Tucker Carlson, the Fox News Channel commentator who has given up his signature bow-ties for the more traditional neckwear, came to the Westchester Hilton Tuesday for the Business Council of Westchester’s annual gala.
An estimated 550 arrived at what was once the Rye Town Hilton to schmooze with fellow movers-and-shakers and hear Carlson’s take on the upcoming presidential election. The turn-out was good news for the Business Council – its president and CEO Marsha Gordon said it was the biggest ever attendance for the event. Tickets weren’t cheap – $275 for Business Council members, $375 for non-members.
It was Carlson’s latest stop in his extensive traveling schedule that has taken him to 41 states over the past six months in a tour that he says showed him that “a lot of America is hurting.”
I caught up with Carlson at the VIP reception, where he was talking politics, health care, and higher education. A history major at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., Carlson lamented the fact that his daughter had shown little interest in his alma mater and instead had her heart set on Duke.
I asked him about Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s tax plan, which calls for across-the-board tax cuts of 20 percent, with no concomitant increase in the federal deficit. The tax cuts will cost the federal government $5 trillion over 10 years, and Romney has said he’ll pay for the loss by capping itemized deductions at $25,000, which could have a significant impact on suburban New Yorkers who can easily surpass $25,000 in property taxes, state and city income taxes, and charitable deductions.
However, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center last Wednesday estimated that capping deductions at $25,000 would generate $1.3 trillion – about one-third of what would be lost in tax cuts, according to Bloomberg News.
“I don’t understand Romney’s tax plan,” Carlson said.
Carlson, a self-proclaimed libertarian, said the race comes down to whether you are content with the legacy of the past four years, and whether you want the change that Romney has promoted.
He wasn’t convinced that the rich would see a tax cut, even if Romney was elected.
“If you are in the top 1 percent, they are going to be sticking you for more,” he said. “The rich are going to pay.”
He wasn’t optimistic that either candidate would be able to contain the growth in federal spending in its big five programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal debt payments, and the Pentagon.
Carlson was chagrined by the Romney-Ryan team’s critique of the President Obama’s health-care reform. The Republican team has argued that the administration’s $716 billion in projected savings will destroy Medicare, but Democrats say it will cut payments to providers and make the program run more efficiently. Ryan had also included these savings in his House Republican budget plans.
“The Romney side has been demagoging on Medicare,” he says.
As he sees it, the problem comes from the fact that neither party has the courage to make the middle-class pay enough to cover the cost of the programs.
“Nobody has the will to ask the middle-class to pay for their own benefits,” he said. “They act as if they’ve already paid for these entitlements.”