GOP Rep: It’s ‘Class Warfare’ To Keep Top Tax Rate For Million-Dollar Earners

Bill Clark/CQPHO

Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) said Monday that maintaining the top marginal tax rate for Americans earning $1,000,000 or more yearly would be “class warfare.”

In an interview, CNN “New Day” co-host John Berman asked Russell about a report from Axios, which did not cite its sources, that Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee were considering cutting the top marginal rate for individuals earning between $418,000 and $999,999, but keeping the existing rate for those earning more than that.

“I don’t think we ought to continue to divide our country into class warfare,” Russell said of the proposal. “One of the sad things since leaving the military and coming to Congress is to see how we have divided our nation on almost every level: socioeconomic, gender, race, and now we’re going to divide on class and divide on wealth? When is it that we unite on things that we actually could agree on?”

Co-host Poppy Harlow pressed: “How is it class warfare to ask whether or not Americans making over $1 million a year, who now pay nearly 40 percent in income tax, should continue to pay that?” she asked. “How is that class warfare in any way? You’re an elected representative who will have to vote on this thing, so? Which way would you go?”

Currently, the top marginal tax rate is only applied to income above $418,400 yearly. Below that level, every American’s income is taxed at lower and lower rates.

Russell said he wasn’t a millionaire; “having been a soldier most of my life, I never accumulated that kind of wealth.”

But the congressman said wealthy people — “or even small businesses or farms or ranches that might create that sort of wealth” — end up paying “an inordinate amount of taxes that people never see when you add excise taxes, corporate taxes, add individual income.”

The White House’s preferred tax proposal would slash corporate tax rates, as well as a slate of other taxes, many of which disproportionately affect the wealthy. President Donald Trump has said he would not personally benefit from his tax proposal; though it’s impossible to know without Trump’s current tax records, what is known about Trump’s finances suggests he and his family would benefit handsomely from the plan.

“It’s easy to throw rocks at somebody simply because they have money,” Russell continued Monday. “And that’s what I’m trying to address. We don’t need to create this class warfare of, ‘You have, and I don’t, therefore I’m going to punish you, and use the government as the punishment tool.’ We’re better as a country than that. And we want a country that creates innovation and creates hope, so that somebody growing up in poverty can be successful, could be wealthy, if they invent an idea and they take it all the way to success.”

“Why do we have to continue to divide our country along these lines?” he asked in conclusion. “It’s a mystery to me.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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