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Biden to propose billionaire tax, approval rating falls to lowest of presidency

Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman joins the Live show to discuss President Biden's approval rating, the Biden administration's budget and billionaire tax proposal, and how the president's comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin were received.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Right now though, we're going to talk more about domestic politics here in the United States, away from the Oscars for just a moment, because President Biden is out with a new budget with different priorities, including things like spending on security, including a proposal for a new billionaires' tax as well. Our Rick Newman is here to talk about that.

Now, we should always take these budgets, I guess, with a grain of salt, Rick. But it is interesting as sort of a marker of what the president is trying to prioritize. So what stands out to you?

RICK NEWMAN: Right. So the president's budget will go up. And this will be transformed into legislative ideas. And the big standout thing is this so-called billionaires' tax, which would be a kind of a surtax on people with more than $100 million in wealth. But this is not going to pass.

This is a different version of what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed before. They don't have the votes to pass this. So this is Biden basically saying, look, I still want to tax the rich more. This is relatively popular among Americans. So you can sort of use it as a campaign theme, if you will. But we're not going to see Congress pass this billionaires' tax. And even if they did, there are questions about whether it is constitutional.

It's difficult to enforce, because you have to go around evaluating people's wealth before they have sold it and triggered capital gains. So it's complicated. And I don't think it's going to happen.

But Biden is basically saying, here's what I think I stand for in the second year of my presidency. He's got more of an increase in defense spending Biden also, in his budget, wants to spend more money on the police. So Biden, in his State of the Union speech back at the beginning of March, he said, we don't need to defund the police. We need to fund the police.

So this, again, is another kind of campaign theme. Democrats are tough on crime, after all. And of course, that gets to one of the things that is on voters' minds as we go into the midterm elections later this year.

JULIE HYMAN: And who knows? Maybe there would be some bipartisan agreement on that. But speaking of things that the president stands for, Rick, he made headlines over the weekend. Of course, he was in Europe, and specifically, he was in Poland. And he made a speech where he talked about what's going on with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But there was a part at the end of the speech that he reportedly ad libbed that caught people's attention. Listen to what the president said.

JOE BIDEN: We will have a different future, a brighter future, rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom and possibilities. For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.

JULIE HYMAN: And those words at the end seeming to indicate that the president was advocating for regime change, which would be a big change in policy. And I'm curious what you made of that, Rick, and kind of also what that does to the negotiations he's been trying to make in Europe but also here in the US.

RICK NEWMAN: Right. He was obviously talking about Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that Putin cannot remain in power. And the reason that would be problematic is, if Biden is signaling that the United States is actually going to try, somehow, to remove Putin from power, well, Putin wouldn't like to hear that. And it would make him feel even more threatened than he may feel already with regard to what the United States and Europe is doing with regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If Biden had a chance to do it again, maybe he wouldn't say that. He's being criticized by the foreign policy eggheads inside the beltway here, saying, oh, my god, you can't possibly say that to Vladimir Putin. Now he's going to go even more bananas.

But on the other hand, I've seen some analysis saying, yeah, guess what, if you're a fighter in Ukraine, that's a heartening message to hear the President of the United States say that. What if you're somebody in Russia who wonders about Putin? Maybe that's a good thing for them to hear as well.

So the White House did say, no, no, we don't mean regime change. So I think this has kind of run its course. And if Biden doesn't say this again, it will stop being a problem.

Of course, we still have the problem about what to do with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And it's not clear we're anywhere near any kind of sort of peace negotiations that'll make a difference.

BRIAN SOZZI: Rick, also a problem for the president, his approval ratings are at their lowest levels of his presidency.

RICK NEWMAN: This is all about inflation. It's not about Ukraine. It's not about whether Biden's handling this foreign policy crisis well or not. I don't see how Biden's approval rating gets any better when we've got inflation close to 8% and gas prices around 4.25, 4.40 a gallon.

So if you want to know what's going to help Biden get out of that hole, just watch prices. I think it's that simple.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, but what does that do when he's got an approval rating like that? Traditionally-- I mean, already, we have a divided Washington. What does this do in terms of his agenda, going back to the budget and sort of signaling his priorities?

RICK NEWMAN: It torpedoes his so-called political capital. With Biden just not that popular, it makes it easier for members of Congress, including members of his own party, to say, eh, I'm not really going to support this thing that Biden wants.

What does this mean specifically? I mean, let's go back to the Build Back Better agenda, which died last year because Joe Manchin and maybe one or two other Democrats wouldn't support it. Now Biden's rebranding it as Build a Better America, BABA. And he's still going to try to get some of those policies passed, such as some green energy tax breaks, perhaps some social spending.

The one thing that Biden seems to have highlighted in his budget is money for child care. So Democrats could still try to pass some of the Build Back Better stuff. But it just makes it that much harder, because when the president is not popular, it means that members of his own party can buck him, if they choose, without any punishment. Their own voters back home won't punish them.

So I think it means we're just not going to see Democrats get very much done this year.

JULIE HYMAN: Not even BABA, the other BABA now that you've just coined. Thanks, Rick. Appreciate it. Have a great day.

RICK NEWMAN: Bye, guys.