After billionaire Warren Buffett reiterated his long-held view that the wealthy need to pay more income tax, Michele Bachmann suggested that “the Oracle of Omaha” should write a big check to the government if he's eager for higher taxes on the wealthy. "We do believe, unlike Warren Buffett, that taxes are high enough already," she said. "I have a suggestion: Mr. Buffett, write a big check today."
Bachmann’s “I double-dog dare ya, Warren!” quip was part of a widespread conservative reaction to Buffett’s claim that by not paying their fair share, the very wealthy are not part of the effort to reduce government debt.
Buffett’s comments boost the administration’s goal of raising the income tax rate for the nation’s wealthiest citizens by 3.5 percent. The increase would generate $750 billion over the next decade.
The most popular accusation rolling across the rightwing political landscape is that raising the income tax rate for billionaires and millionaires is “class warfare.”
Neal Boortz, another hissing valve in rightwing talk radio's steam engine, labeled everyone who supports such a tax increase for the hyper-rich as members of the “moocher class.”
And when it comes to the nation’s wealthiest, which include those who got rich by pushing our banking system and the economy off a fiscal cliff, the boorish Boortz is just as eager to lump them all together as the productive class.
Bachmann’s snotty poke at Buffett, challenging him to just write an extra check to the government, reveals another side to her unbounded ignorance. This time, she exposed a mind unfettered by any understanding of why we have taxes.
We don’t pay our taxes in the same way we contribute to particular interests and causes. That’s because it’s not an individual response to a perceived need. We have a collective responsibility to provide funds so that government can protect all of us, provide for all of us when necessary, and maintain all the services and privileges that are taken for granted, from street cleaning to farm subsidies.
It’s not about Warren Buffett or what he chooses to do. When Bachmann suggested what Buffett should do with his money, she forgot that it is no more her place to tell Buffett what to do with his money than it is my place to tell Bachmann what she should do with hers. Even the fact I help pay Bachmann's salary doesn't give me a say in what she does with it.
Let’s set aside the fact that five years ago, Buffett began giving away 85% of his fortune. Still, he thinks the nation’s fattest cats must start to be, like all Americans, part of the solution.
Buffett believes that by not paying their fair share, the very wealthy are not part of the effort to reduce government debt.
If you think Buffett is a lone voice among the ultra rich, think again.
Another billionaire, George Soros, recently backed Buffett’s call to duty by saying, “Warren Buffett is living up to his reputation as an astute investor. The rich are hurting their own long-term interests by their opposition to paying more taxes.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks told an interviewer, “I agree that the wealthiest citizens of the country can afford to pay more and should. I agree that carried interest should be treated as regular income. I personally have no problem paying more taxes.”
Three years ago, billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr., the former CEO of Seagram's, wrote an editorial for The Huffington Post. He didn’t mince words. “Raise my taxes. And raise them now.”
Investor and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt was just as adamant. When asked whether the very rich should ante up to reduce the federal deficit, he replied “Yes, they should pay more, both absolutely and relatively.” Interestingly, he and Cuban both acknowledged they probably pay less proportionately than their employees. Cuban admitted, “I have tax accountants that itemize and scrutinize. Few people can afford that.”
(It’s not that I haven’t tried, but imagining men like Buffett, Bronfman, Steinhardt, Cuban and Soros as members of Boortz’s “moocher class” has proven impossible.)
However, if Buffett had his way, Americans would pay more on taxable income earned over $1 million, with another tax hike for those earning $10 million or more. Not only would this reasonable plan help reduce the federal budget deficit, it would also begin to redress the growing income inequality that threatens the social fabric of the nation, which ranks 45th among the world’s countries in income equality.
In spite of numerous rich people willing and eager to do their fair share, Boortz, Bachmann and countless other harpies tacitly screaming “Everyone has to make sacrifices but the rich!” are still labeling advocacy of tax increases for those who can most afford it “class welfare.”
They’re right. It is class warfare. But not in the way they mean it.
With billionaires like Buffett, Steinhardt, Soros, Cuban, Bronfman and many other wealthy Americans calling for all Americans to get on board, they have shown a lot of class and, as such, redefined “class warfare.”
They made it a battle between Americans with class and the Boortz’s, the Bachmann’s and the other classless Americans - rich or poor - who just don’t give a damn.
Instead, Bachmann wants everyone to sacrifice except those who can most afford it… millionaires, billionaires and, of course, fellow members of Congress.
Would it shock you to learn that Bachmann is now a millionaire?
I didn’t think so.