Looks like Warren Buffett wants to be tainted by association with the president’s jobs bill about as much as Harry Reid does.
Buffett replies in classic evasive fashion: “Well, the precise program which will — I don’t know what their program will be. My program would be on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes. Somebody making $50 million a year playing baseball, his taxes won’t change. Make $50 million a year appearing on television, his income won’t change. But, if they make a lot of money and pay a very low tax rate, like me, it would be changed by a minimum tax that would only bring them up to what other people pay.”
And when the anchor presses him, asking if he approves of the president’s plan to raise taxes on all households earning $250,000 or more, Buffett still refuses to give a straight answer.
“That’s another program that I won’t be discussing. My program is to have a tax on ultra-rich people who pay very low tax rates. Not just all rich people. It would probably apply to 50,000 people in a population of 300 million.”
To be sure, declining to support the president’s specific proposals — or clarifying the specifics of his own — doesn’t mean Buffett backed off the principle that prompted the president’s Buffett Rule in the first place. Liberals have been quick to point that out. And in a CNN interview earlier today, Buffett reiterated that his “class” has it easy, tax-wise.
But his oblique answers to the CNBC anchor reveal Buffett understands what too many proponents of “taxing the rich” don’t: Taxes on income and taxes on investment are two different matters. Buffett isn’t necessarily advocating for the same kind of increased income taxes the president wants, but he’s still advocating for punitive tax increases that might do harm to the business climate. In case either he or Obama care to know, Paul Ryan has proposed a better way to do tax reform.
In general, Buffett has little leg to stand on: Not only has he proved himself to be fundamentally unserious about wanting to pay more taxes himself (kinda like those money-grubbing Patriotic Millionaires), but the catchy line he loaned to Obama — that secretaries are paying more in taxes than their bosses — has been struck through by the facts. Buffett’s not shilling for Obama’s jobs plan, at least — but, having comfortably already made his billions, he’s still being disingenuous about the way businesses and individuals respond to tax incentives.