Eliot Spitzer: When did the words, made in America, become a partisan issue. Today Senate Republicans blocked the “Bring Jobs Home Act”, a bill that sounds simple because it is. The bill would eliminate tax deductions that exist for the costs a company incurs moving jobs overseas, and instead, give a tax break for companies that return jobs to America. Yet the Republicans super minority would not even allow a vote on the bill. This prompted an incredulous response from the bill’s sponsor, Senator Debbie Stabenow.
And a simple explanation from Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid.
Senator Harry Reid: It is fairly easy to see why Republicans are blocking our bill to stop outsourcing. They are obviously defending their Presidential nominee.
Joining us now to shed some light, if possible, on the Senate Republicans actions today, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont. Senator, as always, thank you for joining us. Explain this to me. I just don’t get it. It seems like plain vanilla and apple pie. What are the Republicans objecting to?
Senator Bernie Sanders: Well, Eliot, I am the wrong guy to ask on that. I have no idea. I think what most Americans perceive, Eliot, and it goes far deeper than just this legislation, or this particular tax break, is that we off hemorrhaging decent paying manufacturing jobs in this country.
In fact, people don’t know this, in the last ten years, Eliot, we have lost sixty thousand factories: in the last ten years, millions of decent paying jobs. And anyone who goes shopping knows how difficult it is to buy a product manufactured in the United States of America.
In my view the real culprit here are disastrous trade policies, such as NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, which have asked American workers to compete against people around the world who make pennies an hour.
But be that as it may, what today’s proposal was, was very, very modest. What it says is that right now, you can get a business tax deduction if you shut down a plant and you send your machinery to China or to Mexico or someplace else. That’s an expensive proposition. And you can deduct that from your taxable income.
And so what the bill did today says, you can’t do that. In fact, however, if you want to move from China back into the United States, we will allow you to deduct those expenses. We will encourage you to come home.
So I think it is pretty much of a no-brainer. We got three Republican votes. But once again they filibustered this important piece of legislation.
Eliot Spitzer: In my view the hidden hand of the US Chamber of Commerce behind the Republican opposition—we can get to the politics in a moment—but the Chamber of Commerce opposing this under the pretextual ridiculous absurd argument, we don’t want to make the tax code complicated. Ha, ha, ha.
Bernie Sanders: Look, Eliot, we should be very clear about this. Outsourcing is—you know, I think Harry Reid appropriately said about Mitt Romney—that has been the business model for major corporations for the last many many years. It’s no great secret. What they have understood is that if you shut down in America, you can do business in China, pay people pennies an hour, you bring your products back into the United States.
So my own view is the Democrats have not been as strong as they should be in really changing trade policy. But this particular tax proposal is really a no brainer. You should not give a tax break to somebody who shutting down in this country and aiding and abetting them to move abroad.
Eliot Spitzer: I agree with you and your premise about our trade policy. And this compounds it because we are subsidizing it in our tax code. This was just limiting the tax code. But in their imitable style the Republicans wouldn’t even let it to come to a vote because their master, the Chamber of Commerce, said if you vote against it, we’re going to include this in our annual tally. Am I right?
The Chamber of Commerce spends more money, even in the DNC, in advertising about people’s votes. And so this was a sort of Damocles hanging over the Republican party and they caved as they always do.
Bernie Sanders: Absolutely. The Chamber of Commerce spends a whole lot of money on campaigns, on lobbying. They have enormous influence in the Congress, especially on the Republicans.
Eliot Spitzer: Well, this is one in a series of issues where the Republicans don’t even permit a vote on the floor on the substantive matters, the Disclose Act, a few days ago, now this.
We really are living in a moment of tyranny of the minority in the Senate. We got to end this filibuster crisis.
Bernie Sanders: I think that’s absolutely right. Look, you know the Senate is supposed to be, as opposed to the House, the deliberative body, things are supposed to move a little bit more slowly. I can accept that. We all respect minority rights. You don’t want to shove things through without minority having the opportunity to make their case.
But there is something wrong when the minority can time after time after time stop majority will. On this issue I believe the overwhelming majority of the American people think it is absurd to give a tax break to help a company shut down and move abroad.
We had fifty three people in the Democratic caucus voting yes, a good majority, all the Democrats, and you had three Republicans: fifty six votes. That’s a pretty good majority. Couldn’t get it passed because the Republicans filibustered. We needed sixty votes.
Eliot Spitzer: As you think, it is important that you had the two senators from Maine and also Scott Brown saying, we’re not going to toe the line with the rabid Republican Chamber of Commerce arguments here. And I think that is important and hopefully the public will appreciate that.
Fiscal clift issues: you know, a lot of chatter these days. We are approaching the clift,
no parachute, no compromise, hostages being taken. What is going on in your view and what should we do?
Bernie Sanders: Well this is, Elliot, an enormous issue and I hope, you know, you and I and the American people just have the time we need to really discuss this hugely important issue.
Here’s the point: the United States has a sixteen trillion dollar national debt, a one point two trillion dollar deficit. Serious business, but we have to understand how we got to where we are. We have to understand that when Bush became president, we had over a two hundred billion dollar surplus and were on our way to significantly reducing the national debt.
What happened is our friend in the White House, George W. Bush, and his Republican deficit hawk friends, went into two wars, and the great deficit hawks, Elliot, you know what? They forgot to pay for the wars.
And then they give huge tax breaks to billionaires, and then Wall Street brought about this recession, which significantly lowered the revenue coming into the Treasury. You add all of that up, we have a serious deficit crisis.
And our Republican friends are saying, well be that as it may, the solution is to cut social security, which by the way had nothing to do with the deficit, Medicare, Medicaid, education, infrastructure, etcetera, and that’s how we’re going to balance the budget. But, say the Republicans, we are not going to ask the millionaires and the billionaires who are doing phenomenally well, whose effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, to pay a nickel more in taxes. That, in a condensed way, is the issue that we are debating.
Eliot Spitzer: Senator, you made the accurate persuasive factual arguments; unfortunately none of that matters in Washington anymore or certainly not to the Republican party, not to Mitt Romney. I don’t know what to say. I would die to take that clip. Send it out to every voter and say, listen to Senator Bernie Sanders. He is the one who gets it right time and time again.
Senator Sanders, as always, thank you for your time tonight.
Bernie Sanders: Thank you, Eliot.