: Good evening. Thank you, Senator Sanders, for taking my question. I'm from Nicaragua and my husband is from Cuba. We both lived under regimes where the way -- the interpretation of the equality is to deny the right of entrepreneurship. For the past 23 years, we have dedicated our lives to keep with the ever-changing business of the restaurant industry. We have aspirations to have a walkup window for takeout and a sit-down bar which would allow us to hire six to eight more people. But after paying operating expenses and the high rate taxes, that leaves us with very little monies left for possible expansion. Why don't you agree to give you say tax break for small businesses like ours and to create more jobs and possibly giving better benefits to the workers that we already have?

(…)

DAVID MANDELS: Senator Scott, in my experience as a CEO in a public company, I can tell you our investors would have been delighted at any tax cut that would improve our profitability. But it would not have led to more hiring or an increase in wages. Just wouldn’t. It never came up. What do you say to employees of companies like mine and many millions of others who won't get higher wages as a direct resulted of lower corporate taxes, but the corporate investors and the executives like myself will get a very large benefit?

(…)

BASH: The Republican bill adds an estimated $1.4 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. And Stephen Prince is a successful business owner in Tennessee who says he's concerned about that and has a question for you, Senator Cruz.

STEPHEN PRICE: Senator Cruz, I know that Senator Corker from Tennessee today voted "Yes" in the committee. There's a question about whether he'll do that when it comes up for the vote. I'm really concerned about this deficit situation that we're going into. Today unemployment is approaching a 20-year low. The stock market reaches an all-time high every day. Corporations are making as much or more money they've ever made in the history of the United States. A tax cut is a phenomenal weapon that a government can use when they need it. Do we really need a tax cut like this right now in this booming economy that we've got?

(…)

ELLEN STARK: Senator Scott, the individual mandate is necessary to the success of the affordable care act. And legislators on both sides have acknowledged that its repeal would lead to rising premiums and ultimately the collapse of the health care market. How do you justify its removal, and why are corporations prioritized over providing affordable health care for the Americans of the United States?

(…)

BASH: And Senator Cantwell this is a constituent of yours. Victor Miller, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 22 years. Voted for President Trump, and I should tell you he lives in Snohomish, Washington, and he has a question for you.

VITCOR MILLER: First of all, I'd like to thank all the Senators coming out today. It's good to see all of you. Senator Cantwell, nice to actually see you in person. As you said I'm a retired Marine. And I feel every time there are budget cuts, tax increase, it falls on the expense of the civil servants such as teachers, law enforcement, first responders and our military. You know I voted for President Trump, and I am the middle class, I voted for Trump because he said he's going to help us. So if you could please, like Senator Cruz does so well, explain it to us and the American people, break it down Barney style if you have to, can you please explain it to us, why are you not with President Trump to help the middle class?

(…)

SARA BIJANI: The average graduate student at my university currently makes $15,000 a year. If we were to be taxed on the tuition benefits that we receive, many of us would be paying almost a third of our salary towards federal taxes. At other universities with higher tuition rates, the situation is even worse. When the Senate and House bills head into reconciliation—The Question is for both Senators Cruz and Scott really, how will you guarantee that graduate students don’t bear the burden of new corporate tax cuts? Will you commit to keeping new taxes on graduate tuition waivers out of the final plan?

(…)

NB Daily Debates Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Cable Television CNN Other CNN Video Jake Tapper Dana Bash Bernie Sanders Ted Cruz Tim Scott Maria Cantwell

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