(WASHINGTON) — President Obama invoked Ronald Reagan on Wednesday as he pitched his proposed “Buffett Rule” for the second day in a row, arguing that the Republican icon would have supported his plan to require the wealthiest Americans to pay at least the same tax rate as the middle class.
“I’m not the first president to call for this idea that everybody’s got to do their fair share,” the president said at a White House event. “If it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the Reagan rule instead of the Buffett rule.”
The president quoted a speech in which his predecessor said it was “crazy” that loopholes allowed millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than bus drivers.
“That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan. He thought that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share, and he said so,” Obama said. “I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days but what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing that we’re calling for now, a return to basic fairness and responsibility, everybody doing their part.”
The president made clear his call to raise taxes on millionaires is not about redistributing wealth, saying instead that it’s a means to boost growth. “This is not just about fairness,” he said. “This is also about being able to make the investments we need to succeed, and it’s about we as a country being willing to pay for those investments and closing our deficits.”
The rule, which is unlikely to pass Congress, would require those earning over a million dollars a year to pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on their income. The proposal is named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
“Most Americans agree with me. So do most millionaires,” the president said, flanked by millionaires and their assistants who support the measure. “We just need some of the Republican politicians here in Washington to get on board with where the country is.”
Republicans have sharply criticized the measure, noting it would raise only $47 billion.
“There are others who are saying, well, this is just a gimmick… just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett rule won’t do enough to close the deficit,” the president said. “Well, I agree. That’s not all we have to do to close the deficit. But the notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all. There are enough excuses for inaction in Washington. We certainly don’t need more excuses.”
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