Mike Kueber's Blog

September 18, 2011

The Buffett rule

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:29 pm
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According to an article in the Washington Post, President Obama is planning on Monday to propose a new minimum tax rate for millionaires – a so-called Buffett rule because Warren Buffet recently said that the American tax system should ask more from the mega-rich.   The Post reports that, based on appearances by Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan on Sunday talk shows, Republicans are expected to be united against the proposal.  They will argue that this is more class warfare by President Obama and that Americans are Taxed Enough Already.

Although I didn’t see Graham or Ryan on the Sunday talk shows, I did see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel on Face the Nation.  Ever since McConnel was a stick-in-the-mud obstructionist during the Bush administration, I have disliked this dour sourpuss, and my dislike grew today with his silly argument against the Buffett rule – i.e., if Buffett thinks the rich should pay more in taxes, there is nothing stopping them from sending personal checks to the federal government.  That is as nonsensical as a criticism I heard last week to the effect that Buffett’s company, Bershire Hathaway, shouldn’t be contesting an IRS tax ruling because Buffett thinks the rich should pay more in taxes.  What does one have to do with the other?

Remember that McConnell was the king of earmarks for years and was one of the last holdouts to capitulate to the TEA Party on this issue.  The next time he proposes spending money for some Kentucky boondoogle, we should ask him to fund it either with his millions or with the millions that his campaign has accepted from people and companies trying to bribe him.

Getting back to class warfare – last Tuesday, I blogged a suggestion to the Democrats about their continual class warfare – i.e., give it a rest.  In a response to a commentator, however, I agreed that higher rates for those who make $1 million or $10 million would be fair.  I also suggested that it was not fair that half of all Americans pay no income tax and that everyone who makes an income should pay some income tax.

Because of the partisanship in Washington, these changes can’t be implemented in a piecemeal fashion.  Fortunately, there is bipartisan agreement that comprehensive tax reform, which was last done in during the Reagan administration, is overdue and there appears to be reason for optimism that it can be accomplished before the 2012 election.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


  1. From http://www.moneynews.com/Economy/WarrenBuffett-BerkshireHathaway-AmericansforLimitedGovernment/2011/08/26/id/408799:

    Warren Buffett’s calls for higher taxes on the rich like himself are hypocritical in that Buffett’s investment vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, is arguing with the IRS over its tax bill, says Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government.

    Buffett wrote in a recent New York Times Op-Ed that the government was coddling the nation’s wealthy by allowing them to pay less taxes, percentage-wise, than many average Americans.

    “But if he were truly sincere, perhaps he might simply try paying the taxes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says his company owes? According to Berkshire Hathaway’s own annual report — see Note 15 on pp. 54-56 — the company has been in a years-long dispute over its federal tax bills,” Wilson writes in a NetRightDaily column.

    Others agree.

    “Mr. Buffett’s company has not fully settled its tax bills from 2002-2009. Yet he says he’d happily pay more. Except the IRS has apparently been asking him to pay more going on nine years,” says Americans for Limited Government researcher Richard McCarty.

    “Berkshire Hathaway did not pay all the federal taxes that it was required to for 2002 through 2004. The IRS examination team caught Berkshire Hathaway on at least some issues. Instead of paying up, Berkshire Hathaway is threatening the IRS with protracted litigation and is in the process of cutting a deal with the IRS Appeals office,” McCarty adds.

    For 2005 and 2006, Berkshire Hathaway again did not pay all the federal taxes that it was required to, and again, the IRS examination team caught Berkshire Hathaway on at least some issues.

    “Now, Berkshire Hathaway is again threatening the IRS with protracted litigation and is trying to cut a deal with the IRS Appeals office,” McCarty concludes.

    Others have said that Buffett should stick to picking stocks and stop calling for tax overhaul.

    One-time Republican presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan says Buffett can write a check and mail it to the government if he likes.

    “Why doesn’t he set an example and send a check for $5 billion to the federal government? He’s got about $40 billion. … You get all this noise from these big rich folks. Let them send checks and set an example instead of writing op-eds,” Buchanan told MSNBC recently.

    Comment by Semolina Pilchard — September 20, 2011 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

    • That is genuinely silly.

      Buffett does not have the right to over-pay Berkshire’s taxes: they are not his revenues, they’re his investors. Conflating his income with that of the business he runs is a cheap rhetorical trick.

      Buffett is advocating for a social order in which those with the most surplus resources should have the greatest obligations to help support government and society. The now-old conservative rubric of asking why he doesn’t simply donate his money to the federal government is equally silly. Buffett is advocating for what he believes we owe eachother.

      Comment by Anonymoose — September 20, 2011 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

      • Well said, Anonymoose. Semolina must be on drugs or something.

        Comment by Mike Kueber — September 20, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

      • If Buffett is so worried about paying a “fair share” then why is he fighting the IRS over what they claim his company owes the government? He is a typical liberal hypocrite. He should pay up and shut up.

        The top earners and super-wealthy already pay way more than their “fair share.” The government takes more from them than anyone. The wealthy voluntarily give more to charities than anyone and they give more money to build hospitals, art centers, universities, etc., than anyone. Liberals will not be happy until they steal even more money so they can dole it out as they see fit. The liberal appetite for other people’s money is never satisfied.

        Comment by Semolina Pilchard — September 21, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

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