This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 9, 2003, that was edited for clarity.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Remember that tax cut (search) that Congress passed not too long ago? My next guest says take it back, at least from the wealthiest Americans, to pay for this war.
Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Democratic California Congressman Xavier Becerra.
Congressman, thanks for coming.
REP. XAVIER BECERRA, D-CALIF.: Neil, good to be with you.
CAVUTO: Why do that?
BECERRA: Well, we have to be responsible. We’re asking our troops to face potential death. They’re sacrificing for us. There has to be shared sacrifice. We can’t talk about a $500-billion deficit that we have now, which is expected to grow, talk about another $87 billion without telling the American people where it’s going to come from. And unless you’re willing to do some other things, what you’re going to have to do is find money, and perhaps at least reducing the tax cut, or eliminating it for the wealthiest Americans will help us not only pay for the $87 billion, but it would actually be enough to help us pay for the prescription-drug coverage that we have on the table right now in Congress.
CAVUTO: But why is it, sir, that most in Congress will sooner think maybe rethinking a tax cut than they will rethinking government spending? Isn’t that the problem?
BECERRA: Well, Neil, I think we’ve been thinking about government spending for quite some time.
We have, for example, the president’s own No Child Left Behind (search) Education Act that was passed by Congress. The president under-funds it by some several billion dollars. That’s because he says there’s not enough money to fund it. So we’re already cutting funding in a number of areas that are hurting our kids right now in our public schools.
Health care (search) -- we’ve got 42-million people without health insurance. We’re talking about a scaled-down prescription-drug benefit for seniors. We shouldn’t be putting all of this on the backs of working, ordinary middle-class Americans.
The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans got the biggest tax cut, some $90,000 in a year, compared to the average American, who got about $200 to $300 in a year.
CAVUTO: But you will argue, Congressman, will you not, that the wealthiest 1 percent pay a third of all the taxes in this country, right?
BECERRA: They pay certainly more than the average American, but right now, when we’re going through tough times, I guarantee you there aren’t a whole lot of millionaires right now fighting the Iraqis in Iraq. The ones that are dying are not the wealthy Americans.
So what we need to do is have shared sacrifice. I’m not saying that wealthy Americans shouldn’t get some of the tax cuts. What we’re saying is that we could pay for some of these things that we must do. I’m not going to let our soldiers be ill-equipped, unsupported.
If they’re going to be out there because they’re following directions, they’re following the orders of their superiors, we should make sure that they can feel comfortable that we’re going to support them and yet not jeopardize their kids who are back home and their education, health care for them, for our seniors.
There are ways to do this. As I said before, if you take 99 percent of Americans and leave them with the tax cut and take only 1 percent of Americans, the wealthiest, and either repeal or suspend that tax cut for them, you’ve got enough not only to pay the $87 billion the president is asking for, plus $400 billion more for these Medicare bills.
CAVUTO: But seriously, sir, with all due respect, how much of this is just the notion among Democrats, because others espouse the same thing, look, these guys don’t vote for us anyway, so screw them?
BECERRA: Neil, it’s not that. We started off this presidency under George Bush with surpluses. We were told that as far as the eye could see we would have budget surpluses year after year after year, so much so that the president said when he passed his first tax-cut bill in 2001, we can pay for it just out of the surplus. When we passed the tax-cut bill this year, the same thing, but we don’t have the money, Neil. We’re in a $500-billion deficit.
BECERRA: We’ve got to pay for things and be responsible.
CAVUTO: Congressman Becerra, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
BECERRA: Thanks, Neil.
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