In an effort to reduce America’s deficit, President Obama introduced the Buffett Rule, a proposed tax increase for those earning annual incomes of $1 million or more. A Bloomberg Global Poll, “based on interviews with an elite group of decision makers in finance, markets and economics,” approved the president’s proposal “by a margin of 63 percent to 32 percent.”
How would this affect Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world? Buffett responds, “Our leaders have asked for ‘shared sacrifice.’ But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
“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. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as ‘carried interest,’ thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.”
In the face of the 63% approval rating for the Buffett Rule by an “elite group” of financial decision makers, Republican VP pick Paul Ryan had the gall—while insulting the intelligence of the American people in the process—to call the Buffett Rule “class warfare.” Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Ryan said: “Class warfare might make for good politics, but it makes for bad economics.”
Funny that he would say that because on June 6, 1985, President Ronald Reagan, speaking at Northside High School in Atlanta, Georgia said, “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying 10 % of his salary and that’s crazy.” When President Reagan asked the crowd, “Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?” They roared back “More!”
Not widely known outside of Wisconsin, Ryan is currently Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Romney’s choice for vice president. So you would think he would be good with numbers–especially on his tax forms. Not so: “Paul Ryan and his wife inherited between $1-5 million in 2010 and, whoopsie daisy, he forgot to disclose it for two years. You’d almost think it was on purpose, well, some people do think that, since Ryan didn’t remember it until he was being vetted by the Romney campaign.” One to five million dollars: one could easily overlook this when filing one’s tax forms, couldn’t one? But if his bookkeeping skills are so marginal, how much credibility does he deserve creating budgets or making tax policy for a country?
Better that we listen to a Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, who agrees that “such low taxes on the very rich are indefensible. The economic record certainly doesn’t support the notion that superlow taxes on the superrich are the key to prosperity.” He continues, The U.S. economy added “11.5 million jobs” during President Bill Clinton’s first term when the capital gains tax rate was over 29 percent, so “there’s no real reason to keep from raising the tax rate.”
Maybe this is the time to ask ourselves why we have so long suffered our nation’s economic affairs to be directed by people such as Paul Ryan who has been so subservient to the concerns of the rich and so cavalier about the welfare of ordinary Americans.
I think Philip K. Howard answers that question: “American government is a deviant subculture. Its leaders stand on soapboxes and polarize the public by pointing fingers while secretly doing the bidding of special interests. The professionals who interact with government—lawyers and lobbyists—make sure every issue is viewed through the blinders of a particular interest, not through the broader lens of the common good. Who’s in charge? It’s hard to say. The most powerful force in this subculture is inertia: Things happen a certain way because they happened that way yesterday. Nothing can get taken away, because that would offend a special interest.”
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…