Rebutting “Why Doesn’t Warren Buffett Voluntarily Pay More Taxes?”


August 18, 2011 by Daniel Stack

In the August 14, 2o11 New York Times there is an op-ed by Warrenn Buffett entitled Stop Coddling the Super-Rich. It is an article well worth the few minutes of your time it will take to read. To summarize, Mr. Buffett argues:

  • Due to the way the tax code is structured, the mega-rich pay a tax rate of 15% on their earnings.
  • Many of the mega-rich pay a negligible amount in payroll taxes – sometimes nothing.
  • The argument that higher tax rates would discourage investment and job creation does not match what actually occurred from 1980 to 2000.

I have seen it argued, from blogs to newspaper editorials to a response from my state representative that if Warren Buffett wants to pay more taxes, nobody is stopping him from doing so. He can just write a check.

I find that argument to be nonsensical. Mr. Buffett’s point is largely that the mega-rich are paying a tax rate on their income that is less than many of those the middle class pay. I pulled up some of my recent tax returns and have found that for some years I did indeed pay a higher tax rate on my total unadjusted income than the mega-rich did. So the question to ask is this: is it just that the very wealthiest in our society are taxed at a rate lower than the rate that them middle class is taxed at?

Yes, of course Mr. Buffett could write a check. But our tax code would still enshrine the ability of billionaires to pay taxes at ludicrously low rates.

There’s an argument as to whether the mega-rich should be made to make a greater sacrifice than that of the poor and middle class. I would submit that a reasonable starting point would be for them to make an equal sacrifice.

One thought on “Rebutting “Why Doesn’t Warren Buffett Voluntarily Pay More Taxes?”

  1. Ok, so you are saying a person should not follow his convictions unless everyone else does? That’s nonsensical.

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