“We Are a Plutocracy”: Jeffrey Sachs Slams Biden for Offering to Preserve Trump’s Corporate Tax Cuts

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As Democrats and Republicans in Washington continue to negotiate over an infrastructure bill, President Biden is reportedly considering dropping his demand to roll back the 2017 Trump tax cuts — which primarily benefited corporations and the richest people in the country — in order to gain support for infrastructure spending of at least $1 trillion. Biden is offering to keep Trump’s tax cuts and shrink the size of his infrastructure proposal in exchange for a minimum 15% corporate tax rate for all companies. Economist Jeffrey Sachs says a capitulation on the Trump tax cuts would be a huge mistake for the Biden administration. “The corporations have had an unbelievable run of unjust and unaffordable tax cuts,” he says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to the fight over corporate taxes. President Biden has proposed scrapping his plan to raise the corporate tax rate, if Republican lawmakers agree to support at least a trillion new dollars in infrastructure spending. Biden had previously called for rolling back Trump’s corporate tax cuts by increasing the rate from 21 to 28%. But he is now offering to keep Trump’s tax cut and shrink the size of his infrastructure proposal in exchange for a minimum 15% tax rate for all companies. This all comes as President Biden is heading to the G7 meeting in Britain, where he’s expected to push for a global minimum tax rate to make it harder for companies to stash their earnings in tax havens.

Still with us, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

So, your comments on what’s happening here in the United States and also the corporate overall tax rate? You are very critical of Biden for not his original infrastructure plan, but what he’s doing now with the Republicans.

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, I was shocked and dismayed, and I hope that it doesn’t go anywhere. But the corporations have had an unbelievable run of unjust and unaffordable tax cuts. That’s true for decades. The corporate taxes right now collect a little bit more than 1% of GDP in a booming period of corporate profits. In other words, we’ve given away the store. The Republicans, especially, gave away the store in 2017.

President Biden said, “OK, we’ll restore half of what was given away.” It’s still leaving the companies effectively with a tax cut from 35% to 28% under Biden’s plan. And then, yesterday, apparently, he said to the Republicans, “Well, maybe we’ll leave it at 21%.” God, I hope that this doesn’t happen. It would be the biggest single defeat for basic social justice and affordability of what we need to do through government that I can imagine, because everybody that looks at this understands that what was given away to the corporations was both unjust and unaffordable.

And so, Biden’s plan, while it was only partial, at least pointed in the right direction. Why did he put that on the table? He didn’t even have a deal. What kind of negotiating is that? And, of course, this is because we are a plutocracy. We are a corporate-driven society. Our infrastructure is crumbling. And the companies say, “Yeah, build the infrastructure, but don’t charge us for any of it.” In the meantime, the CEOs are laughing at us, because their compensation is now more than 300 times average workers’.

So, please, President Biden, we put you in office to help fix this country, not to continue with the Trump plan, for God’s sake. It’s simple. It’s not even complicated. What is this negotiation about? To preserve the Trump tax cut? That’s why we had the 2020 election.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think it would take?

JEFFREY SACHS: You know, part of the problem is we have two Democrats who are seemingly more Republican than Republican in this, Senators Sinema and Manchin. I don’t get it, because Joe Manchin’s constituents need this program perhaps more than any other state in the whole country. And Manchin is holding out, saying, “I don’t know. I don’t want to vote for anything that the Republicans don’t agree to.” In the meantime, Mitch McConnell says his 100% effort is to destroy this administration and to preserve the Trumpisms of the last four years. So, what is Manchin doing? Is he representing the people of West Virginia? Is he laughing? Is he a corporate shill? I don’t get it. But this is what we’re facing right now.

This is a big issue for this country, because if we can’t pay for the basic things we need, if we can’t pay for a clean energy system, for safe water, for digital access to people who can’t afford it, for a transport system that can work for the 21st century, and if the corporations say, “Count us out. We just love our billions, and we don’t want to put in anything,” well, what are we going to have as a country?

And President Biden is there to turn this around. And he made a perfectly fine proposal, and he should take it to the American people and make the case, because right now all of the opinion polls show overwhelming American support for taxing the corporations, overwhelming American support for taxing the rich. It’s probably the biggest consensus in this country. It’s just not the consensus of the plutocrats in Congress, the Republican Party, in the hands of billionaires. It’s pretty simple stuff, and Biden should not be backing down.

AMY GOODMAN: So, President Biden calls out Sinema and Manchin on Tuesday, when he gave this Tulsa race massacre address in Oklahoma. And on Thursday, he caves to the Republicans, and Manchin and Sinema continuing to say they will not back off of supporting the filibuster. But let me take that corporate tax global. Your comment, finally — we just have about 30 seconds — on the G7 finance ministers agreeing to support a global minimum corporation tax rate? What would that mean globally?

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, this is an important step. Let’s make sure it’s also not filled with loopholes. The United States, the U.K., Switzerland, Netherlands and a very few other countries created a tax abuse system, which we call tax havens. It’s a system for cheating. So they need to close it up. They made it, and they can stop it. And putting in a minimum tax for corporations so that they can’t abuse all of us is a first step. So I’m hoping that this is real and that it’s going to go through. It is an important, positive step.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Sachs, I want to thank you for being with us, director of the Center for Sustainable Development —

JEFFREY SACHS: Pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: — at Columbia University, president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Coming up, “Disaster patriarchy: how the pandemic has unleashed a war on women.” We’ll speak to V.

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