This week I tried — and failed — to listen to the State of the Union speech.
I started listening well after it began. That’s my custom, actually. For my entire adult life, the first ten minutes or so of each SOTU has all been handshaking and baby-kissing. I don’t need to be there for that. Somebody should run a stopwatch someday, and figure out how much of the taxpayers’ money is eaten up by one hundred Senators and 435 members of Congress, just sitting there and applauding as the President walks in. Besides, I’m listening on the radio, and a room full of people clapping for minutes on end is even less compelling if you take away the visuals.
So I missed the part where the President took credit for the death of Osama bin Laden. Which is lucky, because I otherwise might have stopped listening right then and there.
(I mean think about it: the hunt for Osama bin Laden was an international effort that lasted a decade and required the talents of dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals. As the operation reached its climax, a team of highly trained soldiers closing in on Osama’s hideout, they got the president on the phone and he said “Okay. Do it.”)
(Am I leaving anything out? I don’t think so. I don’t have a single tear to shed over Osama bin Laden, but when I am one day asked to justify my career, I hope I will have more to say than “Well, a guy died, and it was all thanks to me.”)
But anyway, I kept listening, through the self-congratulations, the endless applause, and the joke about spilt milk. (Mr. President? The usual advice here is “Don’t quit your day job,” but you’re not very good at that, either.) Then he brought up Warren Buffett’s secretary, whom I later found out was sitting in the audience as a political prop. Just like Elian Gonzalez, she’s become a cultural sensation without uttering a word in public, and just like Elian Gonzalez I’m sick of hearing about her. When the president repeated the tired mantra about the tax rate she pays, I lost it, and turned off the radio in disgust.
Whether the president intended it as a jab at Mitt Romney, or if it was just a general attack on the wealthy and it will simply be used against Romney as the election draws near, it’s inexcusable to demogogue the issue of tax rates. However you want to look at it, those paying the 15% rate are MORE THAN paying a fair share, and arguably doing more for the country than someone paying a more pedestrian 30%.
Can you do basic math? Romney paid 15% on $21 million, which comes to $3,000,000. That’s three. MILLION. DOLLARS! I don’t expect to HAVE three million dollars in my life, let alone pay that much in taxes. Mitt Romney paid that much in a single year. At a 30% tax rate, you would have to earn a $10 million dollar salary to pay that much. Unless Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have taken a sudden interest in conservative politics, it’s a fair bet that no one reading this article will pay anywhere near that amount. Who could possibly argue that he’s not paying his fair share?
Look at it another way: If President Obama got his way and taxed Romney at 30%, that would mean almost four million extra dollars taken out of Romney’s portfolio and sent to the IRS.
What would Romney have done with that money? Plow it back into the economy. Start up a new business, or expand an existing one. Create jobs, and in so doing provide the buying power for consumers to buy products from other companies. This is the perfect example of a “rising tide that lifts all boats.” That’s the way to stimulate an economy. Everyone — EVERYONE — is better off if investments are taxed at a lower rate.
Meanwhile, what would the government do with the extra money? Buy paperclips, maybe. Or pay the phone bill. The only thing that gets stimulated is more government.
It was Buffett himself who started this attack on successful people, with an editorial last year, in which he argued that his taxes were too low:
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.
It’s presumptuous of me to suggest that I have insights into finance that elude the “Sage of Omaha”, but did he even do the math?
29.2% of $16.9 billion equaled 4.93 billion dollars in tax revenue from those 400 individuals in 1992. But then in 2008, 21.5% of the $90.9 billion they earned equaled 19.11 billion dollars: some four times more for the IRS coffers! Is your goal to collect money to feed the appetite of Washington? Or is it simply to punish the wealthy?
Tip of the hat to Congressman Paul Ryan for this wonderful insight: even if we were to tax the wealthiest Americans at a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT tax rate, it wouldn’t come close to filling the hole that Congress has dug for itself over the years. Our solution is twofold: 1) Stop digging, and 2) Grow our way out of the hole.
But Warren Buffett thought it was his fault. He continued:
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office.
I’ve got news for you, Mr. Buffett. That IS a lot of money. Your nation thanks you — not only for paying this amount in taxes, but for earning the (by my estimate) $40 million dollars in the first place, thus stimulating the economy and putting people to work, and for putting the remaining 82.6 percent of your income to what I can only guess was a likewise good use.
Buffett, however, didn’t see things that way. He actually thought he WASN’T DOING ENOUGH. His solution? He wants Congress to make him pay more.
Mr. Buffett, sir? Once again I take it upon myself to tell you what those twenty people in your office apparently failed to: YOU CAN PAY MORE TAXES IF YOU WANT. No one is stopping you. The amount the IRS tells you to pay is a minimum, not a maximum. If you want to pay a higher rate, be my guest. They’ll take a check.
However, Mr. Buffett, I would also like to suggest that would not be the most effective use of your money. You, Bill Gates and others of the superwealthy set have created foundations that tackle serious issues head-on, and these are excellent tools for fighting the disease of poverty, rather than the symptoms. It’s certainly preferable to the Washington way, which is simply throwing money at the problem.
I realize that Warren Buffett is no more likely to read this article than is Lady Gaga. It wouldn’t have helped anyway. He doesn’t merely want to pay more taxes himself: he wants all the other millionaires to pay more, too. Like most liberals, he’s very generous with other people’s money.
While I was typing this, I was listening to oldies radio. A song by Ten Years After just came on: “Tax the rich. Feed the poor/ ‘Til there are no rich no more.” What a perfect summary of the Robin Hood mentality of today.
“Yes, tax the rich. Then everybody can be poor.”
You’re free to think that 15% is too low a rate for capital gains. If so, by all means lobby Congress to change it. But in the meantime, don’t blame Mitt Romney, or any other investor, for paying the correct amount he owes. He still pays more that you do.
(c) Kublai Khan Unlimited 2012.
Latest posts by Richard in Japan (see all)
- Call Me Nostradamus: The Future of Tech - May 26, 2014
- Eat Your Sushi With a Fork — Or Else - April 22, 2014
- The Price of Doing Business Just Got Higher - April 3, 2014
- Why I’m Glad I Don’t Have Kids - March 30, 2014
- The Least We Can Do? Raising the Minimum Wage Does More Harm than Good - March 18, 2014
- Financial Planning for Dummies - February 28, 2014
- Woody Allen vs. Roman Polanski - February 16, 2014
- Obama Finally Plays the Race Card - January 29, 2014
- Customer Satisfaction, Japan vs. Guam - January 12, 2014
- Socrates Was a Fraud Pt. 5 : Philosopher? King? … or God? - December 30, 2013
- Standing Up to China - December 24, 2013
- Richard's Japanese Healthcare Encounter, with footnotes - December 10, 2013
- A Tale of Two Democrats - November 30, 2013
- Reining in an Unruly Coulter - November 23, 2013
- The Bill of Rights, and Teaching it Wrong - October 28, 2013
- Hollywood Leaves Me Out - October 7, 2013
- Speaking Ill of the Dead - September 27, 2013
- Lines Between Respect and Misogyny Not Blurred at All - September 15, 2013
- An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey: I, Too, Have Been Racially Profiled - August 18, 2013
- The More Things Change (In Southeast Asia) …. - August 13, 2013
- “Justice” for Trayvon: Revisiting the George Zimmerman Case, from A to Z - August 2, 2013
- Going Back in Time: The George Zimmerman Case, from Z to A - July 12, 2013
- Think, Part 3: Black Conservatives, Think for Yourselves! - July 2, 2013
- The New Star Trek: Why I won't be going Into the Darkness - June 7, 2013
- Liberal Hypocrisy About Civil Wars - May 27, 2013
- Being French = Being Wrong - April 30, 2013
- Above the Law, Pt. Three: Chutzpah on the High Seas - April 1, 2013
- Airline Elite Plans Aren't - March 20, 2013
- Above the Law, Pt. Two: Robin Hood for the Cyber Age - February 28, 2013
- Above the Law, Pt. One: 48 Japanese Girls Who Aren't Allowed on Dates - February 18, 2013
- Think, Pt. 2: Conservative Women, Think for Yourselves! - January 27, 2013
- Give Washington Back to Maryland! - January 18, 2013
- Lessons from 2012: Conservatives, Think for Yourselves! - December 31, 2012
- A Lifelong Flip-Flopper for Secretary of State - December 22, 2012
- Socrates Was a Fraud, Pt. 4: Suicide by Jury - December 3, 2012
- What Democrats Care About, 2012: The Dog on the Roof - November 4, 2012
- Joe “I Mean Every Stupid Thing I Say!” Biden - October 19, 2012
- Inconsiderate Nobel Callers - October 16, 2012
- The Cost of Free Speech - October 12, 2012
- Gaffe? – Don't Make Me Laugh - September 22, 2012
- Politics and Family - September 5, 2012
- Socrates Was a Fraud Pt. 3: Philosopher? King! - August 26, 2012
- Sigh! Whatever Happened to Communication? - July 17, 2012
- Socrates Was a Fraud Pt. 2: Irony and Humility - July 10, 2012
- Punishing the Wealthy, Punishing the Healthy - June 30, 2012
- Socrates Was a Fraud: The Emperor's New Philosophy - June 25, 2012
- Hijacking Nobel and Twain - June 11, 2012
- The Moderate Double Standard - May 27, 2012
- Dan Savage is an Anti-Semitic Bully! - May 2, 2012
- Limbaugh Does Not Run the Republican Party - April 23, 2012
- An Age When Fear is Preferable to Trust - April 1, 2012
- Who's A Slut? — It's Democrats Who Treat Women Badly - March 12, 2012
- Cruise Control Skeptics - February 27, 2012
- Social Networks Aren't - February 21, 2012
- Democrats Are Neither Pro-Choice nor Pro-Woman - February 13, 2012
- Don't Kid Yourself — Mitt Romney Pays MORE Than His Fair Share of Taxes - January 30, 2012
- It's Not the Piss — It's the Hype - January 22, 2012
- A Season of Hope - January 11, 2012
- ObamaCare: It Doesn't Work in Japan, and It Won't Work Anywhere Else - November 30, 2011
- Lynching, Yes, but Racist? No. - November 19, 2011
- Washington Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry - October 31, 2011
- Fine-tuning the Presidential Primary System - October 17, 2011
- American Racism Quiz, Part IV - October 1, 2011
- Giving Money to the Poor and Helping the Poor — Two Entirely Different Things - September 19, 2011
- American Racism Quiz, Part III - August 31, 2011
- A Modest Proposal for Reforming the Jury Trial System - August 22, 2011
- More on The (Real) Racist Party - July 31, 2011
- The Rich vs. Poor Fallacy – My Reply - July 15, 2011
- The Racist Party … It's Not Who You Think! - July 5, 2011
- No One Has the “Right” to Get Married - June 30, 2011
- Al Gore wages an Assault on Reason - June 11, 2011
- Blue-Collar Philosophy - May 30, 2011
- “Democratic” Is Not an Adjective! - April 30, 2011
- A Modest Proposal for Reforming the Primary Schedule - April 11, 2011
- Religion Does NOT Cause the Bloodiest Wars - March 28, 2011
- Subject: QUAKE! - March 20, 2011