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.