Gail Gitcho, communications director for Romney’s campaign, said in a statement that “President Obama is the first president in history to openly campaign for reelection on a platform of higher taxes. He has already raised taxes on millions of Americans, but he won’t stop there. He wants to raise taxes on millions more by taxing small businesses and job creators.”
Before Obama’s speech, the White House released a report that showed that the top 400 richest Americans, each of whom earned more than $110 million annually, paid an average income tax rate of 18 percent in 2008, the latest year for which data are available. That compares with an average rate of 30 percent for that group in 1995, according to the report.
Reality check: An interactive look at the question of who bears the tax burden
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Meanwhile, the middle-class rate has remained roughly constant. The middle quintile of Americans, as measured by income, paid 14 percent in taxes in 1960 and 16 percent in 2010.
White House officials said the Buffett rule would help set a “principle” for broader tax reform, although they acknowledged that the legislation, on its own, would not be an answer for deficit reduction.
“Our goal is to have a progressive tax system,” Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said in a conference call with reporters. He added that the Buffett rule “is the simplest, most common-sense and easiest of ideas to put in place tomorrow. We’re not trying to say it solves all our budget problems or solves all our economic problems. Certainly, we would need to do more.”
Yet perhaps signaling that the rule is as much a political gambit as a policy proposal, the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to its supporters asking them to support the bill and directing them to the campaign’s Web site.
“Not only does Mitt Romney oppose the Buffett rule, but he wants to protect special breaks and loopholes that help wealthy Americans like himself avoid paying their fair share,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in the e-mail. “If that’s not the kind of country you want to see for the next four years, do something about it now.”