NEW YORK -- Former President George W. Bush was on New York's Upper West Side Tuesday holding a conference on taxes, during which he criticized tax increases for the richest Americans that are supported by President Barack Obama.
Speaking at the New York Historical Society, the 43rd president started by saying he is staying out of politics and not weighing in on decisions affecting Obama. But with two tax cuts he signed in his term due to expire, and his economic legacy under attack by the White House, Bush is trying to reshape opinion this election year.
He waded into the middle of the Washington thicket, criticizing tax increases at the very same time that Obama was calling for them.
In Obama's case, he was touting the so-called "Buffett Rule," named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, which requires millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
"If you raise taxes on the so-called rich, you're really raising taxes on the job creators. And if the goal is private sector growth, you've got to recognize that the best way to create growth is to leave capital in the treasuries of the job creators," said Bush. "You notice I've been mentioning private sector growth. The truth of the matter is if the goal was public sector growth, it'd be a short conference, which is raise taxes."
Other Republican participants in the conference were even blunter, blaming Democrats for the weak economy.
"We're turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially. It will bankrupt us morally," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"We don't like the direction the president's taking the country. We think he is putting the country on a very dangerous path," said Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the head of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee.
Ryan pushed at the conference a plan which slashes government spending and cuts taxes.
The president's spokesman called out Bush personally, noting economic growth under the previous administration is well below what it is today.
"I don't know how many of you are math majors, business majors. You can't pay down a deficit by taking in $4.6 trillion of less money, especially when you're denying that you're going to be making all of these cuts. It doesn't add up," Obama said.
On a lighter note, Bush was reflective on several topics, such as the tax cuts that bear his name.
"I wish they weren't called the 'Bush tax cuts.' If they were called some other body's tax cuts, they'd probably be less likely to be raised," said Bush.
He said he misses being commander-in-chief and one perk of the job that cuts down travel time in Manhattan.
"It was inconvenient to have to stop at some stop lights coming over here. I guess I miss that," said the former president.