If there has been one constant in George Stephanopoulos' journalistic career, it's repeatedly calling for higher taxes. So, it's not surprising that while talking to Paul Ryan on Wednesday about the debt, he lobbied the Republican Congressman, "And if you're not willing to at least discuss new revenues, aren't these negotiations dead before they're even born?"
Not getting the answer he was looking for, the former Democratic operative turned journalist chided, "I understand you're not a fan of new taxes. But, as a matter of negotiations and a matter of discussion, don't they need to be on the table in order to get the negotiations started?"
In a previous segment, previewing President Obama's speech on ways to cut the deficit, reporter Jake Tapper simply repeated White House talking points: "But [Obama will] say, you can try [cutting taxes]. But you do that on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society because you can only do that, he'll say, by eliminating health care for seniors and the poor."
Tapper added, "And by gutting education and clean air protections, George. He'll call his a balanced approach."
Stephanopoulos has a long history of advocating for all sorts of tax increases. Some examples from the MRC's Profile in Bias on the journalist:
“You also have said that we have to have bold ideas for energy independence, and your theme is ‘courage to change.’ Just about every expert on energy says the best way to become energy independent is to raise the price of oil and gas, to have a serious energy tax. Why not call for it?...Couldn’t we become independent much more quickly if we had the kind of energy tax you see in Europe?”
— ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack on This Week, December 3, 2006.
“I mean, if the deficit continued to grow, it’s not responsible to say you’re never going to raise taxes....Ronald Reagan also increased taxes....So it’s, ‘Read my lips,’ you’re never going to vote to raise taxes?”
— George Stephanopoulos to conservative Stephen Laffey, who was challenging liberal Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island’s GOP Senate primary, ABC’s This Week, September 3, 2006.
George Stephanopoulos: “You say roll back the tax cuts for the wealthy. He [President Bush] says no tax increase of any kind. We’re spending $5 billion a month in Iraq, probably $200 billion on Katrina. Something’s got to give.”
Former President Bill Clinton: “Well, that’s what I think.”
— ABC’s This Week, September 18, 2005.
“So what would you do about those deficits if you were Treasury Secretary today? What taxes would you raise?”
– ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin on This Week, November 16, 2003.
More recently, on November 16, 2010, after Congresswoman Michele Bachmann expressed skepticism for extending unemployment benefits, Stephanopoulos fretted, "But, why is it okay for the wealthiest Americans, earning over $250,000 a year– And remember, the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $250,000."
A transcript of April 13 Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:08, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get reaction now from chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Later this week, the House is expected to vote on his plan is to cut $6 trillion in spending over the next ten years. Good morning, Congressman.
PAUL RYAN: Good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Jake lay out the four principles the President is going to be working on later today. Anything there you can work with?
RYAN: Well, I'm glad he's joining the conversation. As you know, he gave us a budget about two months ago that didn't address our debt, actually. He added $13 trillion to the debt, doubled, then tripled our debt. So, I'm glad the President is joining the conversation. We've had the fiscal commission which he's disavowed until now. We are bringing our budget to the floor Thursday, voting on it Friday. Lower domestic spending sounds good. I think that's what I heard Jake say. We do cut the Pentagon budget in our budget. The one thing, we don't lower taxes. We're not cutting taxes. We're keeping tax revenues where they are. We're reforming the tax code. We're getting rid of loopholes, deductions and lowering tax rates in exchange so we can get better economic growth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you said, Congressman, you're keeping tax revenues where they are.
RYAN: Where they are. Right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The President insists that you're going to need new revenues if you're really going to get a handle on this over the long term. And if you're not willing to at least discuss new revenues, aren't these negotiations dead before they're even born?
RYAN: Well, the President hasn't even engaged in negotiations. So, I'm glad he's starting this conversation. We've been leading with plans. He gave us his campaign announcement last week. This week, we're bringing our budget. He's giving a speech on this this week. So, we'll see what kind of engagement we're going to get. But I would just simply say, George, we don't have a problem with our budget because Americans don't pay enough taxes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand-
RYAN: We have a problem with our budget because we spend too much money. And that's where we need to keep our eye on the ball, the spending.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand you're not a fan of new taxes. But, as a matter of negotiations and a matter of discussion, don't they need to be on the table in order to get the negotiations started?
RYAN: Well, I want to hear what he has to say. But I believe tax reform, which means you get rid of all of the special interest loopholes and deductions that the high income earners enjoy, that some make a lot of money and pay no taxes. Others make a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes. We need to clean that up. Because we gotta get economic growth. The key, you know, caveat here, George, is we want job creation. We want economic growth and spending cuts. Those are the two, key combinations that you need to get this debt and deficit under control. If you don't have a growing economy, don't have people going back to work, you cannot solve this fiscal problem. So, let's hear what he has to say today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, you know this is all up against the background of the U.S. reaching the limit of being able to borrow more money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you take what Treasury Secretary Geithner says that it will be a catastrophe, a financial catastrophe, if that debt limit isn't extended?
RYAN: Yeah, if we do default, I do accept that. I do believe we still have some time. My guess is by the end of June is when this will have to get resolved. You could possibly go into June because of other economic circumstances. But the fault is not our option or strategy. But, we also want to make sure as the debt limit increases, which is based on past spending, we get something to address future spending and that's the kind of stuff we're talking about with future spending. Spending cuts, spending controls.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, if that's not possible, you will still vote to make sure the country doesn't go into default?
RYAN: No, I think it is possible. I don't accept that premise of that question. We need to have spending cuts and spending controls in combination with the debt limit increase. And I don't accept a notion that that's not possible. It is. And the President will probably be talking about that today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will talk to you in the feature.