Warren Buffett asks Congress to stop 'coddling' super-rich
In a The New York Times op-ed published Monday, Warren Buffett wrote that "[m]y friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," and called for tax increases for Americans who make more than $1 million. Most of those people, he claimed, "wouldn't mind" being told to pay more taxes.
...for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.
Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world's richest men, made his argument by pointing to his own federal tax bill last year: 17.4 percent on a taxable income of $6,938,744. He said his was the lowest tax rate of anyone in his 20 person office.
"If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine," Buffett wrote. "But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot."
It hasn't always been this way, Buffett wrote:
Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. 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.
The op-ed directly addresses the recently appointed 12-member Congressional "super committee" that will be tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion in federal spending over 10 years. Buffett wrote that while the committee's first job will be cutting "future promises" that the country cannot pay for, it also needs to address revenues.
The famed investor wrote that he had never personally been scared away from an investment by taxes, and has never known anyone who has.
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.
The super committee has until November 23 to come up with its recommendations. If it fails, or Congress refuses to enact its proposals, automatic spending cuts will kick in across the board.