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January 27, 2012 2:46 PM Buffet Rule Vote?

By Ed Kilgore

At WaPo’s Plum Line, Greg Sargent is reporting that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is mustering support among his Democratic colleagues for a direct vote on the “Buffet Rule,” the idea that millionaires should not be paying lower tax rates than their employees. Here’s how Greg describes it:

The bill would ensure that taxpayers who make over $1 million would pay at least a 30 percent tax rate on all their income, Whitehouse aides say. It would do this by requiring millionaires to calculate their overall effective tax rate under the regular system — by taking into account all their sources of income and the various rates they are taxed at.
Those taxpayers whose effective rate is under 30 pecent would be required to pay taxes on all their income at the 30 percent rate. (Charitable contributions that are deductible under the current system would be exempt from income calculations.)

The idea is to offer this pointed and very popular measure as part of a series of Senate votes designed to implement major presidential initiatives from the SOTU address. But it would be a separate vote. It would also presumably require a great deal of sustained publicity to make it clear a filibuster is a vote against the substance of the measure.

If they hurry, Senate Democrats could perhaps get this vote scheduled for the day the Beltway Pundits crown Mitt Romney, who would be a direct party of interest in this initiative, the putative GOP nominee.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • kindness on January 27, 2012 2:58 PM:

    Really I'd prefer investment income to be taxed at the same rate as employment income. There should be no difference.

  • Danp on January 27, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Charitable contributions that are deductible under the current system would be exempt from income calculations.

    No. No. No. Why are the American tax payers subsidizing 7 million dollar contributions to the LDS (or other churches) and then hiring them to dole out government charity. And don't remind me of all those charities that serve little purpose other than to launder expenses to their foundation leaders. This might be a good time to redefine charity and to put a cap on taxable deductions to some of them.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on January 27, 2012 3:12 PM:

    The Dems understand that they've found electoral gold here. The Repubs' refusal to ask for even one iota of sacrifice from the super-rich is hopefully going to doom them at the polls. I just hope the election is decided on issues such as these.

  • flubber on January 27, 2012 3:21 PM:

    But who pays the bills for the Dem Senators? Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley millionaires give bundles to Democrats too. (I think it was in 2008 that Wall Street gave nearly equal amounts to D's and R's).

    I can't imagine them actually voting for this if they weren't really sure the Repubs would block it. But it still might be a good PR move.

  • wvng on January 27, 2012 3:23 PM:

    I suspect the conservaDems (like my own sorry Joe Manchin) would join the republicans in a filibuster of this. Is there any reason to expect they would not?

  • T2 on January 27, 2012 3:24 PM:

    "great deal of sustained publicity" Sure Ed, I'm positive all the Major Broadcast and Cable networks will be all to happy to provide "sustained publicity" to expose the Republican Stonewall Filibuster.
    My question to you - since they'll have to "Balance" this sustained publicity, what will they blame the Democrats with? Faking Global Warming? Refusing to pass the Ryan bill?
    Refusing to eliminate Social Security? Gotta be fair, don't we.....two sides do it, right?

  • Common Knowledge on January 27, 2012 3:28 PM:

    I agree with kindness, but that's a non-starter right now.

    DANp – That could never pass, and would be terrible politics, which is the point of introducing the “Buffet rule” since it isn’t going to pass now anyway.

    Also, this might be bad politics as well since it will complicate the issue, but I think this should be paired with a permanent repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) that has to be tweaked every year to keep it from hitting more and more middle class taxpayers. The AMT fix is expensive each year and has become part of the recent annual "hostage negotiations". The whole AMT thing is just stupid and useless now, and this could replace it. Maybe good politics, except most voters don’t understand it.

    And the income threshold for the 30% minimum needs to have an automatic inflation adjustment so it's not another AMT that eventually starts hitting the upper middle class in 20 or 30 years when everyone's making six and seven figures due to inflation.

    Not that it's going to pass now anyway, but maybe it has a shot after the election and that’s got to be included.

  • Daryl on January 27, 2012 3:31 PM:

    Since it would directly affect tax collections could they not run under reconciliation rules?

  • bob h on January 27, 2012 3:39 PM:

    I also think Obama should publicly call on Rmoney to repudiate the 15% rate. Is Rmoney really going to run on a plank of retaining it?

  • TR on January 27, 2012 3:44 PM:

    Since it would directly affect tax collections could they not run under reconciliation rules?

    That's a great question.

    Either way, glad they're pushing this. Just hope they have the stones to follow through.

  • ns on January 27, 2012 3:47 PM:

    bob h - he doesn't need to ask him to repudiate it. All he needs to say is stuff like "if Romney paid his fair share/if all we did was fix the carried interest loophole /etc, we could pay for xx roads/fund xx NPRs, etc. hammer in the amount of abuse without ever engaging Romney directly.

  • jjm on January 27, 2012 3:50 PM:

    To @flubber "Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley millionaires give bundles to Democrats too. (I think it was in 2008 that Wall Street gave nearly equal amounts to D's and R's)."

    In normal times this was how elections went. Businesses tried to balance their donations to each party, hedging their bets so whoever won would get treated okay by the winner.

    Only in the past decade has the giving by the rich and big corporations been so lopsidedly in favor of the GOP.

    However, anyone could see that the Democrats were going to win in 2008, so they basically HAD to give to the Dems.

    Wall Street got financial reform, it's true, from the Dems, but they also got a 50% rise in the stock market. Hollywood and Silicon Valley where CREATIVE people and entrepreneurs make their money by making things have always been more on the Democratic side than on the side of the 'let's not let any new ideas slip out' GOP.

  • Chris G on January 27, 2012 3:50 PM:

    I believe Warren Buffett, like Jimmy, spells his last name with two ts.

  • Dan on January 27, 2012 4:06 PM:

    Since it would directly affect tax collections could they not run under reconciliation rules?

    The way the budget process works, both houses of congress have to decide what areas of the budget will be subject to reconciliation when they pass the budget resolution. Right now, I don't think there is one, as congress is merely extending last year's budget in small intervals. However, if they ever do pass one, it's a real safe bet that the Republican House will not allow this to be dealt with under the reconciliation process.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on January 27, 2012 4:06 PM:

    I suspect the conservaDems (like my own sorry Joe Manchin) would join the republicans in a filibuster of this. Is there any reason to expect they would not?

    Because they might get a clue that the conservatism in their state (especially in WV, traditionally a union stronghold) is entirely social conservatism and not sympathy for the rich. This is why Dems need socially conservative, economically populist candidates to run in places like WV.

    Granted, though, Manchin's voting record like Nelson's etc. etc. suggest they may not yet get it.

  • Jeremy B. on January 27, 2012 4:11 PM:

    Chris G. is right on the spelling. The Buffet Rule would probably have something to go with proper respect for sneeze-guards....

  • Jeremy B. on January 27, 2012 4:12 PM:

    Should be "something to do." How ironic to have a typo like that pop up in a post about spelling.

  • Keith on January 27, 2012 4:53 PM:

    I totally agree with @kindness and @danp.
    All income taxed equally and "charitable donations" needs to be redefined or eliminated.

    Unfortunately @CommonKnowledge is probably more right than wrong. Both are not going to be approved.

    But I can dream can't I?

  • JackD on January 27, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Keith,if you eliminate the capital gains tax break without a floor (over 500,000 for example), you'll incur the ire of lots of retired and semi-retired middle class people whose income is largely derived from investments. Politically, it won't happen nor will elimination of charitable deductions because of the outcry from lots of ordinary people who support charities including, but not limited to, their churches.