Buffett doesn’t agree with Obama, or himself, on ‘Buffett rule’

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the namesake of the so-called “Buffett rule” in President Obama’s jobs bill, said today that he wasn’t as big a fan of the rule as its name suggests. And the billionaire investor’s latest statements are at odds with his August 14 New York Times op-ed, which jump started the national discussion about taxing wealthy Americans in the first place.

Interviewed on CNBC Friday morning, Buffett said he would prefer to raise taxes on only the richest of the rich. The president has proposed to raise taxes on those earning $250,000 or more annually.

Buffet’s statement marks another odd moment in Obama’s odyssey to enact his jobs bill into law, since proponents of the plan touted Buffett’s early support. Odder still, Buffett seems to have back-tracked on his own statements calling for higher tax rates.

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

“I don’t know what their program will be,” Buffett said. “My program would be on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes. Somebody 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 pay a very low tax rate, like me, it would be changed by a minimum tax that would only bring them up to what other people pay.”


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Sorkin then 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?”

“That’s another program that I won’t be discussing,” Buffett responded. “My program is to have a tax on ultra-rich people who are very tax rates. Not just all rich people. It would probably apply to 50,000 people in a population of 300 million.”

Yet in his Aug. 14 New York Times opinion piece, “Stop coddling the rich,” Buffett advocated an immediate raise on taxes for those making more than $1 million, not just the “ultra-rich.”

“[F]or those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains,” Buffett wrote. “And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.”

Buffett was reticent to directly disagree with Obama’s plan, saying he plans to examine the bill before passing judgment.

But, he added, “there’s no question there will be parts I disagree with.”