CNN's false storyline that Democrats are the main obstacle preventing elected officials from reaching a budget deal disintegrated before its eyes. The network hosted two Republicans who made clear that they would not allow tax rates to increase for the wealthiest Americans no matter how many concessions Democrats made.
During the November 28 edition of Early Start, CNN repeatedly falsely portrayed disagreement over changes to the federal budget as being exclusively due to Democrats' reluctance to cut social safety net programs. But CNN hid the fact that Republican resistance to allowing for tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans is a major obstacle to a compromise to avoid tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to occur in the next year.
But during the November 29 edition of Early Start and the following show Starting Point, Republicans Congress members gave CNN a first-hand illustration of their party's refusal to compromise.
On Early Start, guest co-host Christine Romans interviewed Republican Representative Phil Gingrey (GA), asking him if he would accept an expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy, even if Democrats agreed to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Gingrey replied that while this might be good politics, he and other conservative Republicans could not agree to that. Gingree stated that he would not "waffle or waiver" on that issue:
ROMANS: Yeah. So would you -- look you talk about raising taxes. Those were temporary tax cuts. Those Bush tax cuts were extended a couple of times. And those were temporary tax cuts. I mean couldn't you live with allowing those temporary tax cuts for the richest to go away, keeping them for the middle class and then getting some of that entitlement reform you want. Wouldn't -- could you live with that?
GINGREY: You know Christine, you make that point. And from a political perspective, the optics of that, you know, might look good. And maybe the Democrats feel they have an advantage politically. But we Republicans, we conservative Republicans, fiscal conservative Republicans, feel that, that, we are right on this, that we can't allow -- because of politics -- to waffle or waiver on something we know will get this country back on the right track, will stimulate the economy. The darn stimulus sure didn't. $850 billion. So we know that lower, broader reform tax code and more people working, that's what it's going to take to finally lower the deficit and get this debt down below $16 trillion. Can you believe that?
On Starting Point, Republican Senator John Barrasso (WY), echoed his House colleague, stressing his commitment to not allowing the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, saying "I don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes on anybody in a time like this." Guest host Brooke Baldwin pressed Barasso on his objection to any increase in tax rates for the wealthy, citing President Obama's willingness to compromise and polling that indicated that letting tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans was popular. Barrasso did not change his position:
BALDWIN: Let me read this to you from The Wall Street Journal: Quote, "President Barack Obama signaled he wouldn't insist tax rates on upper-income Americans rise to Clinton-era peaks as part of a deficit-reduction deal. The White House's flexibility, first described by Democrats Erskine Bowles after meeting with Mr. Obama and others, and confirmed by administration officials, could envision tax rates increase from their current levels but less than Clinton-era levels." You know the Clinton-era levels right around that 39.6 percent, currently around 35. Would you agree to a deal Senator, let's call it in the middle, 37 percent.
BARRASSO: Well the problem with all of that is that raising those tax rates on those folks doesn't really address the major problem, which is the spending that's going on in this country. Even if you --
BALDWIN: But let me stop you there. And I understand -- forgive me for interrupting you -- and I know that you want to talk about spending. But on that particular point, on the top 2 percent, would you agree to a deal at the middle, say taxing at 37 percent?
BARRASSO: Well, I don't think it's a good idea to raise taxes on anybody at times like this.
BALDWIN: And the president talks about, of course, spending cuts as well. Perhaps that's where you can see eye to eye with him. But then you have the American public, right? Like let me point to this ABC News/Washington Post poll, taken recently. The question was, you know, about raising taxes on incomes over the $250,000 amount per year. And you can see the numbers: 60 percent support which is in contrast with what the majority of your party is saying. Are Americans wrong?
BARRASSO: Well, the American people know their mind. They say, let's tax somebody else. My concern is if those taxes are going on to small businesses, who are creating jobs, we need to get more people actually working. The other poll also said that, you know, people believe if they send more in taxes the government is just going to spend it, much of it is going to be wasted and the dollar figures are so large that it's sometimes hard to fathom the amount of debt we have. It's $16 trillion. It's an incredible amount. We have added another trillion dollars in just the last year. We need to get spending under control.
BARRASSO: I don't think we should raise taxes on anybody.