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George W. Bush: 'I wish they weren't called the Bush tax cuts'

George W. BushCredit RatingsWarren BuffettMitt RomneyInternal Revenue ServiceRepublican Party

George W. Bush, the man behind the tax breaks now sparking debate from President Obama and his likely challenger, Mitt Romney, just wishes that the policies didn’t bear his name.

“I wish they weren’t called the Bush tax cuts,” he said, chuckling, during a speech at the New York Historical Society. “If they were called someone else’s tax cuts, they’d be less likely to be raised.”

But with Bush’s moniker firmly attached, the policies are turning out to be a key election talking point.

Obama wants to scrap them and raise taxes on the wealthy. On Tuesday, the president plans to give a speech in Florida praising the "Buffett Rule" -- a policy inspired by billionaire investor Warren Buffett that would impose a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30% on millionaires.

Romney’s camp wants the tax breaks to remain in place.

The tax breaks, implemented early on in Bush’s presidency in 2001 and 2003, were pegged by his administration and other Republicans as a mechanism for job creation. The logic is that upper-income taxpayers are also often employers and that funds that would otherwise become government tax revenue could be used to boost economic growth.

“If you raise taxes on the so-called rich, you’re really raising taxes on the job creators,” the former president said in his speech at the historical society event, which was sponsored by the Bush Institute. “And if the goal is private-sector growth, you’ve got to recognize that the best way to achieve that growth is to leave capital in the treasuries of the job creators.”

He also spoke about the general principles of free enterprise and about entitlement reform and discussed an upcoming book from the institute that puts forth ways for the private sector to grow 4%.

And a joke: “It’s got to be a staggering thing for some of the cynics up here … they didn’t even think I could read, much less write a book.”

Watch the video from event co-sponsor Forbes below. 

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