Taxpayers Stung by Sweetheart Deals for Celebrities

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Republicans are still refusing to budge on taxes to strike a debt deal. But what if it’s about closing loopholes that provide wealthy celebrities a heck of a deal, like the one that allows rocker Bon Jovi to pay just $100 in taxes on just part of his multimillion-dollar New Jersey estate because on that portion he raises bees on the property.

Even from all the way out in his home state of Oklahoma, Republican Senator Tom Coburn says that is the kind of sweetheart deal that stings all taxpayers and he’s pushing to change that by going after the special credits and write-offs that essentially allow that.

Senator, your colleagues say you’re raising taxes doing that. What is your response?

SEN. TOM COBURN, R-OKLA.: Well, easy.

If we spent the kind of money that we do with tax credits in the tax code and had it in an appropriation bill, everyone would call that an earmark, a special favor for someone that’s well-connected and able to lobby Congress.

But because it’s in the tax code if we want to get rid of it, it’s a tax increase. I reject that and I have all along. Look, we need to reform our tax code. And I raised this issue of $28.5 billion a year in tax credits and tax deductions taken by people who make more than $1 million a year in adjusted gross income as something that we probably shouldn’t be doing.

Regardless of their income is we ought to be using the tax code to grow the country, not to give special perks to special people. And we cited a lot of examples in this report both in terms of tax credits and tax giveaways to people who are highly advantaged. And when we’re running a $1.3 trillion deficit, we cannot do that anymore regardless of how much they make.

CAVUTO: All right. We should explain, Senator, in Bon Jovi’s case, this concerns only part of his estate. He pays well in excess $200,000 on that property here. But the fact of the matter it is the portion of property that he is allowed through federal exemptions because he raises bees on the property, not that he has to do that.

You’re quite right. But you want to close that and it makes good sense, but a lot of your colleagues are saying, Senator, the bottom line is that without agreeing to a simpler tax system or lower tax rates in general, it’s never happen and you’ll never get their support.

What do you say?

COBURN: Well, I don’t think so.

As a matter of fact, we paid out $74 million in unemployment checks to people that made over $1 million a year in the last four years. We can do that. We’ve already voted that in the Senate. It just didn’t go anywhere. So the fact is everyone says what you cannot do in Washington. The American people want to hear what you can do, and we can reform the tax code and we can make it fairer.

There’s no reason that the middle class in this country ought to be supporting benefits through the tax code and through our safety net programs for people making more than $1 million a year. That’s not class warfare. That’s common sense. You just don’t do it, and especially in the time when you’re running the kind of deficits that we’re running.


CAVUTO: I understand and you raise a lot of good points.

I guess collectively the question is, through some of these issues and examples you cited, if we were to erase them all or curb them back, what kind of savings would we be talking about in a committee, now, that has to come up with the at very least $1.3 trillion or $1.4 trillion in savings over the next decade?

COBURN: Well, it’s easy. If you take all the credits and deductions in the tax code -- the credits -- let’s just talk credits and deductions from income tax, its $930 billion a year that we have written into the tax code. If you get rid of $200 billion of that a year, you have saved $2 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s something that this committee can do and agree. Both sides agree with it.

You’d still have a mortgage deduction that is sensible. You’d still have charitable contributions. You’d still have some health care protection. But getting rid of the junk, the special interest favors that have been wiggled into the tax code through the years, is exactly what Ronald Reagan did in 1984.

And so the fact is we had 4.9 percent real GDP growth for five years under Reagan. Why wouldn’t we want that? We need that. So the question is it’s not Republican and Democrat. It’s not class warfare. It’s just common sense to fix the tax code. And I did this report to highlight how stupid our tax code is.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator.

Thank you very much, Senator Coburn. Good seeing you again.

COBURN: You’re welcome. Good to see you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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