Obama on Reagan: a ‘wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior'

Today's Republicans might view Ronald Reagan as a "wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior," and the late conservative icon's views on taxes might have disqualified him from the party's nomination in 2012, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

Obama, defending his "Buffett Rule" call for higher taxes on the very rich, said in a speech that he was "not the first president to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share." He went on to say:

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 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.

Yet Reagan also championed the very same "trickle down" economics that Obama has roundly denounced--the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy lead to investment that generates growth, and thereby jobs. Obama on Tuesday described this economic policy in harsh terms, saying its supporters "don't seem to understand how it is that America got built."

"In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few," he said. "Prosperity has always come from the bottom up, from a strong and growing middle class."

Obama lumped trickle-down economics among "old broken-down theories" that he blamed for the 2008 global economic meltdown.

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