Rev. Al Sharpton tried to corner a Kansas congressman on "fair" tax rates during his MSNBC show Wednesday, but Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Tea Party Republican, wasn't having it.
"Is it fair that billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries?" Sharpton asked.
"They actually don't, according to the IRS," Huelskamp said. "The effective tax rate of these millionaires and billionaires is more than most secretaries unless they're exceptionally high paid -- 48 percent of all Americans don't pay any income taxes right now, Reverend Al, and you do know that and the president knows that."
"Is it fair? Is it fair? One of your candidates for president, Willard Mitt Romney, reported himself that he paid around 14 percent in taxes. The average middle class American -- Warren Buffett's secretary pays 30 percent about. Is that fair?" Sharpton asked.
"Reverend Al, the average American doesn't pay 30 percent in income taxes," Huelskamp said.
" -- Is it fair??" Sharpton cut in.
"It's not true, Al," Huelskamp said.
"Is it fair? Is it fair? Is [sic] those statistics that I reported that they're saying are true, is it fair?" Sharpton asked.
"It's not true according to the IRS," Huelskamp said.
"Oh so you won't answer whether it's fair," Sharpton said. "You're trying to argue -- on the basis of the report, if the report is inaccurate, fine, you stipulate that. I'm asking you, is it fair? is the arrangement fair?"
The two continued in that vein, with Sharpton making the point that the GOP won't even "discuss in fairness" while Huelskamp repeatedly shot down the premise of his base argument.
Switching to a different tactic, Sharpton asked how constituents in Huelskamp's district would feel knowing that Romney, "who makes more a day than they do a year," pays a lower tax rate.
"Does that concern you as their congressman?" Sharpton asked.
"Most Kansans I talk to aren't concerned and worried about what the guy down the road makes, they'd like to keep their own job. They'd like to make a living themselves," Huelskamp said.
" -- but they'd also like to be paying a fair rate, wouldn't you think that, or you think they don't care?" Sharpton cut in.
"Well there are plenty who'd like to punish others, but that's not the typical American dream," Huelskamp said.
"How is that punishing others?" Sharpton interupted. "So let me get this right: For billionaires and millionaires to pay at the same rate as everyone else is a punishment?"
With that, it was back to the previous argument, with Huelskamp repeating that 48 percent of all Americans pay no income taxes and Sharpton continuing to bring up Romney's tax returns.
"Mr. Romney released this himself, congressman. He's paying 14 percent...you know people in your district are paying a higher rate and you can't even say whteher that's fair or not. That's the problem in America," Sharpton said.
"Fairness in America is not the end result, it's not the end result, it's the opportunity. And everybody in America today has the opportunity to get ahead," Huelskamp said.
"I think you're absolutely right and I think the only way we're going to get ahead is we at least have to agree on fairness," Sharpton said.
As Sharpton began to close the segment out, Huelskamp let loose with one last question: "What is your income a year, Reverend Al?"
"My income, I'll tell you my tax rate," Sharpton spluttered. "My tax rate is the same percentage as the average person in your district."
"What's your income?" Huelskamp tried again, to no avail. "What's your income, Reverend Al? Tell us your income!"
As Glenn Beck pointed out during his radio program Thursday, the majority or what Romney paid were capital gains taxes -- trying to compare those to income taxes is essentially comparing apples and oranges. Here's the tax rate chart Beck referenced.
Additionally, going back to Sharpton's first point, a Forbes analysis suggests Buffett's secretary Debbie Bosanek -- who was a White House guest at the State of the Union -- likely makes between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.
You can now watch Beck's reaction to the audio, below: