White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest calls today, "A busy day of tax fairness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." What that means is, President Obama is using today to talk about raising taxes, just as the tax filing deadline approaches.
"At a time when the share of national income flowing to the top 1 percent of people in this country has climbed to levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s, these same [rich] folks are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years," Obama said in prepared remarks. "In fact, one in four millionaires pays a lower tax rate than millions of hardworking middle-class households. And while many millionaires do pay their fair share, some take advantage of loopholes and shelters that let them get away with paying no income taxes whatsoever -- and that’s all perfectly legal under the system that we currently have."
So, just considering that statement, one might think the president's proposed solution is to close loopholes and shelters that some wealthy Americans are (legally) taking advantage of. (Such a proposal, after all, would likely be popular among both Republicans and Democrats. For example: consider what Ronald Reagan accomplished.) But, no, the president's solution is to soak the rich even more, and even during a time of economic duress.
Obama went on to outline, yet again, the so-called Buffett Rule. "If you make more money -- more than $1 million a year, not if you have $1 million, but if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-class families do. If on the other hand, you make less than $250,000 a year -- like 98 percent of American families do -- your taxes shouldn’t go up."
And to back Obama up, the president referred to one of his predecessors ... Ronald Reagan (while also using the opportunity to mock Republicans.
Let me just close by saying this. I’m not the first President to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share. Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept. He gave a speech where he talked about a letter he had received from a wealthy executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary, and wanted to come to Washington and tell Congress why that was wrong. So this President gave another speech where he said it was “crazy” -- that's a quote -- that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. 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. I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days -- (laughter) -- 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. And 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.
At the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein explains how Obama is distorting Reagan to suit his needs: "Yes, it’s true that on June 28, 1985, Reagan gave a speech to Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois about problems with the tax code in which he told an anecdote about an executive who was paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. But if you read the whole speech, it’s clear that Reagan was telling the story as part of his pitch for tax reform. ... Reagan was talking about simplifying the tax code, whereas Obama’s Buffett Rule would add another layer of complexity. Reagan was arguing for allowing people to keep more of their own money and reduce the burden of government. By contrast, Obama is arguing for instituting the Buffett Rule so that more money is available to pay for government programs."