Neal Katyal

Neal Katyal speaks during the Aspen Ideas Festival 2015 on July 3, 2015 in Aspen, Colorado. The attorney defended Nestlé and Cargill, two companies accused of using child slavery in Africa, before the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Photo: Leigh Vogel/WireImage via Getty Images)

Ro Khanna Invites Neal Katyal to Debate Wealth Tax on MSNBC

"Come on Neal, you can't be against a wealth tax? Are you?"

California Congressman Ro Khanna on Friday said he would like to debate Neal Katyal, a prominent liberal pundit and former acting solicitor general under the Obama administration, over a proposed wealth tax that is now at the heart of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case in question, Moore v. United States, focuses on the authority of Congress to tax unrealized financial gains of wealthy individuals.

As reported earlier this month by The Lever's Julia Rock, Katyal filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of Saving America's Family Enterprises (SAFE), "an anonymously funded group—whose board includes corporate lobbyist," opposing the wealth tax.

In a tweet on Friday, Khanna, a progressive Democrat who served as national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, suggested he and Katyal have a public debate on Mehdi Hasan's MSNBC show about the need for a wealth tax.

"I really was surprised by this," said Khanna, referencing the revelations about Katyal's involvement in the case, "as anyone who cares deeply about threats to our democracy as you do should recognize the problem of massive income inequality and the concentration of wealth." Both Khanna and Katyal graduated from Yale Law School.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in Moore, experts have said it could have far-reaching implications for how certain kinds of wealth are taxed and could put significant federal revenue at risk.

Khanna said: "Come on Neal, you can't be against a wealth tax? Are you? Massive income inequality is adding flames to threats to democracy."

While many Americans likely know him from his frequent appearances on MSNBC, where he is a paid contributor weighing in on legal and judicial matters, Katyal has also had a long career as a corporate lawyer representing the interests of some of the world's most profitable and powerful companies. As Rock noted in her reporting:

In recent years, Katyal has helped Nestlé defend itself in a child slavery case before the Supreme Court and represented Johnson & Johnson in its bid to use bankruptcy to block lawsuits from cancer victims.

Listed on the Katyal-authored amicus brief alongside SAFE is the group's senior adviser, former Louisiana Democratic senator John Breaux, who also lobbies for ExxonMobil, Norfolk Southern, and Boeing—corporations whose top executives could have a financial interest in the outcome of the case. Breaux also lobbies for billionaire financial magnate and Democratic megadonor James Simons.

SAFE is organized as a so-called social welfare nonprofit, which allows it to hide the identity of its donors and avoid taxes while spending money to influence policy decisions.

Responding to Rock's reporting earlier this week, Aeon senior editor Sam Haselby said: "You'd think a lawyer arguing on behalf of child slavery in Africa and against the billionaire tax would be a far-right figure. But he's an MSNBC fixture, Yale Law alum, and Obama Democrat."

Common Dreams reached out to Katyal for comment about Khanna's invitation to debate, but did not receive a response by publication time.

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