Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Earth’s second-wealthiest inhabitant, complains that last year he paid only $6,938,744 in federal income taxes, which is just 17.4 percent of his taxable income. Despite earning much less than he did, 20 of his staffers had tax burdens which “ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent,” Buffet recently wrote. But rather than work to cut his colleagues’ taxes, the 50 Billion Dollar Man wants Uncle Sam to hike his liability.
Buffett is not alone. Other loaded luminaries also lust for higher taxes:
• “George Soros says he agrees and congratulates Warren Buffett,” the financier’s spokesman told Reuters. “The rich are hurting their own long term interests by their opposition to paying more taxes.”
• “It’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much,” Academy Award winner Matt Damon told video journalist Nicholas Ballasy July 30. “I really don’t mind paying more taxes,” the actor added. “Why don’t you just tax the really rich — guys like me — or raise it to 50 percent after $50 million?”
• Best-selling novelist Stephen King, author of The Shining, Misery, and numerous other spooky books, seems haunted by disappointment at not sending more of his royalties to Washington. “As a rich person, I pay 28 percent tax,” he told a Florida rally last spring. “What I want to ask you is, Why am I not paying 50 [percent]?”
• A group called Patriotic Millionaires asked Pres. Barack Obama, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) for higher taxes on incomes above $1 million. “We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more,” states their July 21 letter, which bears 137 signatures. “Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.”
This plutocratic taxophilia springs from a myth that is as enduring as the Loch Ness Monster. Assistant House Democratic leader James Clyburn of South Carolina echoed it faithfully when he told MSNBC on July 25 that “98 percent of the American people are carrying this [tax] load while the other 2 percent seem to be getting away scot-free.”
The facts easily torpedo this unsinkable rubbish.
In 2008, the latest Internal Revenue Service figures confirm, the top 1 percent of tax filers earned 20 percent of adjusted gross income and paid 38 percent of income-tax revenues. The top 5 percent earned 34.7 percent of AGI and paid 58.7 percent of income taxes. The top 10 percent earned 45.8 percent of AGI and paid 69.9 percent of income taxes. Meanwhile, as the Tax Foundation’s analysis revealed, the bottom 50 percent earned 12.75 percent of AGI and paid 2.7 percent of income-tax revenues.
Regarding all federal taxes (capital gains, corporate, death, dividends, excise, income, payroll) an April 2009 Congressional Budget Office study found that for 2006 (the latest numbers), the top 1 percent paid 28.3 percent of all federal taxes. The top 5 percent paid 44.7 percent, and the top 10 percent paid 55.4 percent of taxes. The bottom 40 percent paid just 4.9 percent of all federal taxes in 2006.
Rich liberals seem frightfully ignorant that the data very clearly demonstrate how the tax code soaks the wealthy, while letting the economy’s bottom half escape scot-free.
“My friends and I have been coddled enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” Buffet whimpered the other day. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
Why wait, Warren? Make that sacrifice today! Like any American, Buffet can underwrite a federal fund called “Gifts to the United States.” Managed by the Treasury Department’s Credit Accounting Branch in Hyattsville, Maryland, this coffer is neither new nor secret.
“This account was established in 1843 to accept gifts, such as bequests, from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States,” a Treasury website explains. “These contributions are considered an unconditional gift to the government.”
While these millionaires and billionaires bellow their desire for higher taxes, virtually none bothers to pay extra. In fiscal year 2010, this gift fund received a whopping $1,527,313.54 — enough to fuel the federal leviathan for literally 13 seconds. Supporting this fund evidently is more sacrifice than these super-rich self-loathers can handle.
Rep. John Campbell (R., Calif.) would make it even more convenient for those desperate to send Washington more of their winnings.
“I have been the author of the ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act,’” Campbell wrote in the January 12 Washington Times. “This simple bill would add a line near the bottom of Page 2 of all Form 1040 tax returns, which would let any taxpayer voluntarily and very easily pay more tax than the law requires.” The Buffet Brigade could decide if a 50 percent or even 90 percent tax rate would ease their pain. “Then,” Campbell continues, “just add it to the tax due by law and, voilà, you are doing what you want to do without burdening the rest of us.”
If rich liberals truly crave higher tax bills, Campbell’s measure would help them to keep paying without forcing new or higher taxes on non-masochistic Americans. Fresh revenues without coercion? At last, an idea that Democrats and Republicans should love.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.