By Maria Saporta
If it were up to former President Jimmy Carter, he would let all the Bush tax cuts expire — including for those making less than $250,000.
President Barack Obama has been pushing to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-class Americans, but have them expire for wealthier individuals making $250,000 or more.
“I would do away with the tax reductions that were put in place by President Bush, both for rich people and those making less than $250,000,” Carter said during a talk Monday to the Rotary Club of Atlanta.
Carter said that with the national deficit, the country needs those tax revenues. And that’s not all. Carter said the Social Security retirement age needs to be raised. He also said richer people receiving Social Security payments should pay taxes on that income.
When it comes to earmarks, Carter said they are “just frosting on the cake. They don’t make much of a difference” when it comes to reducing the deficit.
“What we are now facing with a $1.4 trillion deficit this year and about the same last year will wreak havoc,” Carter said.
The former president focused most of his talk on the various initiatives of the Carter Center, including its efforts to eradicate diseases like guinea worm, its role in monitoring elections around the world, and its ability to embark on unofficial diplomacy.
During the question and answer period, Carter was asked about his reaction to the Nov. 2 election.
“Disappointment,” Carter said, adding that Obama inherited a difficult situation from the previous administration and that the president had not done the best job articulating his policies to the American public.
That said, Carter said that having a Republican majority in the U.S. House may not be such a bad thing.
“It will give the Republicans some tangible and detectable responsibility,” Carter said. “It might very well strengthen (Obama). He hasn’t been as forceful as he could have been.”
Carter also said that he didn’t believe that having a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate will not lead to a deadlock because “the American people won’t stand for it.”
Energy independence was another theme during the lunch talk.
Carter was asked about what should be the nation’s energy policy.
“Adopt what I had when I was president. It was incredibly successful,” Carter said before repeating what Jay Hakes, director of the Carter Presidential Library, had stated in the introduction about having cut U.S. foreign oil imports in half between 1977 and 1982. “We were importing 8.6 million barrels and day and we cut that to 4.3 million barrels in five years. It’s now roughly 11 millions barrels a day that we are importing from very doubtful allies.”
Carter also said he would invest heavily in natural gas, push great auto efficiency, and promote alternative sources of energy.
“We were in the leadership of that for 30 to 35 years,” Carter said. “Now China is becoming the pre-eminent producer of alternative energy.”
He also said he would continue to urge Americans to conserve as he did when he was president.
But Carter then said that regretfully that his successor, “Ronald Reagan said we didn’t need to conserve. We’ve gone downhill since then.”
The Atlanta Rotary gave Carter a warm standing ovation both before and after his talk.