Tea Party Message on Taxation and Beyond

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 15, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It is Tax Day, but not everyone is opening his wallet today. About 47 percent of Americans will pay no federal income tax for 2009. Is that fair?

Republican Congressman Tom Price joins us live here in Washington. Congressman Price spoke at a tea party today, and I should add he is a doctor. You worked hard, and the viewers ought to know.

I understand why the poor people aren't paying taxes. But in that 47 percent who are not paying taxes, does that include other people?

REP. TOM PRICE, R-GA.: The tax rate that we have is really very, very progressive. The folks at the top end of the spectrum, the top one percent pay about 40 percent of the taxes, the top five percent pay about 90 percent of the taxes. It really is remarkably progressive.

Folks who were out there today complaining not just about the taxes that are going on, but the spending going on and the $1.4 trillion in deficit last year, $1.6 trillion this year. People know that can't continue.

VAN SUSTEREN: People were saying there is a segment of the population who makes a salary, a segment who is able to manipulate the system and get some sort of tax credits so ultimately they don't pay any taxes.

PRICE: There's certainly some of that. We have a lot of tax credits going on right now. We need a broader and thinner tax code or a fair tax. I'm a big supporter of the national retail sales tax and get rid of the IRS completely.

But the kind of anger we have seen today is not just about taxes. It's about the size of government, the reach of government, the scope of government.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Wyden and Senator Gregg, bipartisan, one Republican and one Democrat, have proposed in the Senate a way to revamp the tax code. It is uphill battle to get the Senate to consider it. Every single member of Congress says we have to do something about taxes. You have the power, why don't you do something about taxes?

PRICE: The president has said explicitly that he believes something ought to be done about taxes, but in fact what he's doing is increasing taxes. And that's why people are so irate.

VAN SUSTEREN: The tax code first of all is insane. No one understands it. Maybe somebody does.

PRICE: Nobody understands it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is dense. Why isn't there a movement on the Hill to revamp it?

PRICE: There's huge movement on the Republican side. We've been clamoring to be able to have an opportunity to get in there and fundamentally reform taxes.

You remember, a decade ago there was this big debate over a flat tack or fair tax. That faded away. But the fact of the matter is we cannot continue with our current tax structure. You can't tax people enough the way Democrats want to do so and get the money you need run the government at the level it needs to be run.

VAN SUSTEREN: If there is no change in the tax code, what is going to happen?

PRICE: We go bankrupt. You can't spend the kind of money this administration and Speaker Pelosi and the folks in charge right now are spending without fundamental reforms of both tax revenue and spending. You have to decrease the spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do they say when you tell them that?

PRICE: I'm not sure what they actually believe, because they keep spending this money and say they aren't interested in spending more money, but they keep spending the money. Two plus two doesn't equal four up here right now, and that's the problem. And that's why the American people are so irate and livid.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you sir.

PRICE: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter spoke at a tea party in New Hampshire. He joins us live. Good evening, Congressman, and why are you speaking at a tea party in New Hampshire? You got 22 in your home state. Why did you go to New Hampshire?

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER, R-MICH.: I also went to Plymouth, Michigan, which is in my district earlier today.

In fact, one of the things we have to do as Republicans is continue to go out and show we are listening to the people, that we are going to follow the principles we put forward and actively engage with the Tea Party members to see if we can attract and again earn their confidence to have a majority.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, but why New Hampshire? Any time any member of Congress or the Senate goes to New Hampshire, Iowa, or South Carolina, we all get suspicious. I understand Plymouth, Michigan, that's your state. But why New Hampshire?

MCCOTTER: I went to Rhode Island for the New England northeast Republican conference last year before the election of Senator Brown. And so as a member of leadership, they asked, would you come back?

When I came into Congress in 2002 we had two Republican House seats out of New Hampshire and we currently have zero. Both those seats voted for health care. We want to make sure that doesn't happen again. And I also tend to view New Hampshire as a building block for the party.

And as for anything else, it is a silly season. All of a sudden we are going to have a member of Congress have their plane diverted over Iowa and they will be accused of running for president too, I suppose.

VAN SUSTEREN: The media has always been a suspicious lot.

What was the level of enthusiasm in New Hampshire at the Tea Party movement? Any sense of how many showed up? I realize it is hard to estimate these crowds, but do you have any feel or sense of it?

MCCOTTER: They were similar to the one in Plymouth, Michigan. It was larger than the one Michigan, a larger park. We had a couple hundred in Plymouth, several hundred in New Hampshire in Manchester.

But the mood I think it is a determination to continue to reassert and regain their rights that have been infringed by government. They are very concerned not only about spending because it shows how their sovereignty is eclipsed by their government, but more important it's about conserving a cherished way of life.

They are definitely very concerned about the course of the country. When you get invited to attend a tea party as a member of Congress, I suggest that you go so you can show them you are listening, that your party is concerned about them, and we will again as Republicans be worthy of being entrusted the majority.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you find the Republican Party and Democratic members of Congress are now more interested in talking to the Tea Party movement in the last couple of weeks as opposed to for instance last fall or last summer?

MCCOTTER: I think they were taken seriously last fall. You are right, Greta. As they continue to persevere in the face of derision and defiance of this Democratic Congress and administration, they've not buckled. They've grown and increased in membership.

What we are going to see now is a continuation of their public protests, but they're also going to engage in more traditional political activity.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was stunned at these town hall meetings last year how passionate these people were, members who attended it, and it was interesting how the media was dismissive of it and some people were actually insulting.

MCCOTTER: Yes. One of the saddest things was to see people in government, people in elected office, people in the media, yourself obviously not included, the way they derided them for simply peaceably assembling to petition government for the redress of grievances.

One of the problems that occurs that is so unfair to the Tea Party movement is that it infringes on the narrative of the left. The left believes only members from the liberal party or the Democratic Party can come forward and take to the streets in public protest. That is their story of romanticized past.

So when conservatives go about doing it, the liberals don't know what to do about it, and they tend to lash out at it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you sir.

MCCOTTER: Thank you.

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