Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Warren Buffett calls the Republicans' bluff

(photo by Jim Ruymen, via TPM)

From Time magazine:
Warren Buffett is ready to call Republicans’ tax bluff. Last fall, Senator Mitch McConnell said that if Buffett were feeling “guilty” about paying too little in taxes, he should “send in a check.” The jab was in response to Buffett’s August 2011 New York Times op-ed, which made hay of the fact that our tax system is so unbalanced, Buffett (worth about $45 billion) pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Senator John Thune promptly introduced the “Buffett Rule Act,” an option on tax forms that would allow the rich to donate more in taxes to help pay down the national debt. It was, as Buffett told me for this week’s TIME cover story, “a tax policy only a Republican could come up with.”

Still, he’s willing to take them up on it. ... So Buffett has pledged to match 1 for 1 all such voluntary contributions made by Republican members of Congress. “And I’ll even go 3 for 1 for McConnell,” he says. That could be quite a bill if McConnell takes the challenge; after all, the Senator is worth at least $10 million. As Buffett put it to me, “I’m not worried.” ...

Buffett doesn’t want to sound ungrateful, especially since McConnell and other Republicans have lobbied to keep taxes low for the über-rich, saving him between $6 million and $7 million this year. Oddly, though, conservatives can’t seem to make up their mind about taxes. On Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, supply sider Arthur Laffer bashed Buffett for, among other things, shielded income, because he doesn’t pay taxes on unrealized capital gains (currently taxed at 0%) or charitable contributions (which are tax deductible). “Well, I had a net unrealized loss in 2011,” says Buffett. “But if Arthur has a plan for how he wants to tax unrealized capital gains, I’d love to hear it — it’s an interesting thing for a Republican to put forward!”

If Buffett had his way, he’d pay more than the 17% rate he currently forks over on his net adjusted income — and he’d have the government put that additional money to work by making sure that whatever portion of the 99% that isn’t thriving in the market economy gets some help. As Buffett wrote in Fortune a few years back, “I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.”

I especially like that part about how taxing unrealized capital gains is "an interesting thing for a Republican to put forward." Heh, heh. No kidding!

Laffer - any Republican leader, I suspect - would sooner cut off his own arm than tax unrealized capital gains. And if he didn't, the rich would cut his throat. And he's actually criticizing Warren Buffett for charitable donations?

Well, that was clearly a desperate attempt to attack Buffett,... somehow. It's not real easy to attack a man with $45 billion, especially when that man is busy trying to get his own taxes raised, for the good of the country. And when he's a noted philanthropist, too.

I'd like to note, proudly, that Warren Buffett is a fellow Nebraskan. We're not all as bad as you might think from my state's political leaders.

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