Warren Buffett puts other people’s money where his mouth is

posted at 8:40 am on January 12, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Warren Buffett has been a very successful man in terms of high finance, no doubt about it. But of late he has become even more famous for insisting that tax rates on mega-successful people like himself are too low. He’s just not paying his fair share. His poor, beleaguered secretary – possibly the most famous administrative assistant in the world at this point – pays a higher rate than he does.

The conservative response to this has been fairly consistent and runs somewhat along these lines: “OK. You’re not paying enough? Pay more. There’s a convenient box you can check off on your tax forms. Send in as much as you like.

Well, apparently the message has gotten through. Warren is ready to step out boldly and pitch in some extra cash to help pay off the country’s massive debt. Good for you, sir! Oh… wait. That’s not quite what he’s doing.

Business mogul Warren Buffett is promising to match any donation Republican members make toward cutting the national deficit.

And he upped the ante when it came to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he would match the leader’s donations three-to-one.

His pledge comes after McConnell said that if Buffett is feeling guilty about not paying more in taxes, he should just send in a check.

“With regard to his tax rate, if he’s feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check,” McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in September.

Buffett told Time magazine: “It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions. And, I’ll even go three for one for McConnell.”

Allow me to break out a newly sharpened goose quill and a nice, crisp sheet of velum.

Dear Mr. Buffett,

I’ll never claim to be as smart as you. If I were, my net worth would probably be something more than .000001% of yours. You’re also a fine man who demonstrates the benefits of a free capitalist system. But regarding your recent offer to pay extra taxes, I fear that you may be missing the central theme.

When we said you could pay extra taxes should you wish, we weren’t talking about some sort of marathon charity to benefit muscular dystrophy. If we were, then maybe your idea of matching other people’s contributions might make sense. But the idea here would be for you to lead by example, you see. You need to go first. Who knows? Then perhaps others might jump on the bandwagon. Then again, maybe not. Some of us, you see, aren’t just obsessed over the marginal rate or how much the government takes, but rather with how they spend it once they get it. Some of your wealthy colleagues might be a bit more inclined to kick in a few extra bucks if Washington could demonstrate some level of restraint and responsibility when it comes to managing the public purse.

Also, if it’s not too bold of me to say, you’re turning this into something of a dog and pony show. What you’re proposing to do really is charity of a sort… charitable contributions to an out of control government. And you know what the Good Book has to say about charity, right? We can turn to Matthew 6:1

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

See? You don’t need to go on TV and talk about it. If you feel compelled to write a check, just write it. Everyone will feel better.

Regards,

Jazz


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

Buffet has put more Americans out of work than Mitt ever has at Bain.

maineconservative on January 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM

I have several responses for Buffet, but the first would be: I’ll DONATE money after you call off your lawyers and pay the 10 years of back taxes you already owe.

The next would be – you’re the one who said the rich like yourself need to pay more taxes so put up or shut up.

dentarthurdent on January 12, 2012 at 11:28 AM

That is the problem with liberals, they never want to lead by example.

If your convictions say it is right to do something, than do it even if nobody else is. Don’t say you will do it IF everyone else does.

RobertInLexington on January 12, 2012 at 11:29 AM

McConnell wouldn’t miss the 500K, the political capital is worth that. But the 2 ¼ billion ( 6 ¾ billion if 3 to 1) would have to sting Buffett a little. Turn the tables on him and teach him to keep his mouth shut.

Whiskey Lima on January 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM

I believe it’s this line of thinking that allows the “patriotic” narrative to continue. Instead of rejecting Buffett’s dishonest “offer” on principle and forcing him to show his cards (and the weak hand he is playing), we start making assumptions of what other people can afford to do on our behalf to pressure Buffett into making good on his bluster. How do you know that McConnell won’t miss the 500K and why is it even relevant to the discussion? We argue issues on their terms and immediately go on the defensive when we need to be narrowing the discussion to the question of why, when government spends irresponsibly, the burden of accountability for filling the gap falls on the taxpayer in the form of more taxes, regulations and fees rather than on the incompetent and corrupt government in the form of spending cuts (or, at the very least, cuts to the rate of growth in spending).

fitzfong on January 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

GOP members of congress should take him up on that, with one caveat- they should request that his match would be made on the percentage of their contribution to their income. So if congress contributes 3 % of their personal wealth to pay down the deficit, Buffett would also contribute 3% of his wealth… I think this is a fair deal.

dlahoud on January 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM

GOP members of congress should take him up on that, with one caveat- they should request that his match would be made on the percentage of their contribution to their income. So if congress contributes 3 % of their personal wealth to pay down the deficit, Buffett would also contribute 3% of his wealth… I think this is a fair deal.

dlahoud on January 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM

No. They need to put a stop to this narrative altogether. The issue is not that the government is not taking enough in taxes, it’s that it is not spending what it’s taking in properly. Period.

fitzfong on January 12, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Warren should really be matching contributions based on relative net worth. Or — on the relative pain of giving. If somebody’s got $10 in their pocket and they dig deep to share 10% of that with a homeless person, can’t Buffett dig really deep and share 20% of his net worth? Come on Warren – cowboy up and be a real mensch, instead of a bag of very rarefied hot air.

Bernfp on January 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Hey Warren, why don’t you just donate your whole net worth and go on food stamps. $50Billion will cover President 9-Iron spending for what, about 5 days?

Ventura Capitalist on January 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM

The Rs should take his offer.

Schadenfreude on January 12, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Perhaps, Buffet should start the ball rolling by having Berkshire Hathaway pay it’s back taxes estimated to be about $1 billion.

J_Crater on January 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM

saying he would match the leader’s donations three-to-one.

So Buffett’s new idea is even more fair than a flat tax, where everyone pays the same percentage. He’s proposing a (graduated) poll tax, where everyone pays a multiple of the same amount, not percentage. In Buffett’s graduated poll tax, the mega-rich just pay 3 times more in dollars, not percent, than the middle class.

So has Buffett gone ultra-libertarian, or has the old fart just spent 6 months looking for a snappy come-back and all he’s got it is “Oh yeah? The jerk store called….”

motionview on January 12, 2012 at 12:25 PM

I don’t know if it’s 80% (but it certainly might be) I was just throwing that number out there. The WSJ wrote an article about this recently.

The crux of their argument was the Buffet’s salary is small. His company pays him $150,000 or something. Then, he gives huge amounts to charity (probably even more). He’s not taxed on gains that his company has because he owns stock. Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t pay dividends so he’s only taxed on stock that he sells (and he doesn’t sell much stock).

Since almost all of his expenses (like a jet) are for business, I doubt that he pays for any of them. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy that uses jets for his personal use (his work seems like it’s his life).

So, this is why he is taxed so little. All this being said, we should probably find and read the WSJ article for specifics.

blink on January 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Which is why his comparing his tax rates (or absolute) to his secretary’s rates is patently absurd, and the man should be to to STFU.

WryTrvllr on January 12, 2012 at 12:25 PM

I may not be using “poll tax” correctly in my comment; I mean a per person tax that is the same for everyone, regardless of income. A levy?

motionview on January 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM

So Buffett’s new idea is even more fair than a flat tax, where everyone pays the same percentage. He’s proposing a (graduated) poll tax, where everyone pays a multiple of the same amount, not percentage. In Buffett’s graduated poll tax, the mega-rich just pay 3 times more in dollars, not percent, than the middle class.

So has Buffett gone ultra-libertarian, or has the old fart just spent 6 months looking for a snappy come-back and all he’s got it is “Oh yeah? The jerk store called….”

motionview on January 12, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Sure, makes sense now that he is getting really old, and at some point will want to cash in on his life’s work.

WryTrvllr on January 12, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Forget paying MORE taxes than you owe, Warren – I would just be happy if you paid the nearly $1 Billion that you already OWE but refuse to pay!

easyt65 on January 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Fat polygamous statist pig

TexasJew on January 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

With Buffett, most people miss the point entirely. A friend of mine is a currency trader who follows Warren Buffett’s trading activity very closely. According to him, most of Buffett’s investments are geared toward emerging markets. What happens if the US economy goes down the tubes? His investments reap another small fortune.

So, why would a guy like Buffett support any political party that would help the US economy improve?

Sven Pook on January 12, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Fat polygamous statist pig

TexasJew on January 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM

When did we switch to Michelle?

WryTrvllr on January 12, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Its because he really doesn’t want to pay more. He has an army of tax attorneys, accountants, and IRS rules experts to find any possible loophole to avoid paying taxes. Its a perfectly legitimate activity and I encourage him to do more. The more he is able to get away with eventually the rest of us will find out and leverage.
I just can’t stand that he wants to avoid paying more taxes than necessary but begrudges anyone else’s attempts at the same. Put up or shut up. Pay extra on your own, of your own choice and leave the rest of us alone.

smfic on January 12, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Besides that, Mr. Buffet, if the IRS confiscated your entire wealth and that of all congresspersons & senators, it would not even be a drop in the pi$$ bucket of the national debt.

wdkeller on January 12, 2012 at 1:14 PM

His poor, beleaguered secretary – possibly the most famous administrative assistant in the world at this point – pays a higher rate than he does.

And he upped the ante when it came to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he would match the leader’s donations three-to-one.

Buffet is playing an interesting and dishonest math game here. In the talk about taxes he talks about his tax rate compared to his secretary, but in the talk of matching donations he says he will match at three-to-one in actual dollars.

So his rate is lower than his secretary’s, but is anyone willing to bet that he’s not paying a lot more than 3 times the actual dollars that his secretary is in taxes?

How about he offers to match McConnell’s donation rate as a percentage of his net worth? That would be closer to an apples to apples situation.

Scrappy on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM

why doesn’t this ahole Buffet run for office since he’s got so many political opinions? oh thats right, he has all the money in the world, but he still can’t buy enough votes for his crony ass in the red state of Nebraska

burserker on January 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM

burserker on January 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Isn’t that a sword?

WryTrvllr on January 12, 2012 at 2:03 PM

So his rate is lower than his secretary’s, but is anyone willing to bet that he’s not paying a lot more than 3 times the actual dollars that his secretary is in taxes?

How about he offers to match McConnell’s donation rate as a percentage of his net worth? That would be closer to an apples to apples situation.

Scrappy on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM

His secretary is a straw man. Any secretary would be getting taxed at the employment income rate rather than the capital gains income rate. She is getting taxed on the income she earns for showing up for work and doing her job, not on income she earns putting her capital at risk and creating jobs for others. The fact that Buffett is deliberately conflating these two distinctions is driven by pure deception. Yet we indulge his dishonesty by surrendering any ground on that cynical talking point.

Why do people insist on getting baited into blindly accepting the assertion that inadequate taxation is responsible for the problem? It’s not. Excessive spending is responsible for the problem.

fitzfong on January 12, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Can we shove this old SOB off a cliff? I think he’s probably “grandma age” or double. Nobody will miss him….oh, maybe the left wingers that get his donations may, but that’s about it.

Wolfmoon on January 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Good morning Mr. Buffet; Let me start by saying that I have the utmost respect for your instincts and skill as an investor. I like the fact that you drive a non-ostentatious car, live modestly near the area where you were born. And I’m not aware that you generally seek to display your wealth with such gaudy shows as fancy boats, fancy women the age of your grandchildren, personal surgeries designed mostly to deny the natural aging process, or to improve on what God gave you at birth. I’m perfectly willing to accept you as the avuncular, Andy Rooney type curmudgeon you and Andy so delightfully exhibit.

Further, while I realize that you are wealthy, beyond even the need to keep a tally–but, I’m pretty sure you do, in spite of that–I don’t feel any sense of entitlement to anything you have worked so hard for, in that irritating way liberals seem to do. I recognize that, no matter what strokes of luck, which you might have been granted, you also studied and worked hard to achieve your success. You are absolutely entitled to it; and I wish you more of the same.

This partisan challenge you have laid at the feet of Republican senator Mitch McConnell, however, is beneath you, as I’m sure that your available budget is far, far greater than three times Senator McConnell’s. It is a specious, and cheap argument that you are making. It would be more fair, I think, to replace the 3:1 ratio you suggest with a calculated figure that reflects the ratio of your wealth to Senator McConnell’s. So, for instance, if your wealth is ten times greater than his, your offer should be to match his donation at the ratio of 10:1.

Because I love my country no less than you, I will extend the same offer to you. I will donate, let’s say 10% of my wealth to help the government pay off its’ debts, if you will match my contribution with a contribution calculated as three times multiplied by the factor by which your wealth exceeds mine. I’m serious, and await your reply. Best regards, Fred, a patriot living in Wilmintgon, IL.

uncle_fweddy on January 12, 2012 at 3:23 PM

I believe it’s this line of thinking that allows the “patriotic” narrative to continue. Instead of rejecting Buffett’s dishonest “offer” on principle and forcing him to show his cards (and the weak hand he is playing), we start making assumptions of what other people can afford to do on our behalf to pressure Buffett into making good on his bluster. How do you know that McConnell won’t miss the 500K and why is it even relevant to the discussion? We argue issues on their terms and immediately go on the defensive when we need to be narrowing the discussion to the question of why, when government spends irresponsibly, the burden of accountability for filling the gap falls on the taxpayer in the form of more taxes, regulations and fees rather than on the incompetent and corrupt government in the form of spending cuts (or, at the very least, cuts to the rate of growth in spending).

fitzfong on January 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Where’ve you been the last 3 years? I think the Tea Party has that argument covered.

This was a P.R. stunt, nothing more. Exploiting Buffett’s blunder doesn’t require the abandonment conservative principles. The idea here is to use Buffett’s ideology against him; with full knowledge he couldn’t possible accept the terms proposed. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Ok, for argument’s sake, I’ll go along with your stupid-ass redistributionist ideology just this once. 5%. Lead the way my friend.”

It’ll never happen and the old fart will look like an idiot because of it.

Whiskey Lima on January 12, 2012 at 3:29 PM

I’ll DONATE money after you call off your lawyers and pay the 10 years of back taxes you already owe.

dentarthurdent on January 12, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Hear, hear!

RJL on January 12, 2012 at 4:34 PM

OK, fine. I hope ALL of the Republicans take him up on it, and make a great show of leading by example even though they aren’t wealthy (unless they are wealthy). THEN let Obama raise Buffet’s taxes on top of that (and let’s remove the charitable donations exemption) and see how he feels.

So we have what, over a 150 Republicans in the house and 41 in the Senate? I know Buffet is super wealthy, but maybe combined they can all take a chunk of that wealth he seems to hate so much.

Esthier on January 12, 2012 at 6:03 PM

How about if Buffett starts by PAYING THE MONEY HE ALREADY OWES??

Dollayo on January 13, 2012 at 1:27 AM

I think the old bible saying about it’s harder for a rich man to go to heaven that putting a camel through the eye of a needle applies. here. This guy will rot in hell along with all of his other power crazed egotistical lib politicians.

I wonder if any human on the planet has outsourced more jobs than this guy. I can’t think of any.

Of course, he’s just getting by and it was necessary for him to outsource 3 million jobs over the last couple of decades.

acyl72 on January 13, 2012 at 7:23 AM

Comment pages: 1 2