|Debbie Bosanek in looks on as President Obama delivers his 2012 State of the Union address.|
It's true. Warren Buffett's secretary is a real person. After so many years as a nameless, faceless talking point in support of higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires, the country's most famous secretary has emerged—in momentous fashion at that.
Debbie Bosanek is her name, and she was revealed to the world during President Obama's third State of the Union address:
Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Buffett's super-low tax rate became a hot topic in the early 2000s, but it took nearly a decade for that fact to shake its purely rhetorical quality. Obama gave the issue new life last year when he announced his intent to pursue the Buffett Rule, or a tax on millionaires to reduce the growing economic chasm between the top 1% and everybody else. In his SOTU address, he called for a minimum 30% tax rate for millionaires.
Now, not only does the Buffett Rule have the name and face of, in Bosanek's words, "an average citizen who needs a voice," but it also has numbers to place it's impact in context. Our friends at Citizens for Tax Justice calculate that the Buffett Rule would raise $50 billion this year if implemented and would affect a mere 0.08% of taxpayers.
This week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) decided to ride the wave. In the wake of the SOTU, Whitehouse is introducing a version of the Buffett Rule for a vote in the Senate with his Paying A Fair Share Act. The bill offers a very straightfoward way to meet the President's 30% rate on millionaires without changing existing income tax rates or the preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends that chiefly benefits the very wealthy. While we'd love to see more holistic reform of the tax code, we applaud the Senator for getting the conversation started.
The bill is certain to meet rabid opposition from Congressional Republicans. But with polls showing overwhelming support for the Buffett Rule, the GOP may struggle to justify continued tax breaks for the people who really don't need them, especially in an election year.