Conservatives Rebuff 'Buffet Rule' as Class Warfare

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WASHINGTON - The Senate is preparing to hold its first vote Monday on the Buffet Rule, a measure that would require the nation's wealthy to pay a higher tax rate.

Under the measure, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Americans earning at least $1 million a year - whether through a salary or investments - will pay at least 30 percent of their incomes in taxes.

Since the White House rolled out the proposal, messaging on the purpose of the new tax rule has evolved. What was introduced as a major tool to reduce the deficit is now being sold as a ticket to what President Obama calls economic "fairness."

An organization called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength agreed, saying their extra tax dollars could be used to send more low income children to the federal early childhood program Head Start.

But conservative critics note that the Buffett Rule would raise at most $5 billion a year over the next 10 years -- less than 1 percent of the $1.2 trillion federal deficit gap this year.

"It's as though he (President Obama) thinks that this will solve all our problems," Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard said.

"This is a political ploy aimed at achieving a specific aim which is appealing to the 99 percent, not the 1 percent," he charged.

Conservatives also question the president's definition of "fairness." They point out that the top 1 percent of earners paid 37.7 percent of income taxes in 2009. The top 5 percent paid almost 58.6 percent.

Recently, Vice President Joe Biden called the plan the "Romney Rule," part of a new political strategy to associate the expected GOP nominee with the wealthiest 1 percent. Democrats hope to paint Romney as "out of touch" with regular Americans.

The president suggests it could also be alled the "Reagan Rule" after President Ronald Reagan.

Flanked by millionaires last week, Obama cited two speeches delivered in 1985 by the Republican icon.

"He thought that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share and he said so," Obama said.

"I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days," he continued. "But what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing we're calling for now -- a return to basic fairness."
   
But conservatives like Halper say that such a comparison is not accurate.

"It's absurd because when Ronald Reagan did say those lines he was advocating for a lower tax code, a more simple tax code, not what the president is, which is a more complex, higher rate tax code," Halper told CBN News.

The Buffett Rule has virtually no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled senate. But it does put lawmakers on the record, which allows the president to draw a contrast.
                 
Meanwhile, conservatives say the president isn't really trying to cut the deficit. Rather, they say he's just playing politics with the deficit and not promoting a serious policy.

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.