In this Op-Ed in the New York Times, Warren Buffett (whose net worth is around $50 billion) admitted to paying under $7 million in taxes last year (17.4% of his annual income). This percentage is lower than, as he says, "the other 20 people in his office."
The entire piece is worth a read and I agree with his analysis. His message is clear, true, and obvious. But what I find particularly interesting are the Letters to the Editor that followed (in response to his piece).
Several contributors suggest that he's being insincere because, if he really meant what he's saying, he's free to send in more money to the IRS than he does. But, of course, that argument kind of misses the point...that obviously billionaires should be forced to pay more taxes....all of them, not just him, alone.
Another individual argued that this would "stifle economic growth", as though Warren Buffet would stop his business activities because his tax rate went up. Are theoretical arguments really supposed to trump obvous, observable real-world truths? Taxing billionaires does not stifle anyone's econimic growth except for their own. Would Buffett spend or behave any differently if he had to pay 40% of this year's income in taxes? That's an extra $10 million+ for our government to spend on economic growth. How is that money better sitting in his accounts? Come on.
Another contributor suggests, "The American people are no longer getting appropriate value for the dollars that they “invest” in their government." Indeed, this is a core argument of my book, Love It or Leave It: The End of Government as the Problem. The problem with this argument being applied in this context is that Warren Buffet is not "the American people", he's a fucking billionaire! Billionaires absolutely benefit from government because it mostly functions to serve their interests (I cover this in great depth in my book). But that's beside the point. How can anybody lump billionaires in as part of "the American people?" As though we're all on the same team? Come on.
Another idiot from Florida even went so far as to lecture Warren Buffett (and the rest of us) on Capitalism. What an embarrassment.
What I find most sickening is this endless conversation about "how the rich feel" or "what the billionaires think" about being taxed more. The real question is this: how many of "the rest of us" do you have to add up in order to equal the feelings and opinions of one Warren Buffett? I'm serious.
If you add up the wealth of the poorest Americans (I'm talking about wealth, not income), how many Americans would it take to equal the net wealth of Warren Buffett? Well, first you'd have to take all of the Americans whose net wealth is negative (they owe more than they have in wealth). What percentage is that? 25%? More? So we're starting with a negative number by adding all of that up. Now let's take those who actually have net wealth (more assets, cash, and investments than debt). Let's say that the net wealth of the poorest 25% of these individuals makes up for the total dept of those with negative net wealth. At this point, we're still at zero. To get to Warren Buffett's $50 billion in wealth, perhaps would require another 10% of Americans? These are just estimates, but let's say Warren Buffett's wealth is equal to the combined wealth (minus debt) of 60% of Americans.
So, what are we at....200 million people? My question is this: are the feelings and opinions of 200 million people worth more than the feelings and opinions of one Warren Buffett?
Why the hell do we care what the top few hundred billionaires think or feel? Most of them could give a shit what we think and feel. We are not on the same team. Just yesterday, Warren Bufffett announced his multibillion dollar investment in Bank of America. Think about what Bank of America does. It gets the rest of us into debt and helps turn us into wage-slaves. How do the rest of us feel about the Warren Buffetts of the world collecting our interest payments?
Now let me ask this: what fucking idiot would argue for or defend Warren Buffett even when he is conceding the point himself? Are you a billionaire today? Are you close to being one? If you answer "no", then I can bet my life savings that you will never be. You do not and never will have the power to aquire this size of futune. Can you become a millionaire? Of course, but that's not what we're talking about here. If you think that someday you'll be in the Bill Gates or Warren Buffet club, perhaps your most appropriate short-term investment would be time in a mental institution.
Let's be honest about what teams we're all on. Let's be honest about what the billionairres are doing to us, how they are enslaving us personally and nationally to the debt that they issue, and realize that the only way out of this mess is 1) for our side to take more of their their money or 2) to default on our debts (their financial loss, not ours). Either way, stop thinking about what the billionaires think and feel.