Establishment Media Pundits Fear Ocasio-Cortez’s Talk About Progressive Taxes

Screen shot from Rep. Alexandria-Cortez’s “60 Minutes” interview on CBS.

Establishment media pundits, as well as many Democrats, are fretting over Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of progressive taxation that would involve a 70 percent tax rate for those who make more than $10 million.

Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed on “60 Minutes” by Anderson Cooper. She spoke about her support for a Green New Deal to help the United States deal with climate change, and when Cooper asked her how she would pay for it, she replied, “People are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.

The following exchange occurred:

COOPER: Do you have a specific on the tax rate?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, it — you look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system. Your tax rate, you know, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 may be ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops — on your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.

Ocasio-Cortez very simply articulated how a 70 percent tax rate would work and showed she understands economic policy. Even economist Paul Krugman backed her up as right-wing media and Republican politicians lashed out at her.

Establishment media pundits, on the other hand, lectured Ocasio-Cortez for “dividing” Democrats, making it difficult for Democrats in historically Republican districts, and giving President Donald Trump an issue to use against Democratic politicians.

In the afternoon on January 7, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger said, “You know, I just don’t know why Democrats are getting into specifics about this right now.” CNN political analyst David Gregory agreed.

“Because it’s going to look like same old, same old Democrats soak the rich,” Borger added. Again, Gregory agreed.

“It gives the Republicans a talking point,” Borger further contended. “It’s not their strongest argument for their — for their party. And what it does is it open up the divisions within the Democratic Party.”

Then, Borger muttered a few words about how Democrats could talk about middle class tax cuts, which Trump supported — seemingly clueless about the policy matter she was on air to discuss.

On “Face The Nation,” Ed O’Keefe, a CBS News political correspondent, focused on Democrats elected in Republican districts, suggesting Ocasio-Cortez was making their re-election harder.

“It’s going to be really difficult for a lot of these people to somehow make a mark here and somehow deal with maybe fifteen, twenty people who are running for President and their party. And it’s going to make things quite uncomfortable for them,” O’Keefe said.

MSNBC News host Brian Williams patronizingly contended, “I believe, watching a good bit of the other network, that Fox News is planning to run, and Republicans are, against the Democrats as if Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the new, very young Democrat from New York is President of the United States, even though her name will not be on the ballot.”

“She is pushing a goal of being free of fossil fuels in 12 years, forget about cars, no one has said how we would fly. She’s talking about a 70 percent tax bracket for those ‘at the tippy-top’ of the American earning population,” Williams added. “So this is going to be a real learning experience for a young Congresswoman, for this political party, and for the Republican Party.”

The “learning experience” that is needed is one among pundits like Borger, Gregory, O’Keefe, and Williams, who are so entrenched in the orthodoxy of center-left Democratic politics that they shudder at talking about how this would work.

Here’s what happened when CNN anchor Brianna Keilar asked Gregory to help CNN viewers understand what Ocasio-Cortez was advocating:

KEILAR: And I’m not saying, David Gregory, that 70 percent is not a high tax rate, to be clear, but we just need to explain exactly what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is talking about because she’s not saying that this would be 70 percent of a multi-millionaire’s entire income. Explain this to us.

GREGORY: Well, I’m a little unclear about exactly how this would kick in and what she means. But what is clear is that she represents a part of the Democratic Party that’s willing to go far beyond where Democrats have gone in recent decades on progressive taxation to really soak the rich with the idea that that’s ultimately going to help the economy.

Gregory feigned ignorance and refused to answer the question because he knows there’s a reasonable basis, as articulated by Krugman, for recommending what Ocasio-Cortez supports. So, Gregory stayed glued to how progressive taxation is supposedly unrealistic and a liability for Democrats.

The trepidation over Democrats returning to the days of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is maddening when considering the Republican policy of tax cuts for the rich, tacitly allowed by Democrats.

As Krugman made clear, there is no sound tax theory behind cutting taxes for the wealthy to benefit the economy. It only helps politicians serve the rich people who own them.

Not to mention the reason Ocasio-Cortez brought up progressive taxation was in the context of her support for a Green New Deal — You know, the proposal for fighting climate change that is backed by many progressives but to which Williams glibly spoke about on air as if the planet is not facing an increasingly deadly future due to our inaction.

Additionally, the idea that advocating for progressive taxation will give Trump ammunition for attacking Democrats should be demolished. That is especially because it is a variant of the idea that journalists — as well as supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders — must not critique prospective Democratic presidential candidates because those critiques will be seized upon by Trump in 2020.

Let’s make it plain: Trump, Republicans, and the right-wing media echo chamber will manufacture talking points for attacking Democrats whether Democrats act like political opponents or not. The right does not need left-wing freshmen representatives in Congress to help them divide citizens. This is what they have perfected over the years in order to advance their conservative agenda and neuter Democratic opposition.

Advocating alternatives to President Donald Trump’s destructive vision, on the other hand, forces Trump, Republicans, and conservative media pundits to react to these proposals. That makes it possible to address myths and build consensus around an issue by exposing the callous or ignorant nature of right-wing opposition.

Of course, the threat of Ocasio-Cortez and others building a consensus among citizens is why pundits do not want to debate the idea of raising tax rates on television. It’s why they instead focus on reinforcing the politics of center-left Democrats.

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