"Tax Us? Go for it," say these rich people

August 16, 2011

As a phenomenally wealthy individual, Warren Buffett feels "coddled" by the U.S. government, which has for decades asked him to pay less and less into public coffers. His recent New York Times op-ed was a brazen call for Congress to raise taxes on richest people in the U.S. 

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. [...]

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. [...]

Last year my federal tax bill...was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. 

Buffett's effective federal tax rate isn't just lower than the other 20 folks in his office, it's actually lower than many middle class families' tabs. He wants new revenues to come from the rich, not the poor and the middle class, who he feels "need every break they can get." 

Buffett's not-so-wild sentiment received due support from members of UFE's Responsible Wealth project (RW). Former Wall Streeter and RW member, Edith Everett, echoed Buffett in a column on AMNY.com, recognizing that the wealthy, like herself, didn't become so by themselves.

People who are just scrimping and saving to pay their rent, they shouldn't pay one penny more. Rich people make their money on the backs of the workers.

RW director Mike Lapham and businessman/RW member Jim Mann were invited onto SoCal public radio to combat baseless arguments from the economics naysayers of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). The pair added yet more legs to the Buffett argument, Mann noting that historically high economic inequality must be strongly considered as we move forward.

It's in my self interest — and that of just about everybody in America — not to live in a place where economic and wealth disparity continues to grow the way it has over the last twenty years. The idea of having a democratic system is pretty unsustainable where 1 percent of the population has that enormous 20 or 40 percent of the wealth. [...] That leads to political instability. I'm happy to pay higher taxes, because I know it's somehow morally the right thing to do, which it is. I also think that on a practical level it's the right thing to do, so that my kids and my grandkids continue to live in a country that has a stable political and economic system. 

ATR representative Mattie Corrao made a particularly foolish and tissue-thin assertion that people like Buffett should simply volunteer to pay more taxes. Lapham made prompt waste of Corrao's flimsy talking point.

Corrao: Warren Buffett himself is welcome to pay more taxes if he feels that this is a tax issue...If he truly felt that that was the issue, he could certainly write the treasury a check. 

Lapham: It's crazy that effective tax rates go down as income goes up. The wealthiest in this country are paying a far lower percentage than most everyone else [...] It's just sort of a juvenile response to say that we should just send in a check voluntarily. We can't voluntarily stop at stop signs or pave our own roads or test our own water. 

I'll add that every dollar of additional revenue is a dollar less that would otherwise be slashed from Medicare, Social Security, education, research, infrastructure or any other of a host programs that this country so desperately needs. New revenue can also make possible a jobs program, which, for no good reason, continues to elude Congress and the Obama Administration. And, the only rational way to generate new revenue is to demand shared sacrifice from the wealthy and corporations. 

The alternative is a pillow to the face of the economy — more budget cuts, more jobs lost and more devastation to struggling families. The result will be either another painful dip in the ongoing recession or a full-blown depression.

If you agree with Warren Buffett and Responsible Wealth, sign MoveOn's online petition — they're trying to gather at least 200,000 signatures. Then, call your legislators and tell them you want new revenue and you want it to come from raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

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Unless...

...you want to fundamentally change the way government functions and how its functions are financed. We could have the struggling poor and dwindling middle class continue to shoulder a disproporationate burden of the costs of government. We could keep the wealthiest among us on a tax cruise. Or, we could collectively regain consciousness and enact policies that will do right by the populace. Again, taxes are not supposed to be voluntary. They are intended to fund programs of societal benefit. To argue otherwise is, as Mike Lapham stated, "juvenile," and is also short-sighted and contrary to common sense. 

ummm

I'd try to navigate to either of those pages from a trusted, real, government website before sending anything there.  This looks suspicious.