Does billionaire Warren Buffett agree with the rule that has been given his name?
In a Friday appearance on CNBC, Buffett gave the impression he did not agree with the President’s plan to raise taxes on all wealthy earners – a plan known as the “Buffett Rule.”
Buffett told CNBC he gave Gene Sperling permission to use his name for the rule, and said he was happy to do it.
“I mean I wrote about it,” he told CNBC.
From there, it gets a bit dicey.
CNBC asked: “Are you happy that the way it is being described. Is the program that the White House has presented a million dollars and over your program?”
Buffett then goes on to say his plan was to tax the so-called “uber-rich,” not everyone with a high income, the way President Obama does.
He told CNBC:
“Well, the precise program which will — I don’t know what their program will be. My program would be on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes. Somebody making $50 million a year playing baseball, his taxes won’t change. Make $50 million a year appearing on television, his income won’t change. But, if they make a lot of money and they pay a very low tax rate, like me, it would be changed by a minimum tax that would only bring them up to what the other people pay.”
CNBC tried to clarify his position:
“Does that mean you disagree with the president’s new jobs proposal which would be paid for by raising taxes on households with incomes of over $250,000?”
“That’s another program that I won’t be discussing. My program is to have a tax on ultra-rich people who are paying very low tax rates. Not just all the rich people. It would probably apply to 50,000 people in a population of 300 million.”
CNBC pushed the issue further:
“So that means you disagree with the president on the $250,000?”
“No, no. You may disagree with him,” Buffett said.
He also told CNBC he would “look at the overall plan that gets submitted to Congress,” before deciding whether or not to support it.
Telling CNBC he supports the President’s attempt to get Congress working on the jobs bill, Buffett admitted he hasn’t looked at all the details.
Based on what Buffett said, one easily gets the impression he does not support a tax hike on all wealthy earners, but Buffett did not specifically say he opposed the President’s plan that carries his name.
Predictably, a post at Think Progress says the media is misrepresenting Buffett’s answer, which at best could be described as “weaselly.”
Pat Garofalo wrote:
Somehow, the media (goaded by Republican misinformation?) have taken this to mean that Buffett does not support the Buffett rule, which is only a principle and not, at the moment, a specific proposal. But Buffett was asked repeatedly if he disagreed with the rule and never said that he did — he merely pointed out that the specific idea he has been promoting, from which the Buffett rule grew out of, is a minimum tax rate for the ultra-wealthy.
There is no misinformation involved, as much as Garofalo would like to claim, but there is another possibility: Buffett could simply be trying to have his cake and eat it, too.
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