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CNN's Your Money: Will Congress' health proposal heal the medical crisis?

Originally aired 18 July. Linked from CNN.com, Your Money.


Originally aired 18 July. Linked from CNN.com, Your Money.


VELSHI: Those in the top tax brackets have a right to be spooked. Perhaps not as much as the “New York Post” would have you guess. But the income surtax to pay for House Democrats health care bill would start at 1 percent for couples making $350,000. It would jump to 1.5 percent, above $500,000 of income, before leaping to 5.4 percent for people making more than $1 million dollars.

ROMANS: Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow with the CATO Institute. Chuck Collins is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good. He’s also a rich guy who wants to be taxed, saying tax the wealthy, so everyone else is healthy.

Funny, because the rich are the new tobacco. In the ’80s when times were tough, you tax tobacco, nobody would complain about it.

VELSHI: Yeah, there was nobody to stand up on the other side, except a few lobbyists.

ROMANS: And now it is tax the rich. Chuck, you say bring it on, I want to pay.

CHUCK COLLINS, CO-FOUNDER, WEALTH FOR THE COMMON GOOD: Yep. I think this is an important issue for a lot of our Wealth For The Common Good members. They feel it’s a small price to pay for a much broader health insurance that will cover those 50 million people that have no health insurance.

VELSHI: A matter of interest, are there a lot of your Common Good members who would be subject to the tax?

COLLINS: Absolutely. We have an online petition. We’re asking people who will pay the tax, who want to reverse the Bush tax cuts of the last 10 years, and to make those investments in health care and energy independence. These are folks who are part of, I think, a silent majority —

VELSHI: Let me just ask you again. Because there is no -hang on a second.

There’s no majority of people who would be subject to this tax. It’s a very small portion of people.

COLLINS: That’s right.

VELSHI: Are there members of yours, who would be subject to these types of proposals about taxing people who earn over $250,000 each, or $350,000 as a couple.


VELSHI: Who would say I would be willing to do that?

COLLINS: Yes, so we have hundreds of people who have signed on to this public petition and more are signing on and we’re gathering that right now.

What I was saying is the silent majority of people who will pay this tax actually don’t resent it. I mean, this will sound strange. But this is a group — those of us in the top 1 percent, have got a $700 billion tax cut, thanks to George Bush. Many us didn’t ask for it. Many of us were embarrassed to be getting tax cuts while other members of our country were going to war and making enormous sacrifices. This is a time of national sacrifice. We urgently need to address the health care situation.

ROMANS: Right. Dan Mitchell from CATO Institute, you disagree. There are some on the right and libertarians who are saying, like, look, this smacks of redistribution of wealth. This smacks of socialism. Taking from one part of the society to pay — although you could argue the entire tax code does.

VELSHI: Yes, well, the taxes exist.

ROMANS: But what do you think about this, about taxing the rich for health care?

DAN MITCHELL, CATO INSTITUTE: Well, it’s almost beyond parody to listen to someone who inherited a lot of money to say let’s tax the rich. This is pulling up the ladder so that other people can’t become rich.

As far as I’m concerned, what we need to focus on is what are the policies that are going to make America more prosperous. And going down this path to a 1970-style tax and spend big government is a recipe to make our economy more like France. If taxing the so-called rich was such successful policy why is America so much richer than France? We definitely do not want to punish success in this country. I want more rich people. I don’t want fewer rich people. And I certainly don’t want people who inherited wealth trying to stop middle class people from climbing the economic ladder. ROMANS: Chuck, you inherited — how did you inherit your money? He’s talking about your inherited wealth. Just tell us quickly how you inherited your money.

COLLINS: I’m the great grandson of Oscar Mayer. But I should say a lot of our Wealth For The Common Good members are entrepreneurs. There are people like Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, Warren Buffett, others, who are entrepreneurs. They don’t resent capitalism. They love this country. They love the amazing system for wealth creation. We also want to encourage wealth in creation.

What we believe is a healthy capitalism has a healthy safety net. And if we make — we have long overdue investments not just in health care, but education, energy independence. If we want to be a competitive country, if we want to have the next generation of millionaires and billionaires come up the ladder, and come from all the walks of society, we need to make these long overdue investments.

Where is the money going to come from? Where else is the money going to come from?

VELSHI: I understand that this is a slippery slope, Dan. Right now we’re talking 1 percent and 5.4 percent for those earning over a million dollars. I suppose once you go down this road you can start taxing people for all sorts of things. But why would that -you made a comment that it’s going to prevent more people from being rich. I think there’s nothing wrong with rich people. Why would this prevent more people from becoming rich?

MITCHELL: Because marginal tax rates are a price of earning income and becoming more productive and more successful. And if you’re already rich, if you’re Warren Buffett, by all means raise tax rates. You already have all your money and all your lawyers and lobbyists and accountants. You can figure out how to beat the system.

VELSHI: If I earn $280,000, which is the bottom line for this one. If I earn $280,000 or more, by American standards I’m rich.

MITCHELL: By American standards you are probably in the top 5 percent.

VELSHI: Right.

MITCHELL: But the key thing is we want more people to become rich. Look at France. France has the kind of policies that these guilt-ridden liberals are in favor of.


VELSHI: OK, I’m going to tell you – that you said France a few times. You know, Sanjay Gupta will often tell us if you have a heart attack, you want to be in the United States because it’s got the best treatment. If you don’t want to have a heart attack, the French health care system keeps you healthier. We’re talking about health care. I think there are a lot of people who would say there’s some things about it they’d rather be in France for. I’m not sure France is the example you want to be using here.

MITCHELL: Yes, it is an example. It’s an example of big government leading to economic stagnation. The per capita GDP, the living standards in France are 30 to 40 percent below America. Now, if I inherited the Oscar Mayer fortune, I wouldn’t care, maybe, if 30 or 40 percent of the ordinary people’s income disappeared. But I think it’s an outrage that a bunch of limousine liberals are going to put in place policies that don’t affect them, because they have all the accountants and lawyers, but are going to affect the middle class people who want to climb the economic ladder.

The real outrage is we’re going to put in place these taxes in order to have a bunch of politicians start denying us the ability to get our family health care.


ROMANS: We have to leave it there before Ali and I start singing the Oscar Mayer jingle, which we’re going to do as soon as we go to break.

VELSHI: Or I cancel my trip to France where I’m on my way to.

ROMANS: He’s on his way to France, now.

VELSHI: You’re wrecking it for me, Dan.

ROMANS: I have a feeling — because it’s my theory that indeed the rich is the new tobacco we’re going to discuss this some more over the next couple of years.

VELSHI: Let’s have you both back on. I appreciate the passion that you both bring to this.


We’ll need it over the course of the next few months.

COLLINS: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Chuck Collins is co-founder of Wealth For The Common Good, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. Dan Mitchell is senior fellow at the CATO Institute. Both of them bringing strong opposing views to this issue, but it’s important that you know what they are.

ROMANS: My baloney has a – looking for a plus, one. We know where all the high earning singles are hiding. That’s right, high earning singles. If you’re looking for one we’ll tell you where to find one next.