Politicians often cloak themselves in the mantle of statesmen from other eras who exemplified virtues that they lack. Barack Obama, like other politicians who sense Americans’ deep appreciation of Ronald Reagan, is out there invoking the Gipper. It’s like Pee-wee Herman quoting Chuck Norris.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama recalled Reagan’s statement in 1985 to a high school audience about the injustice of a bus driver paying 10 percent of his income in taxes while a millionaire used loopholes to pay nothing. Of course, under a truly fair tax, the millionaire would pay the same rate, but more dollars. Reagan did close some loopholes, and he lowered tax rates across the board. His reforms were not remotely akin to Obama-style income redistribution.
Mr. Obama tried to make Reagan the inspiration for the “Buffett rule,” a proposal to soak people making a million or more that is named after investor and tax dodger Warren Buffett.
“Some years ago,” Mr. Obama said, “one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept. … That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan. … If it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the ‘Reagan Rule’ instead of the ‘Buffett Rule.’ ”
Mr. Obama ignored the fact that Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent and turned around a moribund economy by reversing progressive tax disincentives to investment and job creation.