Obama’s ‘Buffett Rule’ makes good old-fashioned sense

Andrew Justus

Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday uncovered few new policies or ideas, but it did provide more details on ones he already made public.

Notably, his “Buffett Rule,” which, rather than prohibiting sharing at the Big Boy’s breakfast bar, would mandate a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for persons earning over $1 million a year.

While the president had vaguely alluded to such a rule in the past, he never set an actual number with it.

The value of this rule is that it would eliminate the situation that billionaire Warren Buffett complained about last year, whereby the second richest man in America paid a lower percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary.

The so-called “Buffett Rule” would accomplish this by eliminating many common deductions such as the one on home mortgage interest for those earning over $1 million annually.

The proposal came on the same day Republican candidate Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns, revealing a 13.9 percent effective tax rate on $21 million in earnings. Romney’s effective tax rate is only a few points higher than what many college students pay on their federal taxes, and likely lower than what many of our parents pay on theirs. It is similar to the rate paid by a single person earning under $33,000 per year.

Romney’s low rate can be attributed to the government’s charitably low 15 percent tax rate on investment income, which makes up nearly all of his earnings, combined with generous deductions.

For reference, any single person earning $372,000 or more during a year at a regular job would pay 35 percent in taxes.

Enough with numbers, it just makes sense that as folks make more money they should pay a higher portion of it in taxes.

Federal policy has reflected that belief for over 100 years. Only in the past quarter century have things gotten so upside down to the point where some think it’s acceptable for people like Romney or Buffett to pay a lower portion of their income in taxes than those who work for them answering phones or shoveling snow.

The president is right, people who are well within the top 1 percent of earners should have a tax burden, which is proportional to their earnings and is at least in the ballpark of what other moderately successful working people make.

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