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GOP Claims Warren Buffett Disagrees with Obama's 'Buffett Rule'

Friday, 30 Sep 2011 | 2:49 PM ET

The Republican National Committee has a news release out today claiming that "Warren Buffett Disagrees With Obama's Buffett Rule."

Citing this morning's live interview on CNBC, the GOP interprets Buffett as saying "Obama's Buffett Rule at $1 Million Is Not His Rule, Not Even at $50 Million."

This appears to refer to Buffett telling us he doesn't know exactly what the White House will propose, but his idea is to increase the tax rate "on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes. Some guy making 50 million here 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."

The GOP appears to see this as Buffett raising the trigger threshold at which the very rich would be start to be taxed at a higher rate — from the one million dollars Buffett himself proposed in his New York Times op-ed and that was included in Obama's "Buffett Rule" to some number greater than $50 million.

What he's actually saying, however, is that someone making a lot of money from a salary that's taxed as regular income would not have to pay more because they're already paying a rate (somewhere around 35%) comparable or greater than everyone else who gets paid a salary.

His objection is to people making more than a million a year from investments but paying a lower 15 percent tax rate on capital gains and "carried interest."

He's not targeting anyone making a lot of money. He's talking about "ultra-rich people who are paying a very low tax rate, not just all the rich people."

As for Obama's separate American Jobs Act proposal, Buffett said that while "there will be parts I'll disagree with, just like any plan," he hasn't seen the details yet and declined to either endorse or reject its call for higher taxes on households with incomes over $250,000.

Here's the transcript:

ANDREW: OK. Let's talk about the ‘Buffett Rule’ for a moment.

BUFFETT: Uh-huh.

ANDREW: 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, (National Economic Council Director) Gene Sperling called and said, `Can we use your name?' And I said yes.

ANDREW: Are you— are you happy you said yes?

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

ANDREW: 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.

ANDREW: OK.

BUFFETT: Some guy make a 50 million here 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.

ANDREW: OK. So 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: Now that's another program that I won't be discussing. I—my program...

ANDREW: Right.

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

ANDREW: OK. So, but that means you disagree with the president on the 250,000.

BUFFETT: No. No, no, no. You may disagree with him, I don't know.

ANDREW: No. I don't know, but I'm asking, so you agree $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. I— there's no question there will be parts I'll disagree with, just like any plan.

ANDREW: 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.

ANDREW: But you agree with all the details or no?

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

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