George W. Bush decries raising taxes on 'the so-called rich'

Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday voiced opposition to raising taxes on “the so-called rich” in a rare public policy speech.

“I wish they weren’t called the ‘Bush tax cuts,’ ” he said of the tax rates set to expire at the end of the year. “If they were called some other body's tax cuts, they're probably less likely to be raised.”


Bush, speaking in New York City at the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s conference on “Tax Policies For 4% Growth,” has mostly avoided weighing in publicly on current political debates since leaving office.

“I don’t think it’s good for our country to undermine our president and I don’t intend to do so,” Bush said. But he laid out his clear support for Congress to extend the payroll tax cut at the end of the year.

President Obama has doubled down this week urging the passage of the “Buffett Rule,” which is under consideration by the Senate next week. The Senate proposal would require that taxpayers with annual incomes above $1 million pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent. It would codify what Obama has called the “paying their fair share” principle.

Bush, voicing the objection of most Republicans, strongly opposed the principle in his speech.

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“Most small businesses pay taxes at the individual income tax level,” Bush said, adding that 70 percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses. “Therefore, if you raise taxes on the so-called rich, you're really raising taxes on the job creators.”

The conference drew a distinction between private- and public-sector growth.

“If the goal was public-sector growth, it'd be a short conference. We just raise taxes. But we believe that the best policy is that which creates a robust private sector,” he explained. “We trust people when it comes to spending their money, and so should the government.”

Bush went on to endorse a new book set for release by the center in July. He noted that it must be “staggering” for some of the cynics to realize Bush wrote a book of his own and now is behind another.

"They didn't think I could read, much less write a book!" he joked. The book is an “ambitious” proposal including content by “21 experts” for achieving “4 percent growth in the private sector,” he said.

Bush urged policymakers to read the book. He went on to tell the crowd he “really” doesn’t miss the presidency.

“It was really inconvenient having to stop at stop lights [on the way here],” he added. “I guess I miss that.”