Thank you, Warren Buffett.
There’s no better way to understand the injustice of the American tax system than to read the story of one of the richest men in the world.
Today, in a New York Times opinion piece titled “Stop Coddling he Super-Rich,” Buffett acknowledged that he and other billionaires are paying a smaller fraction of their income in taxes each year than are millions of Americans struggling to meet their next mortgage payment.
He calls for an immediate increase in taxes for millionaires, a bigger one for those earning $10 million or more, and an unspecified but presumably substantial hike in the 15 percent tax cap on profits from buying and selling stocks.
But let’s let Buffett tell his story: “Last year I paid … 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 my office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”
And, Buffett says, he pays more than most of the mega-rich. He says they pay practically nothing in payroll taxes (15 percent overall) while the middle class pays 15 to 25 percent in federal taxes before Social Security and Medicare are added on (the super-rich are not asked to pay for the former after their first piddling $100K or so).
It’ll be interesting to see if Buffett’s public call for higher taxes for the rich makes a ripple. In the end, even if their politicians are bought, Americans believe in fairness, and, as I wrote yesterday, the distribution of America’s wealth has gotten severely skewed.
As Buffett concludes: “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.”