November 17, 2017

Poor, poor misunderstood Republicans. They're so sensitive on the topic of class warfare, and here's only the most recent example on CNN's New Day. This is a longer segment than usual, but I urge you to watch. For one thing, it shows that Republicans are getting incredibly defensive over the undisputed fact (undisputed by impartial sources, not Republican senators) that this Republican tax plan is a giveaway to the very rich.

So the Democratic attacks are working. They're very nervous. Keep calling your senators. (202-224-3121.)

So Alysin Camerota introduces the segment from yesterday in which Senate Finance chair Orrin Hatch started yelling at Sen. Sherrod Brown for saying Republicans "have only tried to cut taxes for the rich."

"I come from the poor people, and I have been here working my whole stinkin' career for people that don't have a chance and I really resent anybody that says I'm just doing this for the rich," Hatch sputtered.

(Lots of poor people grow up to be greedy, Sen. Hatch. Tell us about the policy and its effects, like cutting the estate tax for people leaving over $20 million to their kids, or the tax break for corporate owners of private planes. Hatch's net worth is about $5 million. That's 4.7 times more than the average member of Congress and 81% more than the average senator. But do go on.)

"Give me a break. I think you overplay that all the time and it gets old and frankly, you ought to quit it."

"Mr. Chairman, the public believes --" Brown said.

"I am not through. I am sick and tired of it. True, it's a nice and political play, but it's not true," Hatch insisted.

"Well, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, I get sick and tired of the richest --" Brown began.

"Regular order! Order!"

Brown tried again. "We do --"

"Regular order!"

"Over and over again, how many times do we do this?" Brown said.

"Listen, I have honored you by allowing you to spout off here and what you said is not right. That's all I am saying. I come from the lower middle class originally. We didn't have anything, so don't spew that stuff on me. I get a little tired of that trap. Let me just say something, if we worked together we could pull this country out of every mess it's in, and we could do a lot of the things you are talking about, too. I think I have a reputation --" Hatch said.

"Let's start with CHIP," Brown said, bringing up the currently unfunded health care program for children that's being held hostage by Republicans.

"Not starting with CHIP. I have done it for bills --"

"Start with CHIP today," Brown said.

"I have more bills passed on this panel than anybody on this panel. I like you very much, but I'm telling you the bull crap you throw out gets old and to do it at the end of this was just not right. I just -- it takes a lot to get me worked up like this," Hatch concluded.

Camerota asked Rep. Charlie Dent what he thought of the exchange. (As we now know, the Republican politics have gotten bad enough to drive Dent to announce his retirement -- which means he's angling for a lobbying job, if he doesn't already have one.)

"I will be the first to tell you I am critical of my party when they get divisive on cultural issues. I think many democrats like to play the class warfare card and that's what a lot of them do and a lot of us don't like that. I think Senator Hatch had reason to push back," he said.

Camerota pointed out that Brown also had reason to push back.

"These are the competing philosophies in stark relief, does it help the rich or the middle class and poor? You just saw it on display there," she said.

Dent responded by saying most of the people in his district don't itemize their taxes.

"They are not rich people and what matters to them is their rates, and their rates are about to be lowered. This is going to be helping a lot of working and middle class families," he said. (If you are eligible for cuts, they last for only five years, and then you're likely to get an increase. I'm pretty sure Dent knows this.)

Then he goes off on the misleading talking point that our corporate tax rate "is the highest in the world." (If that were true, it would be concerning -- but you should look at the effective rate, which is what a corporation pays after their deductions. The effective rate is somewhere around 13 percent, and many companies not only pay less than that, they get refunds! I wrote about this corporate pity party back in 2011. Pretty sure Dent knows this, too.)

"We addressed our tax code and it's not globally competitive. I am finding out (i.e. the RNC is handing me talking points) it's easier to invest in America as a foreign headquartered company than as an American domiciled company. It's time we change that and I believe the bill that passed the House yesterday does address that very particular situation I am concerned about by moving to a territorial tax system."

(At this point, I'm beginning to suspect maybe Charlie is just plain dumb -- at least when it comes to policy. Or maybe he just think we're rubes. Because a territorial tax system does exactly the opposite. U.S. corporations who move overseas would have a zero percent tax rate, as explained here by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. What does that do to American jobs?)

Camerota at least has a glimmer that Dent is obfuscating. She points out that many corporations won't create jobs and won't invest when they get a tax cut.

"What happens is, they give stock buybacks and make shareholders richer," she said. "In terms of how the public feels about it, we have the poll asking, so does the GOP tax plan favor the rich? 59% right now of Americans believe, yes, it does, and does it not, 33%. So there's some sort of message about what's going to happen when you give corporations all those tax cuts." (What does Charlie care? He's gonna have all that sweet lobbyist cash soon!)

"Alisyn, ask the question a different way. Do you think we should have the the highest corporate tax in the world, and the American people would say hell, no. We can ask these questions any way we like. I have confidence businesses will invest money more wisely than the federal government will," Dent said. (Despite all the evidence to the contrary.)

"You are right, some companies may not invest in jobs, but others will. The federal government can't be as prescriptive as government would like. We have to at times trust people to make investment decisions and i believe they will allocate that capital more efficiently and create more jobs and at a lower cost than the federal government would."

"I like your optimism, but what are you basing it on?" Camerota pushed. "These companies don't say they are going to create more jobs, they say they will give out more dividends and save the money and stockpile it and all that stuff, so who have you heard say that they are actually committing to creating jobs?"

"I will give a specific example. Medtronics, out of Minnesota. They are a company that has operations all over the world and make money overseas. They were being bought out by an Irish-based company and they found it would be easier to make that money they earned overseas and bring it back to the United States and they would have had to pay a heavy penalty on bring that back, and that's a very specific example," he said.

(He's talking about tax evasion. It's not a "penalty," it's the tax they owe! American companies that operate overseas are assessed a 35% tax rate on corporate income --after deducting credits for taxes they paid in their host country.)

"I can give you other examples of companies that want to bring their money home and the tax code doesn't allow it and we need to behave like the rest of the developed world when it comes to that kind of taxation. We are talking about bringing the corporate rate that is competitive with western Europe."

Let me end with this note from the Treasury Department about what happens when we declare tax amnesty on overseas profits:

In assessing the 2004 tax holiday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports that most of the largest beneficiaries of the holiday actually cut jobs in 2005-06 – despite overall economy-wide job growth in those years – and many used the repatriated funds simply to repurchase stock or pay dividends. Today, when U.S. corporations have ready access to cash they have accumulated and are holding here in the United States, it is even harder to make the case that a repatriation holiday will unlock new investment and job creation.

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