U.S. Representative Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, talks about his reaction to billionaire Warren Buffett’s call to increase taxes for the wealthy. Walsh, speaking with Matt Miller and Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television’s “InsideTrack,” also discusses the U.S. deficit and debt ceiling negotiations. (Source: Bloomberg)
(This is not a legal transcript of the interview. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
MATT MILLER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Warren Buffett wants higher taxes for the rich - the very, very, very rich - whom he says are cuddled. He also calls the tea party’s approach, the budget talks, insane. Let’s bring in then to answer that, Congressman Joe Walsh.
He’s a first-term Republican from Illinois and a member of the tea party caucus. Congressman Walsh is in Chicago joining us.
So thanks for spending the time out, Congressman. What do you think, first of all, about Warren Buffett’s op-ed a few weeks ago for the extremely rich to pay more taxes.
REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: I think Mr. Buffett needs a day job. He’s got too much time out of his hands. I mean, this is ridiculous. He’s so disingenuous but it’s interesting, he’s heating up his rhetoric because I think his support for the President is so desperate.
Look, he knows a couple of things. He always talks about the fact that the folks that work for him pay more taxes than him because he gets most of his income from capital gains and dividends. He knows that’s disingenuous. He knows that when you - go ahead.
DEIRDRE BOLTON, BLOOMBERG NEWS: But Congressman, but that’s what he’s saying is that he’s saying people such as himself and he did point out these capital gains, loopholes if you want to call them that are exactly he’s saying.
He actually doesn’t mind giving up for parts of his investments so that he pays taxes and granted that, as Matt pointed out, we’re only talking about the very, very rich. We’re not taking about middle-class America. We’re not talking about upper middle-class America. We’re talking about billionaires.
WALSH: No, and that’s the most troubling aspect. I think the latest estimates were that we have about 250,000 millionaires and billionaires. President Obama wants to increase their taxes 13 percent.
According to the latest figure, that’ll add about $26 billion to the government pot. You’re talking about trillions of dollars worth of deficits, a $14 trillion debt.
He knows darn well and the President darn well that you can’t tax millionaires and billionaires and do anything about the deficit or the debt. Most Americans get it. They’re going to end up taxing people…
BOLTON: That’s because it’s a drop in the bucket, do you mean?
WALSH: Absolutely. Most Americans see through that. That’s why this is so disingenuous. You can’t do anything about the deficit and the debt if you go after millionaires and billionaires. And somebody as cuddled as Warren Buffett knows that.
MILLER: Well, and to your point, I mean, there are only about a thousand billionaires, right? Deirdre and I were talking about the fact that if you make a million bucks, you don’t cut it in this club. That’s not what Warren Buffett is talking about. So obviously, it’s a tiny group of the population which also is a group that incidentally could easily move its wealth to a different country if it wanted to.
Let’s go a different direction, though, here, Congressman. A lot of people, a lot of Republicans that I’ve heard from recently are concerned that the tea party has helped us miss a great opportunity during the debt debate to reform the tax code which so many people would like to see.
Why was there such a “we don’t budge” approach to these negotiations? I mean, Warren Buffett’s point is interesting. Why should I pay more tax on an income that I earn working, say, at a gas station and you should on income that you earn from bonds that your parents gave you? Why don’t we reform this tax code to make more sense?
WALSH: We should. And Republicans have been talking about reforming the code for years. We should do that. And we will do that. Look, thank god for this troublesome tea party Republicans.
I mean, just imagine how life would be different if we were in Congress. We’d erase the debt ceiling without even thinking about it a few months ago. Maybe that would have made Mr. Buffett happy.
BOLTON: Congressman, honestly, many people blame the tea party for the impasse in -
WALSH: No -
BOLTON: - raising the ceiling, for the impasse in the budget debate. And actually, argue that the U.S. lost its credit rating because of the inexperience of some of the tea party.
WALSH: We lost our credit rating because this country is in debt. We lost our credit rating because this President has increased the debt $4 trillion in two and a half years. He knows that. Warren Buffett knows that. And that’s what the credit agencies told us. Look, the American people understand that if these troublesome tea party Republicans hadn’t gotten here.
We’d erase the debt ceiling without even thinking about it. And we’d be spending away our kids’ future every single day.
BOLTON: Congressman, we want to continue the conversation. We’re going to ask you to sit tight. Congressman Joe Walsh is going to be rejoining us after this break.
MILLER: All right. We are back with Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois, a freshman Republican and a member of the tea party caucus, rejoining us from Chicago. Congressman, thanks for staying with us through the break.
WALSH: Thank you.
MILLER: Let me ask you what you expect from the super committee coming up here because it didn’t look like a compromise was a possibility and really, the debt deal probably didn’t accomplish all that much as far as actually reducing debt. What do you expect from the super committee coming up?
WALSH: My expectations aren’t high. Look, the debt deal didn’t do much. It disappointed me that we formed this super committee to do the work that Congress should do.
Maybe there’s an opportunity that they can come together on something. Certainly, there’s an incentive for them to come together on something because if they can’t, there’ll be automatic cuts to Defense and automatic cuts to Medicare.
And I don’t think anybody up on Capitol Hill wants that. But look, we just keep putting off the hard decisions. And I think we’re beyond the committee. We’re beyond the commission. We need to cut spending. And Congress just isn’t serious enough about it. This President has no clue.
MILLER: You know, a viewer writes in and asked me if the idea of raising taxes - what do you think about raising taxes on the wealthy on the millionaires and billionaires would at least help the people earning less to stomach the cuts in the social net that they’re going to see. I mean, it’s a compromise, right? Isn’t that what politics is all about?
WALSH: Ultimately, yes. But again, it makes no sense. If you raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, you’ll do nothing to address the debt and the deficit. And the thing you might do is you might finally put this economy over another cliff. These millionaires and billionaires are the folks that try to create jobs and help grow the economy. The last thing we want to do is increase taxes on them right now.
MILLER: What about the idea that, you know, if we would get rid of the loopholes and then the deductions -
MILLER: - that a lot of people say are Washington’s gravy train and that’s that the politicians will never allow us to do that but if we could and flatten the tax, had everyone put a little skin in the game here, we could raise revenues and really get this country growing at the same time.
WALSH: We could and we should. Everybody gets ticked off about GE paying no taxes. Look, we have a complicated, convoluted tax system. And only big corporations and wealthy individuals like Warren Buffett can take advantage of it. We need to simplify and flatten the code, get rid of all the loopholes.
Again, Republicans have been talking about this for a while so that the wealthiest pay their fair share. We just don’t want to increase taxes. We want them to pay their fair share.
MILLER: All right, Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Congressman Joe Walsh joining us from Illinois, coming to us there from Chicago.