Late last week, White House and congressional negotiators struck a deal to keep the government running, cutting “$38.5 billion under current funding levels, per Republican demands,” and $78 billion below what Obama called for in his initial 2011 budget. Today, we learned that these reductions include painful cuts to programs that provide for poor infants, low-income women, veterans, and other Main Street Americans who have watched as the country has grown more and more unequal and unfair.
Yet at the very same time, poor and working class Americans are being asked to pay, some of the country’s wealthiest corporations — like Bank of America, Citigroup, Exxon Mobil, and General Electric — have gone quarters or entire years without paying any federal corporate income tax at all.
Today, during an appearance on MSNBC, host Contessa Brewer asked Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) why he is defending Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan that would privatize Medicare and hobble Medicaid at a time when these corporate tax dodgers are failing to pay their fair share. Barrasso went on a lengthy rant about his belief that Medicare and Medicaid are broken and concluded by saying that we don’t need anymore revenue:
HOST: You’re senator, a doctor, this whole issue of taking the cuts to Medicare at a time when there are big corporate tax cuts that they’re able to get away scot-free without paying taxes, really we have to stick it to poor people?
BARRASSO: Well, you know that Medicaid’s a broken system, there’s no real success at trying to throw more money at a broken system. So I like the idea of block grants. Medicare, we know that the president’s health care law cut 500 billion from our seniors on Medicare, not to save Medicare, but to start a whole new government program. The fundamentals are that we’re at 14 trillion in debt. We owe more and more to foreign countries and we need to make sure that we pass on to the next generation to our kids and grandkids a country without this kind of debt it’s irresponsible. We need to get the spending under control [...] We need to work for a solution that limits the amount of spending. We don’t need more revenue! The American people aren’t worried that they’re taxed too little, it’s that we spend too much.
It’s shocking for Barrasso to simply dismiss egregious corporate tax dodging in the United States, given how much money the country is losing as a result. In fact, if just five of the nation’s largest banks paid their taxes at the full rate, we could rehire each of the 132,000 teachers laid off during the recession — twice. As for Barrasso’s claim that Americans aren’t “worried that they’re taxed too little,” it appears that Americans are very worried that the wealthiest are taxed too little. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last month found that 81 percent of Americans supported a special surtax on millionaires.