NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Warren Buffett scolds the D.C. establishment: “Stop coddling the super-rich”

War­ren Buf­fett, one of the wealth­i­est men in the world and one of the U.S.‘s most suc­cess­ful investors, has a must-read guest col­umn in the New York Times this morn­ing which takes Amer­i­ca’s polit­i­cal lead­er­ship to task for not ask­ing the nation’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies to pay their fair share in mem­ber­ship dues to our coun­try.

It is one of the best op-ed pieces I’ve ever read. We at NPI can’t thank Mr. Buf­fett enough for tak­ing such a respon­si­ble, coura­geous stand in favor of pro­tect­ing our fed­er­al com­mon wealth. The open­ing alone is just beau­ti­ful:

Our lead­ers have asked for “shared sac­ri­fice.” But when they did the ask­ing, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expect­ing. They, too, were left untouched.

Buf­fett pulls no punch­es as he goes on:

While the poor and mid­dle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Amer­i­cans strug­gle to make ends meet, we mega-rich con­tin­ue to get our extra­or­di­nary tax breaks. Some of us are invest­ment man­agers who earn bil­lions from our dai­ly labors but are allowed to clas­si­fy our income as “car­ried inter­est,” there­by get­ting a bar­gain 15 per­cent tax rate. Oth­ers own stock index futures for 10 min­utes and have 60 per­cent of their gain taxed at 15 per­cent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

What’s real­ly strik­ing about this op-ed is how much care was put into high­light­ing the absur­di­ty that is our bro­ken tax sys­tem. Buf­fet­t’s piece res­onates because it com­bines a sto­ry — his sto­ry — with key num­bers that rein­force the point he’s try­ing to make. He does not write in a lan­guage that only an account or a lawyer would under­stand. His words are plain and author­i­ta­tive. At the same time, through­out his piece, he dis­plays an appre­ci­a­tion for the intel­lect of his audi­ence.

His mes­sage to Con­gress and Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is sim­ple: Start look­ing out for our com­mon wealth and the com­mon good, not about the well-being of Amer­i­ca’s most well-off. Insist that our nation’s most for­tu­nate give back so that our nation has a future. Remind the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States that it is patri­ot­ic to be a tax­pay­er.

As he brings his piece to a close, Buf­fett calls on the “super com­mit­tee” set up in the leg­is­la­tion that increased the debt ceil­ing to look at rais­ing rev­enue. He sug­gests:

I would leave rates for 99.7 per­cent of tax­pay­ers unchanged and con­tin­ue the cur­rent 2‑per­cent­age-point reduc­tion in the employ­ee con­tri­bu­tion to the pay­roll tax. This cut helps the poor and the mid­dle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those mak­ing more than $1 mil­lion — there were 236,883 such house­holds in 2009 — I would raise rates imme­di­ate­ly on tax­able income in excess of $1 mil­lion, includ­ing, of course, div­i­dends and cap­i­tal gains. And for those who make $10 mil­lion or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would sug­gest an addi­tion­al increase in rate.

Con­gress should heed War­ren Buf­fet­t’s advice.

For too long, law­mak­ers have bought into the right wing’s eco­nom­ic lib­er­ty myth, which is pred­i­cat­ed on “trick­le-down” eco­nom­ics. This myth posits that if we cut tax­es on the wealthy, the wealthy will cre­ate more jobs. In real­i­ty, the only peo­ple who ben­e­fit when Con­gress cod­dles the super-rich are the super-rich.

There has nev­er been a bet­ter time to restore sense and fair­ness to our tax code. We at NPI join War­ren Buf­fett in renew­ing our call for our elect­ed lead­ers to end cost­ly and unnec­es­sary tax give­aways to mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires.

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