An Ol' Broad's Ramblings
Tax Gimmicks, Tax Doom
The U.S. Senate could vote today on the gimmicky distraction known as the Buffett Rule — President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and job creators in order to supposedly bring “fairness” to the tax code and pay down the debt. As the paper-thin justification for the proposal continues to fade away, the American people are staring down Tax Day, continued joblessness, and the prospect of a major tax meltdown coming on January 1, 2013.
The facts of the Buffett Rule are simple. The President wants millionaires (and small businesses taxed as individuals) to pay a minimum tax of 30 percent. For all of his rhetoric that the measure would “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade,” the Buffett Rule would bring in only $47 billion in revenue in ten years. To put those numbers in context, President Obama’s budget calls for adding $6.7 trillion to the national debt. So the Buffett Rule would cover just 0.007% of all of Obama’s debt and .001% of Obama’s spending.
None of this even touches on the failure in logic underlying the President’s argument, as we detailed in depth last week. In short, President Obama is employing the Buffett Rule as an election-year class warfare weapon. And he’s aiming it at the highest-earning families and businesses in America who are already shouldering the vast majority of the country’s tax burden. Just one example: The top 1 percent of income earners — those earning more than $380,000 in 2008 — paid more than 38 percent of all federal income taxes while earning 20 percent of all income.
What’s more, the whole idea of the Buffett Rule is based on a fallacy. The President says his tax is necessary because people like billionaire Warren Buffett’s secretary pay a higher tax rate than the wealthiest Americans. In reality, Warren Buffett pays over 50 percent tax on his income. He earns much of his income as capital gains and dividends from stock he owns in businesses — he pays a 15 percent tax on this income, but first, the businesses that generate this income pay a 35 percent corporate income tax. Corporate income is subject to at least two layers of tax. To create an artificial political fight, Obama and Buffett conveniently ignore the first.
Even some of the President’s friends on the left are seeing the Buffett Rule for the ploy that it is. Last week, liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank devoted an entire column to “Rebuffing Obama’s gimmicky ‘Buffett Rule,’” picking it apart as flawed policy and political rhetoric, noting that even White House reporters are “tiring of the theme.” Milbank concludes that, “Obama’s prioritization is no mystery: The populist Buffett Rule polls well. This explains its inclusion in countless presidential speeches and statements.”
While the President keeps delivering those speeches and waging his war on the wealthy, the rest of America is being left behind in an economy that’s barely growing. Placing more of a burden on investors and job creators will exacerbate the problem, and the debt will only keep growing.
To make matters worse, American taxpayers face an even bigger burden coming on January 1, 2013, unless Washington takes action. On that day, an unprecedented $494 billion tax hike known as “Taxmageddon” will descend on the United States. That includes, among other things, the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, the payroll tax cut, the patch on the Alternative Minimum Tax, the ability for businesses to fully expense capital investments, and the tax cuts from the 2009 stimulus. On top of all that, Obamacare’s new taxes will arrive, and the death tax will rise to 55 percent while the exemption will fall. And while America waits for some certainty in tax policy, job creators are taking a step back not knowing what the future will hold. In turn, the economy is suffering as a result.
Instead of focusing on the country’s debt crisis, unemployment, or the imminent tax maelstrom, the President is pitching a policy that makes for a nice talking point in his war on the wealthy. What the nation needs are serious solutions to our spending and debt crisis, and policies that really do create jobs. What it doesn’t need are distractions from the problems at hand.