Eight months ago, Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times headlined, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” a group that included, of course, the author of the piece. The column turned out to be one of the most important op-eds of the year – it gave rise to the proposed “Buffett Rule.”
The point is pretty straightforward, and at first blush, a simple matter of fairness: proponents of Buffett Rule want to correct a flaw in the existing tax system: thanks to various loopholes and giveaways, very wealthy Americans – including the likely Republican presidential nominee – can end up paying a much lower tax rate than working families.
Senate Democrats will bring the Buffett Rule to a vote a week from today. They’ll apparently have Ronald Reagan as an ally in the fight.
ThinkProgress posted this clip today of the Republican icon, speaking in 1985 about tax reform.
For those who can’t watch clips online, Reagan is seen telling a Georgia audience about a letter he received from a wealthy executive who found it outrageous that he has a smaller tax burden than his secretary.
In other words, Reagan’s argument is, for all intents and purposes, completely identical to President Obama’s argument. Modern-day Republicans, of course, have no use for Reagan’s legacy, but it seems odd for conservatives to look at Obama’s proposal as a radical, socialist, redistributionist plot when there is no meaningful difference between it and the plan espoused by “Ronaldus Magnus.”
Also note, the clip wasn’t an isolated instance in which Reagan said something he didn’t really mean.
The Republican president spent much of 1985 saying it’s “crazy” to let the wealthy take advantage of tax loopholes and giveaways, allowing them to have a lower tax burden than much of the middle class.
For the right in 2012, this isn’t a close call: the Buffett Rule would mean someone’s taxes would go up, which means it’s necessarily a bad idea. Tax fairness is irrelevant; what matters is ensuring no one ever has to pay a penny more in taxes for any reason, no exceptions.
But videos like these help drive home a larger point: the Republican Party has moved so far to the right, by contemporary standards, Ronald Reagan was a liberal on economic policy.