Senator Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren traded charges Thursday night on an array of policy questions, including their stances on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Warren said that Brown was trying to protect the top 2 to 3 percent, while turning his back on working people. Brown said that Warren’s opposition to tax breaks for top earners was tantamount to a tax increase that would hurt all Americans.
WARREN: “There was a bill in the United States Senate, and what it would do is extend tax cuts for 98 percent of the families here in Massachusetts, and 97 percent of small businesses, and Senator Brown voted no. Now why did he vote no? Because there weren’t enough tax breaks for the top 2 percent and the top 3 percent. For me, this is just an example of whose side do you stand on. Are you holding out, are you hanging in there for the top 2 percent, or are you there to fight for working people?”
BROWN: “With all due respect, you’re wrong. You’re misrepresenting my record. The only person in this race who is hurting the middle class and wants to raise taxes is Professor Warren, because she said that she would not have supported President Obama’s compromise bill that not only kept taxes low for everybody for the last two years, but also took care of unemployment benefits. She said she would not have supported that because of the increases, the fact that we didn’t tax more the high income earners.”
Is Warren misrepresenting Brown’s record?
No. On July 25, Brown voted against a bill that would have would extended the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but allowed them to expire for upper-income earners, resulting in higher taxes on incomes, capital gains, and dividends for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000 – roughly the top 2 percent of taxpayers. The bill, sponsored by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, passed the Senate on a largely party-line vote of 51-48. Republicans offered their own bill to extend the tax cuts for all earnings and accused Democrats of proposing an election-year gimmick that had no chance of becoming law.
Is Brown right in saying that Warren wants to raise taxes?
Yes. Warren wants to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for those who earn more than $250,000 a year, repeal subsidies for oil companies, and raise the estate tax, among other changes. Those changes alone would amount to about $1 trillion in new taxes over the next decade. Warren argues those taxes will not hurt the middle class, but Brown argues they will harm job creators at the top of the income scale, which will drag down the economy for all. When Brown refers to her opposition to “President Obama’s compromise bill,” he is alluding to Obama’s decision in 2010 to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, as part of a deal that also extended unemployment insurance benefits and cut payroll taxes for workers. Obama agreed to the tax-cut extension only reluctantly, to break a stalemate with Republicans. “I think that it is a real mistake . . . to keep the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” Warren said in a debate last October. “We need to let them expire.”
Michael LevensonMichael Levenson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.