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By Alyssa Newcomb
SALT LAKE CITY — Amid increasing calls for a tax on the wealthiest Americans, former President Barack Obama told a largely corporate audience at an event in Utah that he doesn’t “enjoy writing checks to the Treasury Department any more than you do.”
“I always used to laugh when people would say about my tax policies: ‘He just wants to tax you to death.’ First of all, I’m the guy who pays the max tax,” Obama said during an hour-long appearance at the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City, where ticket holders paid $1,399 for the two-day conference.
The former president’s comments come as Americans are in the midst of the first tax season under the new White House tax code, which has been criticized for giving the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations a break.
Obama released his tax returns when he was commander in chief, something President Donald Trump has not done. For Obama, the public scrutiny meant that he didn’t take a deduction.
“I couldn’t exercise any loopholes. Whatever the maximum rate is, I’m paying,” he said.
While his tax bill may be high, Obama said he has been “so blessed by this country.”
“For me to be able to pay my fair share of sustaining this amazing nation so kids coming up behind me are going to have the same opportunities that I do, is something that I insist upon,” said Obama.
Outside of taxes, Ryan Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Qualtrics, an experience management company that was acquired by SAP last November for $8 billion, asked Obama to share lessons in leadership during the hour-long chat.
Obama warned that businesses must be socially responsible or risk alienating a younger generation of customers who are making purchasing decisions based on how they feel about a brand.
“If you talk to Malia and Sasha and their cohort, if you are a company that doesn’t care about non-discrimination and not having sexual harassment in your company, and is unconcerned about climate change, you are going to start losing customers at some point,” said Obama.
This generation “will consume in part based on ‘how do I feel,’” Obama said.
The Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit runs until Friday in Salt Lake City. Attendees at the sold-out event also heard from Sir Richard Branson and Ashton Kutcher on Wednesday. On Thursday, the headliners include NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Oprah Winfrey.