Warren Buffet, the “Oracle of Omaha” has spoken out just before Christmas, challenging GOP Grinches to stop preferring the super-rich to other Americans. In a recent New York Times op-ed article, Buffet said: “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
Buffet made a good point: the United States has asked millions of young men and women to sacrifice their lives, health and mental well-being for their country, so why can’t multi-millionaires and billionaires be asked to make much smaller sacrifices they can easily afford?
Buffett proposed repealing tax reductions for the highest wage earners, pointing out that he pays a lower tax rate than any of the other 20 people in his office. In fact, Buffet said he pays less than half of what his co-workers pay: 17.4 percent versus an average of 36 percent and a high of 41 percent.
The vast majority of Americans, including most Republicans, agree with him. As reported three days before Christmas by The Huffington Post, “Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they support President Barack Obama's proposal to tax households making $1 million or more at the same or higher rate as middle-class households, according to a recent poll from website Daily Kos.” Please note that this is not a “tax increase,” but simple fairness.
And even with such a change, the wealthy will still have a huge advantage over other taxpayers because most Americans spend the bulk of what they make, which means they pay additional taxes, such as sales taxes, property taxes and taxes built into the price of gasoline. Conversely, the rich save most of what they make, so they will still pay much lower overall tax rates. And of course the rich pay absolutely nothing on stocks and bonds they buy and don’t sell, which is why Bill Gates has never paid a penny in taxes on most of his billions.
Even though a large plurality of everyday Republicans agree with Warren Buffet, Republican leaders derided Buffet’s plan as "class warfare." In reality, they are the ones carrying out class warfare on 99 percent of Americans, in order to protect the wealthiest 1 percent from simple fairness. Only 60,000 Americans would be affected by the “Buffet Rule,” or roughly .02 percent (if the rule was extended to a full 1 percent of the richest Americans, it would help our nation’s finances even more).
One wealthy American “buffeted” the GOP grinches with words, but if the 99 percent decide to buffet them at the voting booth, perhaps we can right the Ship of State before it sinks in a sea of debt. In closing, let me point out what other wise men have said on the subject:
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailments of all republics.” — Plutarch, Greek historian, c.100 A.D.
“The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich ... It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.” — Adam Smith, considered to be the father of economics and one of the first advocates of capitalism, writing in The Wealth of Nations in 1776
“Social unrest and a deepening sense of unfairness are dangers to our national life which we must minimize by rigorous methods. People know that vast personal incomes come not only through the effort or ability or luck of those who receive them, but also because of the opportunities for advantage which Government itself contributes. Therefore, the duty rests upon the Government to restrict such incomes by very high taxes.” — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.