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Joining us now is an elected official, Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Congressman Weiner, great to have you here in studio. How are you doing?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you. Appreciate it.
HAYES: I"m going to get back to this tax point in a second, but I want to start with the vote on the budget today. The Democrats completely held the line, no votes for the Ryan budget.
Did that surprise you? Was that--
WEINER: No, to some degree, we have this rare moment in American political life that people are actually lining up in a way that people can see the real differences. You know, we went in this period over last year when we were considering the health care reform act where Republicans were acting like they cared about Medicare, protesting, that oh, no, you"re cutting things from Medicare, when in fact we extended its life.
It really hid a fundamental truth about the Republican Party. They
have never been comfortable with Medicare or Social Security, all these
programs that really create a social safety net. And now, they are finally
at least to their credit--acting purely like they are. They really don"t like Medicare and now, they are showing it with their vote.
Democrats, one of the reasons, very fundamental, that people are Democrats, they believe in programs like Medicare.
HAYES: One of the dynamics we are seeing in this--in this budget discussion is Republicans want to cut, cut, cut spending and president saying, yes, we need to cut spending but.
And when you talk about taxes, the president says we need to raise taxes on wealthiest and the Republicans say nonstarter. That"s what John Boehner tweeted.
It seems to me like as long as that dynamic continues, there"s an imbalance, right? Do you feel like that"s true? Do you feel like we have an out of balance conversation about taxation?
WEINER: You know, everyone says we want everything on table except really only one side is really being honest about it. Up to now, the Republicans have almost insisted exclusively that this tiny sliver of the budget, nondefense discretionary funding means aid to education, aid to people who are hungry and things like that, they are the only place that you can look for this.
But there"s another element of this that you didn"t touch on in your opening about how tax burden gets redistributed without us really noticing.
HAYES: Actually a good point.
WEINER: You know, right now, what really the Ryan plan does on things like Medicaid and Medicare says that we the federal government aren"t going to pay for them, but it"s not like when you make those cuts, the bill fairy comes in and pays for them. It just means that cities like mine in New York and localities all around the country are going to have to pay higher tax burden, devote less resources to things they usually devote towards, which are schools.
So, it"s a way that it kind shows that they are reducing the taxes when in fact they are just shifting it to the local level--something they always say that they are opposed to.
HAYES: And then you end up at a situation also where you can--you can pay less in taxes and pay more for health care and it is still coming out of your pocket.
WEINER: Right. And I would point out, the large number of bankruptcies in our country, among people who have health afflictions and who have no insurance, they are, by and large, middle class and less well-to-do people.
You know, the very well-to-do in the world don"t have to worry about being bankrupted by a disease. They also don"t have to resort to putting things at credit cards at 20 percent interest. So, there"s all of these little ways that the middle class and those struggling to make it, even when you appear that you"re lowering rates are actually have higher taxes.
HAYES: Speaking of the middle class. I mean, I think you and I mostly in agreement about letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000.
What do you think two to three years from now let"s--you know, let"s hope there"s a recovery and robust job growth--are those or do we have to return to Clinton rates up and down the income scale, are we going to have to pay more in taxes and not just the people at the top?
WEINER: Well, here"s what I think we do have to do. And this was inherent in the health reform act also. We have to assume national responsibility for some problems and not just shift them all to the cities and states. So, there"s a competition, who"s going to have the lowest rate so you have people in Texas who have crumby health care because they have a lower rate and less coverage and caps on what they can do and they go in and sue and the like.
I think the important thing is we have to internalize as a country, there are some things the federal government can do better. We can create large pools, for example, in providing health care for seniors, despite what Paul Ryan says, he ignores a basic element of the economy. When we join together as a big group, we get a better deal. Just ask the people at Wal-Mart. I mean, we understand that.
So, I do believe that we have to start putting the burden where it belongs. Right now, we"ve been increasingly shifting the burden to states and cities so the tax cut has been nonexistent for most middle class people.
HAYES: You"re a politician. So, you--it"s your job to stay in touch with what your constituents are feeling. And, obviously, New York City is a very high tax place. There"s a state income tax and there"s a city income tax.
Do you think that people feel overtaxed? Or do they feel economically strained and the economic strain manifests itself as feeling overtaxed?
WEINER: I"ll tell you what? They felt it. No one when you asked them says, boy, I wish I could pay more taxes. No one says that. And, by the way, I want to stipulate for your viewers, I want there to be no taxes if I can figure out a way to do it.
The one thing that people do complain about is the sense of abject on fairness going on the last eight, now nine years, the idea that incomes of middle class people have been flat. They keep hearing about how all of the big gilded period in American life has ended. For a lot of them, they never experienced it, because, frankly, their incomes were flat because so much was going into health care, so much was going to keep up the high cost of college.
So, I think that the deal the American people would gladly accept is give us some fairness to the thing, even if it means I may have to pay a little bit more. And I"ll tell you one other thing, I hear from well-to-do people with a conscience, they say, you know what? I don"t benefit living in a country where the top 2 percent make as much as the bottom 40 percent. It"s an unhealthy economy. They all invest in companies that want to sell products and want to sell services to middle class people who can"t afford to buy them.
HAYES: Yes, and I think you"re right. The fairness also eats away at the basic legitimacy of the system. I mean, to the extent that people feel that they are sending in this form and someone else is rigging the game in their favor, then they hate it, because they felt like they"re suckers.
WEINER: Perhaps the greatest trick, the greatest--you know, the Kaiser (INAUDIBLE) moment about the Tea Party movement, is how so many middle class and less well to do people have been co-opted what is a basically a corporate interest wealthy person movement. They don"t realize it apparently that fundamentally what they are arguing for is that people who really have done very well in this country should pay less of a burden and they--the very same people wearing the pointy hats have been asked to do a lot more.
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HAYES: All right. Congressman Anthony Weiner, joining us on a Friday night thanks a lot.
WEINER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
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