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Democratic Congressman Defends Taxing Rich to Get Health Care Reform Started

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," July 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time for us to buck up, Congress, this administration, the entire federal government to be clear that we have got to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. Buck up or buckle up?

The president says it is high time to buck up and get health care done. And man, oh, man, are Democrats doing — health care proposals racing through Congress right now at warp speed, a Senate committee just ramming through a major bill that forces individuals to get it and employers to pay for it.

That is on top of a bill in the House hanging the tab on the very richest. But if health care is for everyone, should everyone be paying?

With us now, a man who takes a slightly different view on that, Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Congressman, always good to have you. Thanks for coming.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's my pleasure.

Video: Watch Cavuto's interview

Just one correction. The Senate bill and the House will eventually merge into one. It's not going to be two bills.

CAVUTO: OK. Inherent in both is this idea of taxing the rich to pay for it. Is that right?

WEINER: Well, it's going to wind up actually saving all Americans a lot of money. Remember...

CAVUTO: How do you know?

WEINER: ... we have got to put something into this equation.

Because I can tell you that, right now, we are spending about $7,400 for every man, woman, and child in the country, $960 billion a year in health insurance — in health insurance money that — that is going to insurance companies. and I don't think most of your viewers think we are getting good value for it.

So, in order to do this right, we have to make sure that everyone is covered. But, I think, in the long term, maybe even in the short term, all Americans are going to wind up saving money because of this plan.

CAVUTO: All right, so, let's say you say, Congressman, and the — the up-to-4.5 percent surtax on millionaires is — is more than dwarfed by the savings you get, would you take that increased tax back?

WEINER: Would you take — no, well, the — I am not sure I understand your question.

At the end of the day, every citizen is going to wind up being — benefiting by this, meaning that they are going to spend less for health care, less for the...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, no. I — sir, I understand that.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: ... less for Medicare and Medicaid...

CAVUTO: I know. But — but what...

WEINER: ... than they're going to be paying in, in taxes.

CAVUTO: Well, if you are realizing all of these savings, then the — the tax hike to pay for this up front, would you take that back? Would you say, actually, we're saving so much now...

WEINER: Oh.

CAVUTO: ... that we don't need to do it?

WEINER: Sure. I would like to have tax cuts.

CAVUTO: No, no, no. But I am asking you, then, is if you are realizing these savings, would you go back and take these tax hikes away?

WEINER: Yes.

CAVUTO: You swear?

WEINER: Yes. I want there to be tax cuts.

CAVUTO: OK.

WEINER: Unfortunately, now, in order to get this program started to cover all Americans, which is how we get the competition that leads to the savings...

CAVUTO: Right.

WEINER: .. we are going to have some up-front costs. And the way to do it is to say to 99 percent of your viewers, we're not going to touch you.

But we are going to say to some folks that...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: ... pay a little more. But they're going to benefit.

CAVUTO: But you don't all Americans, right? But — but you're not going to cover all Americans, even under the best...

WEINER: Ninety-seven percent.

CAVUTO: Well, that's debated, too, because the argument has been — and even the Congressional Budget Office has said that some of the outlying costs of this is going to be substantially more than you or the president or others have said, that it might be more like $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion in the outgoing years, and not the $1 trillion that has been bandied about.

So, we might — I'm not sure that you're a hoodwinker here...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: .. but we might be getting hoodwinked, right?

WEINER: No.

The — the Congressional Budget Office has said that my number is right. Ninety-seventy percent will be covered by the House bill.

They have also said their estimate is a little bit north of a trillion dollars over the next 10 years to fund this thing. Those are big numbers. Make no mistake about it. But you can't look at them in isolation.

I believe that the amount that we're paying now for health care is at least a trillion dollars more than we need to be paying. And in order to get this under control, we need to have competition. We need to have control of costs, and this is the way we're going to it.

The alternative, I imagine, is to not do anything. Maybe we can do that for a few more decades, but I don't think the American people want that.

CAVUTO: All right. Well, most American people, when they are polled on this subject, do think that — that access to affordable health care is a desire.

And many argue that — that there's nothing to argue there, because, if someone else is going to pay for that up front, hey, sign me up, right? Do you think, as Donald Trump had said just a few minutes ago, Congressman, that by going after the rich to pay for rich to pay for this, that it is open season on the rich, and that not only are their top rates going up, but they are paying surtaxes on top of that. We are going to be in a situation now where — where almost four out of five of the states in this country are going to have top rates, assuming all this goes through, north of 55 percent, top combined margin rates.

WEINER: Yes.

Listen, I — no doubt about it, I would like everyone's taxes to be lower, but I have got to tell you, Donald Trump, with all the people that he employs, is going to be a huge winner here. And I will tell you why.

Those thousands of people that he employs — almost all of them, I imagine, have health care — he is a good guy — I'm sure he provides it — pay too much, under the present circumstance. So, he is going to make — with virtually every employee, there's going to be reduced costs to insure those, meaning he can hire more people, make more profits.

He is going to be a net winner in this, without any doubt in my mind.

CAVUTO: But you're — you are telling Donald Trump and others, have faith in the government to make this good, to exact these savings.

Presidents, Republican and Democrat, including the last one, with these so-called Medicare savings that never materialize, end up doubling, tripling down. The cost ends up being far greater than was ever envisioned, and the savings never materialize.

You are saying this time will be different?

WEINER: Well, yes, this time, because we are doing it right this time. We're not just giving money to the insurance companies and saying, please do the right thing, like we did with Medicare Part D.

What we're doing is, we are saying, we're going to require that there will be competition. We're going to require that people cover their workers. And then we're going to have also a public plan that is going to force them to compete.

Right now, we have no downward pressure on costs, because Congress has not done anything about it for decades. Now we're doing it. And, so, in exchange for a little bit more taxes on the very wealthiest Americans, all of us, every single one of us, including every taxpayer, is going to see lower health care costs.

CAVUTO: But — but, Congressman, I know what you are saying. I know what you are saying, but — but you are also holding a gun to employers' heads who don't go along, that, you don't go along, there's an 8 percent employee payroll tax to pay if they don't.

That is as close to a "Sopranos" ultimatum as I have ever heard.

WEINER: Well, that's — that's — it's colorful language, but, in fact, what it is, is making sure we don't have freeloaders.

Why should Donald Trump be competing against a company that is not providing health care coverage? I mean, that's the problem that we have. We have to have — the same way I get car insurance, even though I don't get into car accidents, that is not the way it works.

We're in kind of a mutual relationship here. And if we are going to get costs down...

CAVUTO: All right.

WEINER: ... we have to have everyone included. We can't have young healthy people like you and me saying, we don't want to sign up, because we don't have any health care costs, and the only people that are signed up are people that do.

No insurance plan will work like that.

CAVUTO: All right. At least I like that you called me young. So, that's good.

Congressman, it's always a pleasure.

WEINER: And healthy.

CAVUTO: Congratulations, by the way, on — on — on your engagement. And we — we wish you very, very well, all right?

WEINER: Well, thank you. It proves even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Thank you very much, Congressman.

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