This isn’t the first time President Obama has invoked conservative icon Ronald Reagan in his arguments for higher taxes.
“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,” Obama said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“I’m not the first president to call for this idea that everyone has to do their fair share,” he said, quoting one speech in which Reagan said it was “crazy” for the rich to be able to use loopholes to get out of paying taxes. “He thought that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share and he said so.”
The Reagan speech President Obama is one that happened in August 1982, when Reagan was reluctantly agreeing to a deficit reduction deal with a Democrat Congress that was supposed to include $3 in spending reductions for every $1 in tax hikes. “Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment?” asked President Reagan, rhetorically.
That certainly sounds like an Obamaesque argument for tax hikes, but remember that Reagan was supposed to be getting spending cuts along with the hikes. Unfortunately, those spending cuts never manifested themselves. “Congress never cut spending by even one penny,” Reagan said of that deal later, and by 1983 his tone had changed:
“I am unalterably opposed to Congress‘ efforts to raise taxes on individuals and businesses,” he said. His administration “did not come to Washington to raise the peoples’ taxes. We came here to restore opportunity and get this economy moving again. We do not face large deficits because Americans aren’t taxed enough. We face those deficits because the Congress still spends too much.”
Would Reagan be for the Buffett Rule? Reagan circa 1982 might have been, if it were tied to big spending cuts, but Reagan circa 1983 had learned his lesson.
By the way, the Buffett rule would apply to roughly 400 people in the entire United States. It would provide just tens of billions in new revenues, a drop in the bucket compared to the overall budget deficit that is well over $1 trillion.
Can we stop pretending as though this were a serious deficit-reduction proposal by President Obama and not an attempt to distract and distort the debt debate by injecting class war, playing on the public’s envy of the rich?