Warren Buffett may be the third-wealthiest person in the world, but he’s never forgotten what it’s like to work hard for someone else, been a poser, or lost his love for his fellow Americans – especially working-class Americans.
The 80-year-old Oracle of Omaha came as close to cursing out federal elected leaders and lobbyists as he may ever get on Aug. 14, in a commentary in The New York Times entitled “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.”
Buffett, who built a $50 billion fortune forsaking trendy short-term speculative investments for long-term investments in industries he understands, didn’t mince words. He essentially told Congress that the 17.4 percent tax rate he pays is a damn disgrace and a privilege he neither sought nor wants.
“Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744,” Buffett wrote. “That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid 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. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
“If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.”
That Buffett confession confirms something Cynical has been saying all along: American wage-earners have been getting screwed the past 30 years. Bigtime.
Buffett, who delivered newspapers as a young boy and has worked hard and saved hard almost all his life, said neither he nor other wealthy Americans have a problem paying their fair share. He made it clear that most decent millionaires haven’t asked for this special treatment and don’t want it.
He also blew away the ridiculous claim by the far-right that having the rich pay the same tax rate as the rest of us damps economic growth.
“Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack,” Buffet wrote. “According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
“I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.
“Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.”
Stick that in your spin pipe and smoke it Fox News.
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” wrote America’s Sexiest Man Alive. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
This kind of thing is the epitome of the leadership by example that working Americans have been looking for from their elites. And the anthesis of the self-serving pablum being pushed on us like crack by wingnut fear-mongers such as Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck.
“For those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains,” Buffett wrote. “And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.”
Ay-friggen-men, Warren. Thank you.
We’ve been hoping for sacrificial leadership like this from the rich for a long time at The Cynical Times and as far as we’re concerned you are now the sexiest man on the planet. You’re wise, you’re generous, you’ve got a smoking body, and you like a nice steak and a good Dairy Queen milkshake just like us.
As long you’re in an ass-kicking mood, how about throwing a few financial elbows at Donald Trump and U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donahue? They’ve been claiming to talk for American elites for a long time and it’s pretty clear from your commentary that they’re way out of line.
Maybe you could buy Trump Towers and rename them “Debtor’s Prison?” Or get Donahue reassigned to the bathroom at the Old Ebbitts Grill restaurant, where he could corner the market on toilet paper and sell it by the sheet to the people using the stalls, while shouitnmg “the question isn’t whether you can afford to pay $20 a sheet for toilet paper, but whether you can afford not to.” That kind of thing.
We’ll hold your coat, you beautiful working-class hero you, (smacking Buffett on the rump). Attaboy.