Buffet’s Definition of Buffet Rule Consistent with President’s Definition, White House Says

September 30, 2011 - 4:41 PM

Jay Carney

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney presides at the daily news briefing at the White House on May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – Warren Buffet – the billionaire whose name President Barack Obama has been using to tout his tax increase proposal – was unclear Friday on CNBC about whether his idea of tax reform matches the president’s.

The Republican National Committee was quick to pounce on Buffet’s comment as saying the plans were not the same. However, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday insisted the president and Buffet had a common view on tax reform.

While Buffet said his rule would only impact about 50,000 taxpayers in the country, Carney said it was about a principle that rich should not pay less than middle-class payers.

When CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Buffet, “Are you happy with the way it’s been described? Is the program that the White House has presented – a million dollars and over – your program?”

Buffett responded, “Well, the precise program, 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. Some guy making 50 million playing baseball, his taxes won’t change. If you make 50 million dollars 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.”

 

Obama has proposed a $1.5 trillion tax increase that focuses primarily on closing loopholes. He has repeatedly talked about millionaires and billionaires that pay less in taxes than secretaries, as is reportedly the case with Buffet. The tax proposal is intended to help pay for his $447 billion jobs plan while also helping to close the deficit.

Sorkin later asked, “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?”

Buffett answered he did not have the details on the jobs proposal.

“That's another program that I won't be discussing, but my program is to have a tax on ultra-rich people who are paying very low tax rates,” Buffet said. “Not just all the rich people. It probably would apply to 50,000 people in a population of 310 million.”

The RNC issued a statement with a headline, “Warren Buffet disagrees with Obama Buffet Rule and Dodges Questions on Obama Stimulus 2.0.”

Carney believed this was a misrepresentation.

“What he said was, and it absolutely fits the Buffet rule as the president was referring to it, if you make $5 million a year, and I hope you do, and it’s all in wages, or $50 million, and it’s all in wages, you are paying the effective tax rates that is at least as much as middle class tax rates,” Carney told reporters.

“If however, you are like Warren Buffet or someone making a million dollars or someone making $10 or $50 or $5 million, whatever the figure is, but you are paying an effective tax rate lower than a plumber or a secretary, then that’s where the principle would apply,” he added.

Asked about whether the reform would have a meaningful impact on revenue if it only affects 50,000 taxpayers, Carney stressed that it was about a principle.

“I don’t know whether we have numbers that we’ve put together on it,” Carney said. “I know that it’s not an insubstantial number, but it’s a principle that not only does Warren Buffet strongly agree with but most Americans strongly support.”