President Obama invoked Ronald Reagan today 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 Reagan 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," Obama said of the 1980s president. "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 that 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 people earning more than $1 million a year to pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on their incomes. 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."
From pollster Gary Langer:
The last time we asked in an ABC-Post poll, in February, 72 percent of Americans supported raising taxes on people with incomes exceeding $1 million; 59 percent supported it strongly. As we noted at the time, even a majority of Republicans, 57 percent, supported this suggestion.
Further, 68 percent of Americans in that poll said they think the tax system favors the wealthy, again including a majority of Republicans.
Lastly, as reported in our new poll this week, Americans by 52-37 percent see "unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy" as a bigger problem than "over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity." Among registered voters, those who see unfairness that favors the wealthy as the bigger problem support Obama over Romney by 70-27 percent. Among the smaller group more concerned with over-regulation, the tables turn to a 73-23 percent Romney lead.
This is why the president is hitting it hard and often.