Bill Clinton shies away from 'unpatriotic' label

Former President Clinton declined to call tax inversions "unpatriotic" on Tuesday, shying away from a term that President Obama has used repeatedly against companies that take advantage of the maneuver.

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Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, he was asked to weigh in on the practice by which a company moves its address to another country to avoid U.S. tax rates. The Democrats have been attacking inversions ahead of the midterm elections.

"Are corporate inversions unpatriotic?" CNBC's Becky Quick asked.

"Well, whether it is or not, companies — particularly those that are answering to shareholders — have a short-term perspective. A lot of these companies feel duty-bound to pay the lowest taxes they can pay," Clinton responded.

"We have to come to terms with the fact that everyone else in the world has stopped taxing on the difference between what their companies earn in a different country and at home," Clinton said.

Clinton made the comments a day after Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE unveiled executive actions intended to deter companies from making inversion deals.

The former president said he has “no problem” with the Treasury Department’s move but that there are bigger problems in the tax code that these rules won’t fix.

"Everything we are doing now, including these inversion rules, I have no problem with, and I understand the Treasury Department is legally obligated to get as much revenue as is owed that they can collect," Clinton said. "But we are bailing water out of a leaky boat."

Clinton called for increasing the minimum wage to help spur economic growth.

"We haven't raised the minimum wage as we should," Clinton said. "I hope we will. If the Congress doesn't, then all these cities and states are going to."