Reagan was the real father of the Buffett Rule, liberal groups say


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Years before President Obama’s call for millionaires to pay the same tax rate as middle-class earners -- a principle he’s dubbed the Buffett rule -- another president made the same argument.

Conservative icon Ronald Reagan.

Think Progress, a liberal blog, released an online video Monday juxtaposing comments by then-President Reagan about some wealthy people not paying their ‘fair share’ with Obama’s recent statements along the same lines. Obama’s proposal is named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has argued that ‘extraordinary tax breaks’ allow him to pay a lower rate than anybody in his office.


The group noted the irony of Obama being slammed by Republicans as inciting class warfare for an idea that Reagan championed when pushing for the 1986 overhaul of the tax code.

In a 1985 speech at an Atlanta high school, Reagan complained about tax loopholes for the wealthy.

‘We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,’ Reagan said. ‘In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10% of his salary, and that’s crazy.’

Reagan then asked the crowd, ‘Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?’ The crowd roared ‘More!’ in response, causing Reagan to flash a broad smile.

Comments like that led the liberal Center for American Progress, which is affiliated with Think Progress, to declare Reagan the true ‘father of the Buffett rule.’ They also cited another 1985 speech by Reagan in which he conjured up the same image of secretaries paying less than their bosses that Buffett has used to argue that taxes should be raised on the very wealthy.

Reagan told an Illinois crowd about a letter he received from a business executive ‘earning in six figures.’


‘He wrote me in support of the tax plan because he said, ‘I am legally able to take advantage of the present tax code -- nothing dishonest, doing what the law prescribes -- and wind up paying ... a smaller tax than my secretary pays.’ ‘’ Reagan said.

He didn’t name the executive, so it’s not known if it was Buffett.


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-- Jim Puzzanghera