Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
We start at the beginning. In August of last year, billionaire Warren Buffett penned an op-ed in the New York Times complaining that his taxes weren’t high enough.
OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
President Obama, looking for some justification for a second term, appeared alongside his wealthy friend and pressed the attack against this threat to the American dream, which is…uh…the American dream?
“Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There’s no justification for it,” President Obama insisted while pitching his $4 trillion deficit reduction plan in the Rose Garden on Monday.
And a star was born, albeit, apparently, a reluctant one.
For nearly two decades, Debbie Bosanek has fielded press calls, investor queries, and sundry other requests for her boss, billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Now, she herself is in the middle of a very bright spotlight.
On Monday the White House revealed its debt-reduction package. The most controversial, headline-grabbing portion of the $4.4 trillion plan is what Obama calls the “Buffett rule,” which would ensure that people making more than $1 million a year pay higher rates than middle-income taxpayers. It is named for an often-repeated aphorism of Buffett’s, calling for higher levies on the rich: Buffett says he pays a lower overall tax rate than his hardworking secretary does, and that is wrong.
“People making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay,” Obama said in announcing his plan. “Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. … It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million.”
Whether Bosanek really does pay a higher tax rate than Buffett, or whether the working class pays a higher tax rate than the gilded super-rich, is hard to say. Bosanek certainly isn’t chiming in.
Reached via telephone at Berkshire Hathaway’s Omaha offices on Tuesday morning, she sighed and politely responded: “I’m sorry, I’m not doing any interviews on that.”
“I understand you must be getting deluged.”
“I’ve got to let you go. Bye-bye.” With that, she hung up.
Her boss says she, or someone in the office, is paying 36 to 41 percent. Taking those words at face-value, I’d say the rest of us are owed at least the minimum information: How are these people getting their taxes done? I have to pay taxes too, and I need to know who & what to avoid.
But Buffett’s tale of tax misery for the lesser mortals, didn’t ring true.
The Buffett secretary comparison has become the go-to talking point for everyone supporting the proposed tax increases. But is it correct?
In order to properly investigate the claim, we contacted accounting professionals in different parts of the country and asked them to “run the numbers” on a secretary making $60,000 a year and a really rich guy.
That analysis becomes quite involved and is not the point of this morning’s coffee-o’clock scribblings. Go RTWT when & if you have the time, it’s quite eye-opening. No, I don’t think Warren Buffett would want you to, but do it anyway.
The long and weird backstory brings us to the events unfolding in the here-and-now:
Warren Buffett is ready to call Republicans’ tax bluff. Last fall, Senator Mitch McConnell said that if Buffett were feeling “guilty” about paying too little in taxes, he should “send in a check.” The jab was in response to Buffett’s August 2011 New York Times op-ed, which made hay of the fact that our tax system is so unbalanced, Buffett (worth about $45 billion) pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Senator John Thune promptly introduced the “Buffett Rule Act,” an option on tax forms that would allow the rich to donate more in taxes to help pay down the national debt. It was, as Buffett told me for this week’s TIME cover story, “a tax policy only a Republican could come up with.”
Still, he’s willing to take them up on it. “It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions,” he says with a chuckle. So Buffett has pledged to match 1 for 1 all such voluntary contributions made by Republican members of Congress. “And I’ll even go 3 for 1 for McConnell,” he says. That could be quite a bill if McConnell takes the challenge; after all, the Senator is worth at least $10 million. As Buffett put it to me, “I’m not worried.”
Get it? Warren Buffett wants to make an issue out of Republican hypocrisy.
See the subtle shift taking place: Warren Buffett is taking advantage of a very seldom-discussed privilege available only to a few among us, those who have managed to remain solvent. It may be more precise to define their numbers as: Those who feel comfortable with gambling. He gets to make a grandiose public statement about an example of hypocrisy that has not yet been demonstrated. Obviously he believes in it, and because he has some money to back up what he believes, it could be credibly surmised that his beliefs trump everybody else’s.
But he’s doing this to take a little bit of limelight away from another example of hypocrisy, this one much more credible since it arrives from the past rather than the future: Namely, his own hypocrisy. He’s already been caught red-handed, running to Washington to talk to his buddy Barack Obama, to get the taxes raised on his “mega-rich friends” and himself.
Gee, that Warren Buffett must be a wonderful personal pal. With friends like that…
But you know what? You don’t even need to wait for the Thune Act if you don’t think your taxes are high enough. As Mitch McConnell and others pointed out, you can send it in yourself. We are not to presume Buffett’s too dense & thick to figure this out for himself, are we? He must have recognized the option was available from the very beginning. Which, in my view, makes his whole cause here a little disingenuous to say the least.
But we don’t need to conclude this is incompetence talking, or even necessarily hypocrisy or deceit. I think it is an example of obfuscation…and Buffett, backed into a corner, if you were paying attention you’ll notice he finally dropped the act. To repeat:
“…as to think that [the deficit] can’t be solved by voluntary contributions,” he says with a chuckle.
That is what this is all about. It doesn’t have anything to do with paying down the public debt or making the government more flush…not for just this year or the year coming-up, anyway. It isn’t about fairness to Buffett’s secretary or calculating a “fair share” for her tax bracket, or his, or any other.
It is about choice. The effort currently underway is to abrogate it. Obama, Buffett, et al, want to get rid of it. They want force. That is central to what this is all about. Everything else under discussion is simply derivative of that.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell, to his credit, made an issue out of that in his office’s response to Buffett’s challenge:
Sen. McConnell says that Washington should be smaller, rather than taxes getting bigger. And since some, like President Obama and Mr. Buffett, want to pay higher taxes, Congress made it possible for them to call their own bluff and send in a check. So I look forward to Mr. Buffett matching a healthy batch of checks from those who actually want to pay higher taxes, including Congressional Democrats, the President and the DNC.
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