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‘Let’s not dumb this down’: Testy Psaki doubles down on ‘zero’ cost Biden plan for those making under $400k

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday appeared to back away from previous claims made by the administration and top Democrats that President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” spending plan won’t cost Americans anything.

During her daily briefing, Psaki was pressed by Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy about a remark made last week by Biden — echoed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and top presidential adviser Cedric Richmond on Sunday — that his plan will cost “zero dollars.”

“Well, let’s not dumb this down for the American public here. What we’re talking about is how much the top line investments are, which are all paid for, so therefore it costs zero. No matter what the cost or size of the topline investments are, we have ways to pay for it,” Psaki replied.

“So the point is that’s important to the American public, all of your viewers too, is that this is not going to cost the American public a dollar,” she continued. ”

“We’re going to pay for this by asking corporations, the highest income — so people under $400,000 I should say — corporations, highest income to cover the cost of these necessary investments,” the White House spokeswoman continued.

Pressing further, Doocy asked, “So just not to dumb it down then, does the plan cost nothing, or is the plan free?”

“The plan costs nothing for the American people who make less than $400,000. If you think that companies that paid zero in taxes last year, 50 of the top companies should continue to pay zero in taxes, we’re happy to have that debate,” Psaki replied.

Since claiming last week that his plan will cost “zero dollars” as well as “add zero dollars to the national debt,” Biden was roundly criticized by Republicans but also some in the media, including The Washington Post which called the claim “misleading” and fact-checked him with “Two Pinocchios,” adding those could rise.

On Sunday during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Richmond continued the administration’s “zero dollars” narrative, though he was challenged on those claims by the “Fox News Sunday” anchor.

After stating that “we’re going to pay for it all by raising taxes on the very wealthy and big corporations,” Wallace interjected: “Mr. Richmond, I’ve got to — I’ve got to stop you there. It doesn’t cost zero. Whether it’s 3-1/2 trillion, or 2 trillion, or 1-1/2 trillion, whatever, it costs that amount of money. Now, you can pay for it either by borrowing it, or you can pay for it by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, but it doesn’t cost zero.”

Richmond responded by claiming that former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts were not “paid” for, but Trump and the GOP reduced the tax burden on most Americans as well as U.S. corporations versus Biden’s and Democrats’ plans to raise them, which Wallace appeared to distinguish.

“At the end of the day, it will cost zero because we’re going to pay for it. Now, if you go back and look at the Trump tax cuts, which weren’t paid for, they cost billions and billions,” Richmond argued. “But we’re going to pay for everything we spend here. And that is not including the economic benefits and gains that we will get from it. We know what we’re doing.”

“But again, I just want to press down on this, because I can understand the argument, a lot of people say that your math is wrong and even that it won’t add zero to the debt,” Wallace countered. “You could make the argument if you pay for it that you add zero to the debt, but that doesn’t mean that it costs zero.

“I mean, the fact that you’re raising people’s taxes is a cost,” Wallace added.

Jon Dougherty

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