Super wealthy CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil channeled his inner socialist on Wednesday as he hyped a likely illegally-obtained ProPublica report that exposed the IRS documents of the 25 wealthiest Americans. At no time did the mega-rich Dokoupil worry about the ethics of how this were done or mention if he’d like his tax filings revealed.
Instead, the man, who once screamed at everyday Americans to come talk about income inequality while he showed them an actual pie, ranted about how the “super wealthy” are leaving “us” with “crumbs.”
While all three networks touted the work of ProPublica, it was Dokoupil who talked to talked to the author of the expose. Writer Jesse Eisinger “obtained more than 15 years of never before seen IRS information.”
Instead of wondering how that happened, Dokoupil morphed into Bernie Sanders:
People should know if you add up all the wealth in America make it one big old pie. The super wealthier getting most of those pieces. The rest of us are getting fractions of a slice and the bottom fifth of our society are getting crumbs. Or actually they have zero pie. They’re in debt.
According to Bugle, Dokoupil is worth as much as $6 million. According to OneWorldinformation.com, he’s worth $1 million. Either way, he is part of the “super rich” and definitely not “the rest of us.” Would he like ProPublica to “obtain” his taxes?
Dokoupil also blurred earnings with a wealth tax, which the United States doesn’t have. He offered softballs to Eisinger:
So for the average Americans sitting at home, they get paid on a Friday. The federal government is very good about taking money out of that check. But not so good. It sounds like taking money out of the overall wealth and assets. The stock, the homes, the cars, the art, the yachts, you name it of super wealthy Americans. Is that the basic picture of things?
The foundation of the ProPublica report is false. As the Heritage Foundation pointed out, “The top 1% of income earners—those who earned more than $540,000—earned 21% of all U.S. income while paying 40% of all federal income taxes. The top 10% earned 48% of the income and paid 71% of federal income taxes.” The wealthy pay most of the federal taxes in this country.
ABC’s Good Morning America covered the ProPublica expose, but at least offered some skepticism about the obtained documents. Correspondent Terry Moran noted, “Meanwhile, the investigation into this really stunning leak of private IRS tax data is ramping up. The Treasury Department calls it an unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information and the FBI is looking into the leak.”
On NBC’s Today, analyst Robert Frank fretted, “As shocking as it is, nothing that they did is illegal. Everything that they did is in keeping with our tax code. And the basic reason is we tax income, not wealth.” Senior Washington correspondent Hallie Jackson hyped, “Newly revealed records show exactly how the ultra rich can work the system to pay nothing in income tax in certain years.”
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Transcripts are below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
7:15 a.m. Eastern
TONY DOKOUPIL: A bombshell report by ProPublica reveals just how little the wealthiest Americans have been paying in taxes. ProPublica obtained more than 15 years of never before seen IRS information about the 25 richest Americans and found that sometimes they paid little or no federal income taxes. That includes Warren Buffett Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg. Also Jeff Bezos who is now the richest person in America. He paid no, zero, zip zilch federal income tax in 2011 and seven. And then again in 2017. we reached out to all of them, but I have not heard back, buffet and Bloomberg did respond to ProPublica saying that they support an increase in taxes on the wealthy and that they donate much of their wealth to charity. Now, we should make clear that none of the things that these men did is illegal, which is actually part of the scandal here. And the IRS Says it is now investigating the source of the leaked documents remains to be seen. If Congress will take a look, Jesse Eisinger wrote the article along with a colleague and he joins us now to talk about it more Jesse, you write in the piece that this explodes a cornerstone myth of America. That idea that we all pay our our fair share. How were these wealthy Americans able to avoid something as basic as a federal income tax?
JESSE EISINGER: Yeah, Thanks for having me Tony. So what we wrote about is exactly that, that the super wealthy, the ultra wealthy are completely out of the system. Most of us have salaries and the taxes get extracted out of the salaries. We are in the American tax system. But the way the super wealthy work that Jeff Bezos is in the Elon Musk’s of the world. Their way their wealth builds, they are outside of this system so their wealth builds up and it’s untaxed and then only it’s taxed when they sell, they choose when to take income.
Sometimes they don’t take income at all, they don’t take wages and it’s only taxed when they sell and they often don’t sell, they borrow to fund their lifestyle.
DOKOUPIL: So for the average Americans sitting at home, they get paid on a Friday. The federal government is very good about taking money out of that check. But not so good. It sounds like taking money out of the overall wealth and assets. The stock, the homes, the cars, the art, the yachts, you name it of super wealthy Americans. Is that the basic picture of things?
EISINGER: That’s the basic picture exactly. So Warren Buffett takes very, very little income and he only pays 10 cents for every $100 that his income grows. The average American making 60 or $70,000 a year, they pay 14 percent. So they’re paying $14 of every $100 that’s coming in. So it’s completely different picture for the wealthy. The wealthy take very little income, even that income is taxed very low and low rates lower than someone making $45,000. But the bigger picture here is that the whole world of their wealth, what confers their power, what they’re able to contribute to political campaigns, charity, what enables them to keep control of their companies that’s untouched by the tax system.
DOKOUPIL: So Carl Icahn, who is a multi-billionaire, he’s an investor. He responded to questions from you guys at Propublica and he said, “Look, it’s called an income tax, I may have billions in the bank or through this wealth, but I didn’t get any income. So why should I pay taxes? What’s the response to that?”
EISINGER: Yes, it’s pretty astonishing admission. I enjoyed talking to Carl about that and he’s exactly right. We’re writing about the system that doesn’t tax this kind of wealth. Now take Carl, for example, he had hundreds of million, half a billion dollars of income in 2016/2017 income by the IRS definition. But then what happens is Carl Icahn’s businesses, his personal fortune and his personal income taxes, his business income taxes all mixed together. So he borrows a huge amount of money to invest in companies and that gives him leverage and explodes his returns and then he pays interest on that. He gets to deduct that interest so that half a billion dollars of income got wiped out from the interest payments. In other words, you and I and all the taxpayers in America are helping Carl Icahn borrow so that he can have better returns in the stock market.
DOKOUPIL: Yeah. You know, people should know if you add up all the wealth in America make it one big old pie. The super wealthier getting most of those pieces. The rest of us are
getting fractions of a slice and the bottom fifth of our society are getting crumbs. Or actually they have zero pie. They’re in debt, Jesse Eisinger. This is a landmark piece of reporting from ProPublica. It’s the first in a series you guys are going to be doing. I look forward to each and every entry.
HALLIE JACKSON: They’re the biggest billionaires in America behind brands like Amazon and Tesla, their personal fortunes enormous but turns out their tax bills in some cases are not, not even close as newly revealed records show exactly how the ultra rich can work the system to pay nothing in income tax in certain years.
ROBERT FRANK (CNBC wealth reporter): As shocking as it is, nothing that they did is illegal.
Everything that they did is in keeping with our tax code. And the basic reason is we tax income, not wealth.
JACKSON: Rich people often grow their fortunes through stocks, real estate or companies
JACKSON: ProPublica is not sharing how it obtained the data and NBC News has not independently verified the documents it used.
ABC’s Good Morning America
TERRY MORAN: ProPublica’s report found nothing illegal as the wealth of billionaires is largely determined by investments which have long been given preferential treatment by the tax code and not by the salaries they pay themselves. So far Bezos and Musk have not commented but Warren Buffett declared in a statement, “I continue to believe that the tax code should be changed substantially.” Meanwhile, the investigation into this really stunning leak of private IRS tax data is ramping up. The Treasury department calls it an unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information and the FBI is looking into the leak.
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