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The Buffett Rule: Tax reform or political gimmick?

As last-minute tax filers sweat the IRS, Democrats are pushing – and the GOP is resisting – the Buffett Rule, which would mean higher tax rates for millionaires (like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama).

By Staff writer / April 14, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks about the Buffett Rule, Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

Susan Walsh/AP


The “Buffett Rule” is a wonderful political device – a call to even out the tax burden in a way that picks the pockets of those “millionaires and billionaires” President Obama keeps talking about while evening things out for the vast American middle class.

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It’s very easy to understand, especially in contrast to a tax code requiring battalions of lawyers to navigate. And it has this wonderfully avuncular fellow for whom it’s named.

That it wouldn’t do much to help the US economy (or that it has any chance of passage in Congress) is true but also irrelevant. Its purpose is to define an important difference between Republicans and Democrats, as Obama pointed out in his radio address Saturday.

“We can’t afford to keep spending more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them,” he said. “We just need some Republican politicians to get on board with where the country is.”

'Buffett rule': Five questions about Obama's plan answered

In fact, most of the country is with Obama on this.

A Gallup survey out Friday has 60 percent of those polled favoring a minimum 30 percent tax rate for Americans with a household income of $1 million or more per year – in essence, the idea named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

“Americans in general say that the distribution of money and wealth in this country is not fair, and that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed,” writes Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport. “Plus, 59 percent of Americans last year agreed that households making $250,000 or more per year should pay higher taxes.”

“The current results reinforce these findings and underscore the now well-documented conclusion that Americans in general support various proposals for increasing taxes on higher-income Americans,” observes Mr. Newport.

Not surprisingly, Democrats and Independents are more likely to favor the Buffett Rule (74 percent and 63 percent respectively) than do Republicans, who oppose it 54-43 percent. Still, more than 40 percent of GOP voters favoring higher taxes for the wealthy is a substantial minority.

The poll – and the debate – come just as last-minute tax filers are sweating this coming Tuesday’s deadline to communicate with the IRS.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama have done their taxes already.


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