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Special Report

Obama playing politics with tax reform?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Do we want to keep giving those tax breaks to folks like me who don't need them, or give them to Warren Buffett? He definitely doesn't need them. Or Bill Gates - he's already said, "I don't need them"? Or do we want to keep investing if those things that keep our economy growing and keep us secure? That is the choice.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If the goal is private sector growth, you got to recognize that the best way to create that growth is to leave capital in the treasuries of the job creators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER: Former President Bush, a rare appearance today, and the current president in Florida talking about the so-called "Buffett rule", embracing that, raising taxes specifically on capital gains for the wealthy. As we take a look at some polls in the Obama approval, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, there you see approve and disapprove. But handling the economy. it's a different story in this poll, 44 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove. And head-to-head against Mitt Romney, which do you trust more to hand the economy? There you see 47 percent to the president's 43 percent. And which do you trust more to protect the middle class? Again, it changes, 49 to 39.

We're back with the panel. Charles, what about the so-called "Buffett rule" and how the president is using it and talking about it?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, let's understand what all of this is about. This is absolutely nothing but re-election politics. What he has done is to literally pit the 99 percent against the one percent. And he has done in a clever way. He basically has turned Occupy Wall Street into legislation, except that the real people in the streets -- in the Occupy Wall Street streets never had the wit to actually come up with this idea. This is a way of saying you that you're going to take the money from the rich and give it to the poor.

Obama is not a good governor. He doesn't know how to be a president. But he sure knows how to campaign.

And the second sort of political genius here is essentially what this is about is raising the capital gains taxes. The reason that the rich are paying less is so much of the income of a Buffett or a Romney is in capital gains. But he doesn't sell that it way. He sells it as the fair share of the rich and paying a minimum tax. The reason he does that is because everybody knows, that if you look back over the last half century, capital gains taxes have a perverse effect. You raise them, you reduce the amount of money the Treasury gets. You lower them, you increase the amount.

But in 2008 when Obama was asked by Charlie Gibson would you raise capital gains taxes even if it brings in to treasury less revenue, his answer was yes in the name of fairness. He is running on that -- fairness. Damn the economy. Romney will run on efficiency, and I don't really care if the rich get ahead on account of that. And Obama has a good idea. He can't run on his record and he doesn't have a vision or program for a second term. So why not run on fairness?

BAIER: A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, this is an issue that dating back more than a year has polled very well for Obama. The last Associated Press poll in February had it at 65 percent. The Washington Post, that same poll, talks about the issue of unfairness versus overregulation and unfairness beats out over regulation in terms of the effect on the economy.

This is also the political equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel because they have Mitt Romney to target. So Mitt Romney pays a 13.9 percent rate of taxes. He only releases one year-and-a-half of his tax records. There's reports now that he is sheltering in his earnings from Bain. He has a Swiss bank account. He is really the perfect foil for, you know, sort of profile of the opponent of the "Buffett rule."

President Obama, it's not a lot of money. He says -- on the White House website it says it's a key step to reduce the deficit. It is not. But it is -- politically, it is a distraction from the March jobs report. That we learned about on Friday. If the economy begins to tumble, we will hear a lot about fairness. It is true inside those polls, however, that voters look more to the handling of the economy issue and the job creation issue than they do to the tax fairness issue. I just think politically it could work if the economy continues to remain strong because of the profile of Mitt Romney as this very rich man who hasn't paid enough.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It will probably work politically, but don't reporters have a job to do here? I mean, isn't it job of the media to put it in perspective? The "Buffett rule" would raise less than six percent of the total cost of the stimulus. And if you look at "Buffett rule," it would raise, roughly, the same amount in one year, $4 billion according to the Joint Taxation -- Joint Committee on Taxation, $4 billion in one year as the government U.S. accumulates in debt in a single day.

This is totally meaningless. It is completely worthless. And yet the president has spent more time talking about this than virtually any other specific economic policy proposal at a time when the economy is struggling, when we've had a bad jobs report. This is the president's plan. It's not a plan. It's not serious. There is nothing serious about it. And reporters should do their job and put this in perspective.

BAIER: The other thing is, there are all kinds of numbers flying out there. But take a look at these numbers about -- from Americans for Tax Reform. These are the breakdowns of the percent of all tax revenues. Top one percent which is $344,000 and up, the income tax percent 39.5, all federal taxes 28 percent. And then roughly $65,000 family, 4.6 percent in income tax, 9.2 percent all federal taxes.

And then you talk about the rates. The top one percent income tax, 19 percent, all federal taxes 29 percent, and the middle income again, $65,000 a year, 3.3 percent, 14.3 percent. Charles, quickly, there will be a number of numbers, but they will glaze over, I'm sure.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not sure the Republicans ought to concede the grounds of fairness. They ought to argue and quote John Kennedy who lowered taxes, including capital gains, as a way of stimulating the economy and creating jobs. That's the winning answer.

BAIER: That is it for panel. But stay tuned for some not so smooth talking.

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