Last week, Joe Biden declared on multiple occasions that one key feature of his plan to fight inflation would be to raise taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. Biden thought that was such a catchy hook that he even tweeted it out on Friday:
You want to bring down inflation?
Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 13, 2022
Well, okay, Grandpa Joe himself didn’t tweet it out, but someone in the White House in charge of Biden’s Intertubes engagement did. Two days earlier, Biden had mentioned twice that he wanted to fight inflation by raising corporate taxes in a speech to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Chicago. Biden made it more explicit a day earlier in his remarks on the economy, emphasis mine:
Now, as I said when I came to — to what Congress and the President can do to fight inflation, Americans have two potential paths forward. The first is my plan, the Democratic plan. A plan put forward by congressional Republicans is a second alternative.
Here’s how each of us would tackle inflation:
My plan is to lower employer [sic] — lower everyday costs for — everyday costs for hardworking families and lower the deficit by asking large corporations and the wealthiest Americans to not engage in price gouging and to pay their fair share in taxes. …
You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.
So the tweet directly quoted Biden on the point, even if Biden never comes within three apps of his Twitter account on his phone. Biden himself declared that raising corporate taxes would “bring down inflation.” This becomes important for yesterday’s White House press briefing, in which new press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre officially took over the podium. Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked her to explain how raising costs for corporations would lower prices for consumers, which is a very basic question for Biden’s economic plan.
Rather than answer it at first, Jean-Pierre at first tries to belittle Doocy for quoting a tweet, and then spends a lot of time tossing slogans around without ever answering the question. Scott Johnson grabs the full transcript while the Washington Free Beacon clips a segment of the video:
Doocy: "How does raising taxes on corporations lower the cost of gas, the cost of a used car, the cost of food, for everyday Americans?"
Jean-Pierre: "We encourage those who have done very well, especially those who care about climate change, to support a fairer tax code." pic.twitter.com/rcvptEkgPN
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) May 16, 2022
Q The President’s Twitter account posted the other day, “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.” How does raising taxes on corporations reduce inflation?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, are you talking about a specific tweet?
Q He tweeted, “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share?”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, you know, we have talked about — we have talked about this this past year, about making sure that the wealthiest among us are paying their fair share. And that is important to do. And that is something that, you know, the President has been, you know, working on every day when we talk about inflation and lowering costs.
And so it’s very important that, you know, as we’re seeing costs rise, as we’re talking about how to, you know — you know, build an America that is safe, that’s equal for everyone, and doesn’t leave anyone behind, that is an important part of that as well.
Q But how does raising taxes on corporations lower the cost of gas, the cost of a used car, the cost of food for everyday Americans?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I think we encourage those who have done very well — right? — especially those who care about climate change, to support a fairer tax — tax code that doesn’t change — that doesn’t charge manufacturers’ workers, cops, builders a higher percentage of their earnings; that the most fortunate people in our nation — and not let the — that stand in the way of reducing energy costs and fighting this existential problem, if you think about that as an example, and to support basic collective bargaining rights as well. Right? That’s also important.
But look, it is — you know, by not — if — without having a fairer tax code, which is what I’m talking about, then all — every — like manufacturing workers, cops — you know, it’s not fair for them to have to pay higher taxes than the folks that — who are — who are — who are not paying taxes at all or barely have.
Q But was does that have to do with inflation? The President said, “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”
Jeff Bezos came out and tweeted about that. He said, “The newly created disinformation board should review this tweet.” Would you be okay with that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, it’s not a huge mystery why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth — right? — opposes an economic agenda that is for the middle class, that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul — right? — and that’s what we’re talking about; that’s why we’re — we’re talking about lowering inflation here — and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share. That is what we’re talking about.
No, that’s not what we’re talking about. Doocy asked about inflation, which is what Biden claimed to use higher corporate taxes to fix. Jean-Pierre is talking about redistribution as a top-down means for creating equity, which has nothing to do with inflation. Jean-Pierre’s entire answer is nothing but a series of non-sequiturs to the issue of inflation, which is not surprising since Doocy has asked what is in essence a trick question.
“How does raising taxes on corporations reduce inflation?” Answer: it doesn’t. It would make inflation worse, in fact, because corporations don’t pay taxes in the end. They pass them along to customers in the prices, so if their taxes go up, so will the cost of their goods and services. What do we call it when prices go up while value remains the same? Inflation. That’s Econ 102, right after the lesson on supply and demand.
Jean-Pierre doesn’t answer the question because the only accurate answer would make her boss look like an idiot, which Biden certainly is on economics. Jen Psaki wouldn’t have fared any better either, for what it’s worth, for the same reason. When you have to flack truly stupid and counterproductive policies, your only options are misdirection and non-sequiturs.
Speaking of Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Amazon-Post isn’t letting this go. The Hill notes that the White House tried to sniff at Bezos’ criticism on this point in a statement that suggested that Bezos is attacking Biden over his support for organized labor. Bezos shot back at Biden in response:
Bezos’s tweets accusing the president of “misdirection” and of risking worse inflation with his economic proposals, and the White House’s sharp response, marked an escalation in what has become an increasingly adversarial relationship.
“It doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.
“It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees,” Bates added.
Bezos shot back on Monday afternoon, accusing the White House of trying to change the topic and again hitting its economic policy.
“Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending,” Bezos tweeted. “They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40 year high.”
Bezos called it a “squirrel,” a reference to the Pixar film Up:
their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending. They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40 year high.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) May 16, 2022
I’m not a big fan of Bezos, but he’s right. In this White House, it’s squirrels all the way down.