Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, knows a thing or two about making money. And he has a message for the 12 members of Congress who will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances: Stop coddling the super-rich.
Writes Buffett in an op-ed piece for the New York Times:
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. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Buffett said he paid just shy of $7 million in federal taxes last year, which he admits was only 17.4 percent of his taxable income – well below the rate of most Americans.
Buffett notes that the IRS has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income since 1992. 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.
Buffett also debunks the popular theory (in some political circles, at least) that higher taxes will mean fewer investments and, therefore, fewer jobs.
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.
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