Cenk Uygur's Pitchfork Populism: Raise Taxes Because of Income Disparity

Want to see a textbook example of how the left has tried to frame the debate against extending the Bush tax cuts? Take a look at Cenk Uygur, of “The Young Turks” fame, playing the class warfare/populism card.

On MSNBC’s Aug. 17 broadcast of “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” Uygur was up in arms over the argument that taxes shouldn’t be raised by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. He alluded to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, who made the case in 2007 that the wealthy should give more to society.

“Look at what Warren Buffett said,” Uygur said. “He's talking to 400 wealthy donors and he says, ‘Look, the 400 of us pay a lower part of our income in taxes than the receptionists do, than our cleaning ladies do. For that matter, if you’re in the luckiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.’”

And Buffett has been a long-time advocate of higher tax rates – something easy to be for when you’re one of the richest men in the world. However, Uygur says it’s not good enough for Buffett to be charitable. According to Uygur, this “giving” must come in the form of “mandatory” higher taxes.

“I would disagree with Warren Buffett a little bit,” Uygur said. “I love that he's encouraging them to do voluntary giving away of the money, as he did, as Bill Gates is doing. But I would make it mandatory. I'm not going to wait for [Blackstone CEO] Stephen Schwarzman to do the right thing. I'm going to say your tax rate at 15 percent is mental. I’m going to change that to a reasonable tax rate – like 35 percent or what Clinton had at point, near 40 percent.”

Later in the segment – Uygur tried to say higher taxes were necessary because of the disparity in income growth, which he insinuated would bridge this gap income, even though there’s no evidence higher taxes will mean income growth for the bottom 80 percent of income earners.

“Here's what the results are – so the top 1 percent from 1979 to 2007, they had their incomes go up from $347,000 to $1.3 million. It worked for the rich. But did it work for the rest of us, Dylan?”

And self-proclaimed advocate of economic justice went on to point out that since the rich got wealthier and the lower 80 percent haven’t, the idea of lower taxes is even more so flawed.

“The top 1 percent nation's income, doubled in that time period – doubled,” Uygur said. “How about us? Bottom 80 percent share of the nation's income fell by 10 percent. It didn't work for the rest of us.”

However, what Uygur and his ilk always neglect to mention when they play this populist card by suggesting “the rich aren’t paying their fair share” and correlate income disparity to tax rates is that the wealthy pay more than their share if you look at federal revenues overall. According to Jeremy Weltmer, writing for Americans for Tax Reform, the tax system in the United States is already “steeply progressive.”

“As of 2006, the tax burden of the top 1 percent of taxpayers exceeds the tax burden of the bottom 95 percent combined,” Weltmer wrote. “Moreover, according to the National Taxpayers Union, households in the top 5% by income have been paying about 60% of the federal income tax bill for years.”