President Obama on April 11 took the second opportunity in two days to press for congressional approval of the so-called “Buffett Rule.” Named after the billionaire investor, the legislation (Paying a Fair Share Bill of 2012 (Sen 2230)) would impose a minimum 30-percent tax rate on the adjusted gross incomes of households earning more than $1 million annually.
Speaking from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and surrounded by business executives, Obama again highlighted the perceived disparity in the tax treatment of middle-class income earners and the super wealthy. “You’ve heard that my friend Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary –because he’s the one who’s been pointing that out and saying we should fix it,” said Obama. “It is just plain wrong that middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires.”
On April 10, the president laid out his case during a speaking engagement at Florida Atlantic University, telling the audience that Americans have to decide whether they want to continue with the present system that gives tax breaks to those who do not need them, or whether to make changes. “What drags our entire economy down is when the benefits of economic growth and productivity go only to the few. And the gap between those at the very, very top and everybody else keeps growing wider and wider,” Obama said.
Republicans in both the House and Senate dismissed the “Buffett Rule” as a campaign ploy that would do little to create fairness in the tax system. “This has nothing to do with sound economic policy to get our economy moving again and everything to do with politics,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said in a release. “This is a disappointing and cynical smokescreen,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in a release. He pointed out that estimates provided by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation indicate that the top 1 percent of taxpayers already pay 37 percent of federal individual income taxes, and the “Buffett Rule” would generate revenues of less than 1 percent of the new debt projected under the president’s 10 year budget.
Sarah Swinehart, communications director for House Ways and Means Committee Republicans, said in an e-mail to reporters that the president is making a “bogus” statement when he says that the current U.S. tax system has millionaires and billionaires paying lower tax rates than middle-class families. “While his misleading claim may score him political points, the one thing it won’t do is create jobs,” said Swinehart. Sen 2230, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is scheduled for a vote in the Senate when Congress returns from recess on April 16.
By Jeff Carlson, CCH News Staff
White House Press Release: Remarks by The President on the Buffett Rule