NEA Doubles Down on Warren Buffett’s Secretary
posted at 5:03 pm on April 2, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
As irksome as it may be to have a tax-exempt entity with $1.5 billion in annual income argue passionately in favor of people paying their fair share of taxes, the National Education Association is perfectly within its rights to do so. Just as we are perfectly within our rights to point out when it makes up crap to support its arguments.
For those of you who had forgotten the 15 minutes of fame enjoyed by Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, my apologies for reminding you. For those who need a refresher, it’s pretty simple and summed up by ABC News: “Bosanek pays a tax rate of 35.8 percent of income, while Buffett pays a rate at 17.4 percent.”
It took a few media cycles to ascertain that Buffett made about $46 million, mostly from capital gains, while Bosanek earned about $60,000. And it took a few more media cycles for every financial pundit in America to attempt to figure out how Bosanek’s tax rate could be so high, based on such a relatively low income.
So let’s avoid a rehash of effective rates vs. marginal rates, Social Security and payroll taxes, etc., and just accept the intended spin of “Rich people are gaming the system at the expense of poor people,” even if the vehicle used didn’t have all of its wheels.
WHAT DO EDUCATION SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS AND WARREN BUFFET’S (sic) SECRETARY HAVE IN COMMON?
They pay more in taxes than billionaire investor Warren Buffet! Our nation’s tax laws are out of whack. It is not fair that a bus driver, a custodian, and Warren Buffet’s own secretary pay more in taxes than our nation’s richest individuals.
Let’s begin with the obvious. Neither bus drivers, nor custodians, nor Warren Buffett’s secretary pay more in taxes than our nation’s richest individuals. In absolute terms, Buffett paid more in taxes in one year than his secretary will earn in 130 years.
The larger problem with this argument is that education support professionals (ESPs) and Warren Buffett’s secretary don’t have much in common. Bosanek makes $60,000 a year – in Nebraska. The average full-time ESP salary nationwide, according to NEA itself, is $30,480. Even if we assume that entire amount to be taxable, the marginal federal income tax rate is 15%, and the effective tax rate would be 13.6%. But there are exemptions, deductions and tax credits. The Tax Policy Center reports that 69.5% of all households with an income below $50,000 pay no federal income tax whatsoever.
If “fair share” means those with more pay more, NEA should apply the principle to its teacher members, who currently pay the same standard dues rate regardless of income, geography, or economic condition. Why should a starting teacher in North Dakota have to pay 0.7% of her salary in NEA national dues, when a top-of-the-scale teacher in New Jersey only pays 0.2%?
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