“Reasonable White Man” Confronts “Stupid Kids Wanting Free Shit”

By Matson Boyd

The right-wing side of the internet is ablaze right now with self-righteous condemnation of young radicals and their supposed inability to do math. Here, Fox Business Channel’s Neil Cavuto confronts Million Student March activist Keely Mullen. On closer inspection, it is Cavuto, a very responsible seeming man wearing a very nice suit, who has a serious math problem. My comments bolded:

MULLEN: The Million Student March is a movement for a more equitable and fair system of education as opposed to the really corporate model that we have right now. So the three core demands of the national day of action are free public college, a cancellation of student debt and a $15 an hour minimum wage for people who work on campus.

CAVUTO: How’s that going to be paid?

MULLEN: Great question. I’m not sure if you’re talking about on a national level or at particular schools, but I can touch on both —

CAVUTO: Well, you want all that stuff. Someone has to pick up the tab. Who would that be?

MULLEN: The one-percent of people in society that are hoarding the wealth and kind of causing the catastrophe students are facing…

CAVUTO: Alright, Keely, so if the one-percent just had their taxes raised a few years ago back to almost forty-percent, then to pay for the healthcare law had them raised another few percentage points, then they had their deductions raised another couple points depending on the state or locality — they’re pushing about fifty-percent in taxes — how much higher do you think, how much more do you think they should pay?

This is a great moment to point out that the 50% total tax rate that Cavuto mentions is still well below the tax rates the rich paid in the era of the highest U.S. growth, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Then the rich paid as much as 90% of their income in taxes. Cavuto makes it seem like 50% is communism, but we aren’t talking about communism here, we are talking about taking tax rates part way back to the Golden Era of U.S. growth.

CAVUTO: how much more do you think they should pay?

MULLEN: I think enough to where one in two American families are not threatened by poverty —

CAVUTO: So where do they go? Let’s say if you tax these folks — they’re smart people, these one-percent hoarders — so if they leave here, who’s going to pay for all this stuff that you want?

MULLEN: If they leave?

CAVUTO: The country.

MULLEN: Oh. There’s always going to be a one-percent in the U.S.

She’s right. The idea that the richest people in the United States would leave is preposterous. In the 1950’s, the rich did not flee the country despite tax rates being much higher than the present. There’s no reason they would leave now. There’s a heavy cost to packing up and leaving your country, your network and much of the world’s business behind.

CAVUTO: Do you think the 1% could pay for all of this? Even if you were to take the 1% and take all of their money, tax it 100%, do you know that couldn’t keep Medicare, just Medicare in this country going for 3 years.

MULLEN: I don’t believe that. I’m sorry, that sounds completely ludicrous.

As usual, we have no idea where Cavuto gets his numbers. The top 1% now get roughly one-quarter of the national income. So out of $17 Trillion dollars in total national income, $4.25T goes to the very top. If we were to tax that at 100%, as Cavuto wonders, we would have enough money to pay for Medicare for 7 or 8 years, not Cavuto’s 3. And remember, Medicare is a huge program, much larger than a free-college program would be. So Mullen is correct, and Cavuto wrong.

Later Cavuto gets the numbers wrong on the pre-tax income of the top 1%: “It’s about a trillion”.  “I just want this to be a math reminder”. “One trillion, which would be barely enough to keep Medicare going for 3 years”. That’s not true either.  Cavuto has a math problem.

CAVUTO: Your passion about this, and I admire that passion, and your involvement in this, but I think you have to step back and look at the numbers that could be involved here, because they’re going to be huge.

Cavuto and the right-wingers pat themselves on the back for teaching the dumb kids a lesson. Right wingers don’t know the numbers, and have no way of knowing that the “Reasonable White Man” is the one who is wrong.