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The Blue Dogs refuse to support the House health reform bill as long as it includes the surtax on the rich. Some Democrats have backed away from their previous statements regarding surtax, fearing they would not be able to pass the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has 7 Blue Dog Democrats. Richard Wolff, Professor of Economics, talks about his view on this issue. Produced by Ania Smolenskaia

Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: During a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, the Blue Dogs, a fiscally conservative group of Democrats, have expressed dissatisfaction with the current tri-committee health-care bill that’s been endorsed by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama. Their list of 10 changes included cutting back the federal subsidies. Another major issue is the surtax on the wealthy. And the Blue Dogs are not alone. Congressman Jared Polis plus 21 other first-term Democrats have sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi last week which reads: “While the Ways and Means Committee states that the proposed surcharge on HR 3200 will only impact 4.1 percent of small businesses, we are concerned. . . .” They say “75 percent of businesses are organized as S-Corporations,” which means they pay income tax as individuals. In an effort to address this issue, the House speaker has backed away from the previous idea of taxing people with an income over $250,000.

MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO: House’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells Politico in an interview what she’s proposing is that for individuals who make $0.5 million a year or more or families that make $1 million a year or more, they would pay this surcharge to help pay for health care.

VOICEOVER: This, however, would have an effect on the current House bill’s funding plan, as it was proposing to pay for roughly half the cost costs by savings in Medicare and Medicaid and the other half through a surcharge on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of Americans. President Obama stated this week that he still supports the idea.


Courtesy: NBC
July 20, 2009

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, NBC’S TODAY: But would you support a surtax on those people making more than $280,000 a year to help pay for this health-care reform?

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: I think that ultimately what we’re going to have is a package which will probably include some additional revenue from well-to-do people, including me and you, who can afford to pay a little bit more, so that working families, people who are going to their job every single day, can have a little more security.

VIEIRA: If you attach a surtax to people who are making $280,000 or more, isn’t that in effect punishing the rich?

OBAMA: No, it’s not punishing the rich. I think the way I look at it is is that if I can afford to do a little bit more so that a whole bunch of families out there have a little more security when I already have security, that’s part of being a community.


VOICEOVER: Democrats’ idea of using the money from repealing Bush’s tax cuts, which, according to CBO [Congressional Budget Office], has been the major contributor to the budget deficit, has been met with severe criticism.


Courtesy: FOX News
July 14, 2009

DAN MITCHELL, CATO INSTITUTE: Here’s where I think that there’s a problem with that approach by the left. If you’re going to be a parasite, you need a healthy host, or at least you don’t want to kill your host. And if you wind up killing the goose that lays the golden egg with taxes that are too high and wasteful government spending, there’s nothing to redistribute.


VOICEOVER: The Real News spoke to Richard Wolff, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts.

RICHARD WOLFF, ECONOMIST, UNIV. OF MASSACHUSETTS: Over the last 30 years, the tax on the 1 percent of richest Americans is the tax by the federal government that has fallen the most, from roughly 65 percent to roughly 35 percent at the top brackets. That means over the last 30 years that taxes have dropped on the richest Americans, particularly the richest 1 percent, and even more the richest 0.1 percent—much, much more than was experienced by the middle or the poor, whose taxes, if you include Social Security and so on, actually went up. Rich people do not make an economy strong. What makes a country wealthy is if the mass of its people have the desire to work, have the education and skills to work, and have the opportunity in an employment situation to work with tools and equipment to make goods and services. That’s what makes a country wealthy. The vast majority of people are workers, and the vast majority of the richest people in the community are not workers. So if you wish to have a society wealthy, the first and most important thing to do is to provide people with the education, with a good health, with a decent transportation, in other words with all of those basic services that can enable them to be productive workers.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Richard D. Wolff is a Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor of the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University in New York. He is the author of many books, including Democracy at Work: A Cure or Capitalism, and Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA.