Warren Buffett Didn't Repudiate The Buffett Rule

Warren Buffett Didn't Repudiate The Buffett Rule

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

It started with a storm of tweets. Investor Warren Buffett was being interviewed by New York Times writer Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC, and conservatives on Twitter were misrepresenting what Buffett was saying about the Buffett Rule, which is the Obama administration's principle that "people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay."

Around the same time, The Hill published a story claiming Buffett "appeared to distance himself from" the Buffett Rule in an earlier interview on Bloomberg TV.

Conservative blogs followed through, putting up posts saying that Buffett would not "endorse" the Buffett Rule or even claiming that he "repudiates" it.

In fact, as Think Progress noted, Buffett said during the CNBC interview that he was happy to have his name associated with the rule:

SORKIN: Let's talk about the Buffett Rule for a moment.

BUFFETT: Uh-huh.

SORKIN: Talk to you about how it came about, in terms of the White House getting in touch with you, and you putting your name to this.

BUFFETT: Well, Gene Sperling called and said, "Can we use your name?" And I said yes.

SORKIN: Are you happy you said yes?

BUFFETT: Sure. I mean, I wrote about it.

As Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent noted, in a subsequent interview with CNN, Buffett responded to the notion that the Buffett Rule was "class warfare" by saying, "Actually, there's been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won. We're the ones that have gotten our tax rates reduced dramatically."

He also said:

So, if there's class warfare, the rich class has won. But it's not a tax on all millionaires or ten millionaires or anything like that. It is only a tax -- only be a minimum tax on people who make lots of money and pay very low tax rates at the same time. Anybody who is paying normal tax rates, it wouldn't touch. An aggregate, there's probably 50,000 people in the whole United States out of 310 million that it would affect.

Full transcript of the CNBC interview is below the jump.

SORKIN: Let's talk about the Buffett Rule for a moment.

BUFFETT: Uh-huh.

SORKIN: Talk to you about how it came about, in terms of the White House getting in touch with you, and you putting your name to this.

BUFFETT: Well, Gene Sperling called and said, "Can we use your name?" And I said yes.

SORKIN: Are you happy you said yes?

BUFFETT: Sure. I mean, I wrote about it. I --

SORKIN: Are you happy with the way it's being described? Is the program that the White House has presented, a million dollars and over, your program?

BUFFETT: 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. Some guy 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.

SORKIN: OK. So, does that mean that 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: That's another program that I won't be discussing. I -- my program --

SORKIN: Right.

BUFFETT: -- is to have a tax on ultra-rich people who are paying very low tax rates. It's not just all the rich people. And it probably would apply to 50,000 people in a population of 310 million.

SORKIN: OK, so -- but that means you disagree with the president --

BUFFETT: No.

BUFFETT: -- on the 250,000.

BUFFETT: No. No, no. You may disagree with him. [unintelligible]

SORKIN: No, no. But I'm asking. So you agree that $250,000 is the right number?

BUFFETT: I will look at the overall plan that gets submitted to Congress and -- which they are voting on -- and decide, net, do I like it or do I not like it? There's no question there will be parts I'll disagree with, just like anybody.

SORKIN: And are you a supporter of his jobs program right now?

BUFFETT: I am a supporter of the action he's trying to get the Congress to join him in taking to really do something, rather than sit there and go in different directions.

SORKIN: But do you agree with all the details, or no?

BUFFETT: Oh, I haven't looked at all the details.

SORKIN: OK. Fair enough.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
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