tv The War Room With Jennifer Granholm Current July 17, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
politics with a west coast edge. >>ah, thank you. >>it really is incredible. (vo)bill press and stephanie miller, current's morning news block. weekdays six to noon. >> jennifer: there are as they say two certainties in life, death and taxes. maybe not for everyone. there are now a record number of high income earners people who make over $200,000 a year who actually don't pay any federal income taxes at all. in a new ad from the obama campaign out today suggests that mitt romney might be one of them. take a listen. >> mitt romney has used every trick in the book. romney admits that over the last two years, he's paid less than 15% in taxes on $43 million in income. makes you wonder if some years he paid any taxes at all.
>> jennifer: joining me now is david cay johnston, the pulitzer prize winning journalist who covered the tax code for more than a decade for "the new york times." he's a columnist for reuters david, thank you so much for being inside "the war room." >> thank you for having me. >> jennifer: you bet. let me start with that, the inference from that action d more generally. there is a record number of high income earners who pay no federal income tax. how does that work? how do rich people avoid paying taxes. i'm assuming they're rich people. >> well $200,000 puts you in the top 3%. people avoid paying taxes by having losses that they can take, by paying taxes to foreign governments that they deduct dollar for dollar against the u.s. we don't know exactly how the 35,000 people do this and by the way, six of those people made over $200 million and paid no taxes. because the i.r.s. has never asked congress to give us a proper report. >> jennifer: i'm sayin' that's just wild!
do you think specific to romney that it's possible that the reason he won't disclose the taxes is because he wasn't paying any? >> well, here's the question to ask. would the obama administration make such a bold statement if they didn't know something? let's remember that 23 years of tax returns the ones i've been calling on romney to release were given to the mccain campaign. there are people who have seen these who are outside of the mccain camp, outside of the romney household and lawyers. so very good possibility that there's something that the obama people know. obama is a very good, defensive politician. so you have to ask would he really risk saying you're not paying anything unless they were pretty confident there was some truth to that. in 2009, it is possible romney had big big losses to offset income and they harvested that year and he didn't pay any tax. but we don't know because romney won't tell us. >> jennifer: all right. what you're suggesting though is
that because he did release these tax returns to somebody, i.e. the mccain crowd that somehow, some copy got into the obama team's hands and they really know and that's why they're pushing this? >> there are all sorts of possibilities, something could get out. i once had somebody give me donald trump's net worth to make sure he had a negative net worth. documents once they exist can get all sorts of places. it would be very risk risky for the obama campaign to be saying this if they don't know something about this. and that doesn't mean that romney has done anything improper. there's nothing wrong with romney's cayman island accounts as i've explained. it has to do with american tax law and foreign investors but romney has clearly made a political calculation. releasing these returns is a greater danger than having all of these people, including the 16 republicans saying release the returns so there's gotta be something there that bothers him.
it is not that he's a rich man. we all know he's a rich man. >> jennifer: i totally agree with you. he would rather be lashed on his back than be killed in this election which is obviously the reason why he's not releasing it. let's speculate for a moment. what do you think, in addition to him potentially not paying any taxes at all what do you think are the top reasons that he might be hiding his tax returns? >> well, romney has always very carefully said that everything he has done is legal. he hasn't explained what his definition is but there were people out selling and i was exposing back in the late '90s, tax shelters. the government didn't go after every tax shelter being offered to wealthy people because the i.r.s. doesn't have the resources to do that. it is entirely possible romney was in tax shelters that any of us would understand tax would look at and say that's really scummy but it wasn't declared to be illegal. it is entirely possible that he put money into offshore accounts in ways that i think some people would find offensive if we knew the details of what they were
doing with them. maybe he engaged in transactions that created paper losses but not real economic losses and those would show up in careful scrutiny to tax returns. we don't know how thoroughly he was audited or if at all. remember the 1999, more likely to be audited if you made less than $25,000 than if you were a high-income taxpayer because of the republicans in congress went after the working poor. >> jennifer: so if, in fact, the obama team has these tax returns and they really are as bad as we imagine otherwise romney wouldn't be taking all of this, why are they holding on to them? >> well, i don't know whether they have them or not. we're guessing. all they would have to have is an abstract of them. romney has been involved in the normal course of business, all rich people are involved in --
bain may have released the documents or romney may have. there may have been due diligence for a deal. there are all sorts of ways the abstract of it could have gotten out there. and naturally the opposition research people are looking for anything they can find to dirty up romney. just as the romney people were trying to find anything they can to dirty up obama. >> jennifer: so my guess is they would want to hold on to that until say october if, in fact, that were the case if they were going to release something. somehow it would leak out at a later point. >> jennifer, that's one of the interesting things about this. if you bring up an issue it will often have a life and fall away. you've run for office. one of the worse mistakes you can make is to raise an issue very early and it goes away and people forget about it. they apparently have decided in the obama administration this is an issue they can torture romney with right up until the moment the polls open. otherwise it wouldn't make sense to bring it up now.
>> jennifer: let me quickly ask you, so of the reasons you listed that might be damaging inside of the tax returns quickly, is there any example from history where there has been a presidential candidate that has one of those things where it has come back to bite them? >> well yes. two people were indicted over richard nixon's criminal tax returns. he didn't even pay taxes one year at all. this was back in the '70s. it was a huge uproar when this happened. i remember it very clearly at the time how angry people were to hear this. i don't mean in any way to suggest there's anything criminal. i don't believe romney would do anything clearly criminal. he might press envelopes. we know he pushes the envelope but i have no doubt he's behaved within the contours of the law on this but nonetheless there could be lots of embarrassing things in there. i've been trying to get him to give me his tax returns. here is my cell phone.
give me a call! >> jennifer: call david! call him now. thank you david cay johnston. you're going to get a lot of people calling you about their personal tax returns for coming to us from new york. appreciate you coming into "the war room." up next, worn in america played in america but made overseas how mitt romney's leadership is intertwined with offshoring. fresh off the senate floor debbie stabenow enters "the war room with how her bill to keep jobs in america isn't a sure thing. debbie stabenow from michigan plus brett ehrlich is delving into the literary world. >> ann romney has penned a steamy tell-all book and i'll have all of the details after the break!
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>> i think i really responded to that already. i don't have any further comment. >> jennifer: no comment. that's mitt romney refusing to weigh in on the controversy surrounding this year's u.s. olympic uniforms being made in china. at the time i gave mitt the benefit of the doubt sort of thinking he wanted to keep the focus of the interview solely on dashing president obama but it turns out that mitt actually did have something to hide. mitt keeping secrets, i'm shocked. what mitt doesn't want us to know is when he was in charge of the 2002 salt lake city olympics, the uniforms were also outsourced. not to china but to myanmar. you know the southeast asian country with an atrocious human rights record that until two years ago was led by a repressive huntu? when the u.s. loanchs outsources its uniforms, you know we've hit the wall. too much outsourcing.
can it be stopped in that's the question. we thought we would turn to someone with a solution, a senator who's made it her mission to stop the outsourcing of u.s. jobs overseas and to bring jobs back home. michigan senator debbie stabenow is pushing the aptly titled bring jobs home act. the bill is among other things is going to end tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas and will give tax breaks to firms that bring jobs home. i spoke with senator stabenow earlier and i asked if mitt romney has weighed in on her bill. >> i don't have any word. i love your show and congratulations and please keep up the great work. as far as i'm concerned there should not be one republican no vote. there certainly won't be democrats opposing this. we should be together on this whole issue. this is about stopping the loophole that makes all of us as taxpayers help pay for somebody to move overseas and as far as i'm concerned let's help folks
move back. happy to pay for that. happy to have them deduct their business expenses but we're not going to pay for them to ship jobs overseas. >> jennifer: let's listen to you introducing your bill on the floor of the senate today. >> and to add insult to injury, american taxpayers were asked to help foot the bill. you know it is amazing when i explain that to folks in michigan they say you've got to be kidding! or they say other things that i can't repeat on the floor of the united states senate. >> jennifer: i love that. we've had a lot of those conversations with people in michigan. now your testimony showed a sign that said we've seen 2.4 million american jobs shipped overseas in the past decade. truly, how is it that every u.s. lawmaker regardless of party affiliation isn't signing on to your bill? everyone should. >> you know, there is no question about that. we get things like wow, we need
to do broad tax reform. okay, fine but let's start by closing this loophole first. this will be number one. loophole closing. and then we'll go on from there. there is no substantive reason we should be allowing a tax write-off for companies that are packing up and shipping the jobs overseas and then you have people in michigan, for example who not only lose their jobs, they get to help pay for the move. it is absolutely ridiculous. >> jennifer: so that's the loophole itself is that it allows them to deduct the expenses for moving? >> yes. what we're doing in the bill is very simple and straightforward. i really kept it that way. there is a lot of different issues in the tax code we need to adopt. but i wanted to start with this. we're going to eliminate the ability for them to write off all of their moving expenses when they leave the country. we're going to allow them to be able to write off their cost to
come back and in fact, we'll give them an additional 20% on top of that in terms of their cost to help them come back. >> jennifer: makes perfect sense. using the tax code to provide incentives to locate here rather than somewhere else. how optimistic in this hugely partisan environment we are in, how optimistic are you that some version of your bill is actually going to be passed? >> well, we'll know on thursday. we'll have a vote on thursday. at this point it is not clear what the republicans are going to do. i'm hopeful we'll have at least some republican support. as you know, they keep throwing roadblocks in front of us. i'm sure we'll have a majority of members which in a normal democratic process, would be enough to pass it. every bill now requires this supermajority to be able to get beyond a filibuster so we'll have a majority. we'll have over 50 but will we have 60, i don't know. >> jennifer: what could
possibly be an objection? why would they object? what are they saying? >> you know, at this point they're not really saying anything. the only thing i heard is well, we should do broad tax reform. my response is yes, we should! but until we can get it done, i don't think we should pay for any more people to pack up and leave and you and i know what's happening in other countries. no other country would do this. they'll steal your patent on top of it. nobody else is doing this. >> jennifer: by doing nothing we are aiding and abetting the offshoring of jobs and how anybody in d.c. can just sit idly by drives me crazy. let me ask you one other quick question because you've been a leader on the farm bill and congratulations on getting it passed through the senate. but can you reconcile these crazy changes the house republican are trying to make. maybe you can describe it simply
for our viewers. what are they trying to do? >> first of all what they're doing is not acceptable in my judgment or the majority in the senate. we did pass the bill, bipartisan basis in the midst of all of what's going on right now. that alone was extraordinary. we actually have $23 billion in deficit reduction. but we did it by reforming subsidies that should have been gone a long time ago. by rearranging priorities. we cut four subsidies. we eliminated those that were going to large operations in good times or even paying folks for things they don't grow anymore which everybody has said we shouldn't do. we eliminated four subsidies. we cut $23 billion off the deficit. we redirected to things like farmer's markets and local food systems and organics and conservation and we did tackle it while keeping in place the integrity of a system that is there for families in need.
we know in michigan how critically important that has been for somebody who loses their job never thought in their wildest dreams they would need help. what the house did is different. they're changing eligibility on food assistance, cutting millions of people off of legitimate help. people who have paid taxes their whole lives, never thought they would need help but do need some temporary help. and they are not doing all of the reforms that we did that would really make the farm program have more integrity. >> jennifer: the house version of it cuts that supplemental nutrition assistance program. otherwise known formerly as food stamps, the safety net on food. >> right. >> jennifer: by how much? what would it look like in the states? are they going to decimate it? what's he your estimation of how badly the cut would be? >> well, they are cutting $16 billion and that means several
million people will no longer get help and they do it by changing the eligibility. who is eligible to receive help? now for us in the senate, we focused on $4 billion in savings that came from closing some areas of misuse and in michigan, as i'm -- folks who won the lottery and obviously nobody wins the lottery should be getting food assistance. went through every area where there had been fraud or misuse, tightened it up. $4 billion. they chose instead to go directly to families and the ability for families to get help. we don't accept that. >> jennifer: thank you senator, that was michigan senator debbie stabenow. up next, shocking and stupid really attacks against an american hero. illinois democrat tammy duckworth responds to tea party favorite joe walsh in his latest
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that's illinois republican congressman and permanent mayor of crazytown joe walsh dissing his war hero opponent tammy duckworth. walsh doesn't like it when tammy duckworth who is an iraq war veteran who lost both legs in a helicopter crash he doesn't like the fact that he's running against her and he refers to her years in the armed services as, well, let's just say he doesn't like it when she refers to her years. maybe the tea party freshman joe walsh would rather talk about the hypocrisy of his claiming the family values mantle while being accused of numerous ethics violations like refusing to pay child support to his ex-wife but we are so glad to welcome into "the war room" tammy duckworth from chicago. tammy duckworth is the democratic nominee for illinois's eighth congressional district. i'm so pleased to welcome her
into "the war room." welcome, tammy. >> thank you governor. how are you? >> i'm great. it is an honor to have a war hero inside "the war room." our war room is more of a metaphor but it is an honor to have you join us. i'm wondering how do you do it? how do you run against somebody who will say or do anything to keep his job? you must be pulling your hair out all the time. >> i think he's a distraction. he's irresponsible in his words and he's irresponsible in his actions, i just focus on the district. the people in the district want to talk about jobs and you know, senator stabenow is absolutely right. we need a tax credit for businesses who keep jobs in the district. that's what i focus on. i just have to ignore mr. walsh. you know, all of this discussion about what is a real -- who is a real hero really distracted from the fact that he voted against a highway bill. only member of the entire illinois delegation to vote against bringing more jobs to the district. we have to focus on the irvs and
ignore the craziness that's out there. >> jennifer: she's so good, folks. listen to her. i have to get back to him for a moment. he's like this flaming wildman out there. i just have to ask you he seems to be taking a page from the playbook of georgia senator saxby chambliss who won his seat in part by convincing voters in georgia that his opponent, cleeland, who was a vietnam vet and a triple amputee that he was not a patriot. let's take a look at an ad from that campaign. >> as america phases terrorists a, max cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. he says he supports president bush at every opportunity. but that's not not the truth. >> i know you're focusing on the district but seriously just between you and i do you worry that this weird tactic of attacking a war hero would work like it did in georgia or are
you hearing from people in your district that that's absolutely not where they are? >> well, the people in the district are not there. they don't believe it. they will not support it. but you know, mr. walsh is also getting tremendous amount of support from the very extreme fringe of the tea party. so you know, he's appealing to the super pacs, the big money folks will dump a bunch of money into the race. he's already gotten maximum contributions from citizens united and the koch brothers. he knows exactly what he's doing. you want to talk about a real hero. there's max cleland someone who when i was in the hospital, i met him because he was coming through walter reed personally meeting every soldier and sailor airmen, marine, in the hospital encouraging them to recover and encouraging them to work hard. there's no more of a hero than max cleland. >> jennifer: for sure. you talk about the issue of support. you've gotten a lot of support. you raised more than $800,000
while joe walsh in his campaign raised just over $300,000. do you think that the folks in your district are realizing they elected -- they elected somebody who is not fit for office i.e. joe walsh? >> i've received tremendous grassroots support over 91% of my donations are under $100. >> jennifer: wow. >> i have people who send me $5 any time they can gather together $5 so for me, while i've been successful in getting a lot of grassroots support which comes in small increments. it is not the big super pac money mr. walsh is trying to attract. the people in the district are focused on the issues that really affect them in their daily lives. jobs, student loans, they want to send their kids to school and yet mr. walsh has voted against the student loans. he wanted student loan rates to double and actually he voted the only member of the entire illinois delegation to vote that way. we're talking about the issues. they want folks who are going to find practical solutions.
that's what i'm focused on. >> jennifer: well and i know you're focused on the district which is really important. i know that national democrats are hoping you can help the party win back the house. do you feel like you're getting back the support you need to beat him at the ballot box from the national party? >> i'm getting a lot of support from everyone at all levels. i think that people are sick and tired of the -- just the logjam that's in washington. it is why i decided to run. it is because you know, it is time to find some practical solutions. it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. i get a lot of support not just from democrats but ever since mr. walsh started attacking my military service, a lot of republicans have been calling me and saying tammy i'm a republican but i'm going to vote for you because this guy is not representing me. >> jennifer: so just going beyond his rhetoric, tell us the biggest reason or the biggest issue where you get feedback from the people in your district about why joe walsh doesn't represent the values of your
district. what resonates the most? >> his lack of responsibility. he is very irresponsible. not just -- in his personal life but in his role as a congressman. he's told the people in the district many times that he is in washington to be a post child for the tea party. in his own words he said you're not going to get squat from me. just this past weekend he told a town hall that he's perfectly happy if there would be another logjam where nothing would happen in washington. the people in the district don't want that. they want an economy that rewards hard work and responsibility, that rewards people who live their lifestyle which is to get up, go to work every day, save a little bit of money and hopefully send your kids to college. that's not what mr. walsh wants. >> jennifer: tammy duckworth a lot of hope is riding on your shoulders. we all wish you the very best as you take on one of the biggest poster children for the tea party. up next, brett ehrlich doesn't have a book club but that's not
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jennifer speaks truth to power. >>the bottom line is we need an amendment. >>now it's your turn. connect with "the war room" jennifer granholm. >>it's a call to arms. make your voice heard. >> jennifer: time for a quick visit, yaiztown -- crazytown where we're welcomed by john sununu. earlier today if you haven't seen it, the former new hampshire governor said he wished that the president would "learn how to be an american." maybe sununu thinks obama has released too many tax returns. is that what makes him un-american? sununu tried to backpedal later in the day but he really just made it worse. so congratulations john sununu. you have earned the office of the mayor of crazytown today. as we press mitt romney to reveal his financial secrets it does seem that ann romney is about to reveal far more intimate secrets of life and
love in the romney household or at least that's what brett ehrlich claims. "the war room" is in no way responsible for claims made by brett ehrlich so shh brett's talking now. >> my sources tell me that the romney family is getting into the publishing business. piggybacking on the latest craze and erotic fiction ann romney has penned a book about her private sex with her husband mitt in a new book called fifty shades of grey sideburns i shall now read the scintillating highlights. >> fifty shades of grey sideburns. >> what i love about mitt is he loves to take charge only on paper though. our official position is he hasn't taken charge of anything since 1999. >> steamy. >> mrs. romney, he whispered, i would like to try multiple position. >> what kind of positions i asked? well he said on things like
abortions, taxes, you name it. >> oh, mittens. >> i reached up to run my fingers through his well-kempt coif then he said not the hair. >> mr. romney considered phone sex terribly inefficient so he outsourced it and i had some very intimate conversations with ralph, a phone bank operator in kuala lumpur. >> is that erotic? >> i was already on fire but then he shouted "this is only for procreation." ply inner goddess ached as he took off his jacket. then he took off his tie and then his shirt and then his first layer of special underwear and then his second layer of special underwear and by then, it had gotten pretty late so he put on his first layer of special underwear and then the second layer. >> fifty shades of