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One Week Later, Buffett's Call for Higher Taxes on the Super-Rich Still Sparking Debate

Warren Buffett
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Warren Buffett

The strong debate sparked by Warren Buffett's call one week ago for higher tax rates on the "super-rich" continued through the weekend.

Here are some samples from around the country:

FOR:

  • In the New York Daily News, columnist Stanley Crouch writes, "It is telling that Buffett has not, until now, inspired the sort of rancor common to Tea Party types and those who manipulate them." He hopes that when billionaires like Buffett "take offense" at some of the arguments from "the congressional elephants who swoon over the upper classes," then "we might begin to see some sort of a change rising out of the collective silence, where only whispers are usually allowed."
  • Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell writes that "those of us outside the ruling class should not worry about protecting our million/billion/kazillionaires because they will be fine."
  • On the Huffington Post, Zaki Hasan writesthat he has no problem paying taxes to support the "continued well-being of our society, and by extension, those who are less fortunate than I am." Also on HuffPo, PopularEconomic.com's Harlan Green praises Buffett's "profound" call for greater shared sacrifice. "This cuts to the heart of why we even had a Great Recession, and how to dig ourselves out of the huge debt hole that resulted. There has been no shared sacrifice to date, and without it the economy and financial markets cannot recover."
  • The Boston GlobequotesGiving Pledge signatory Bill Cummings, a Massachusetts developer and philanthropist, as agreeing with Buffett, even though the proceeds wouldn't erase the national debt. "It serves to set an example that some people who can well afford to pay more are paying more."

AGAINST:

  • In a brief statement to the National Review, politically-active billionaire Charles Koch (#18 on the latest Forbes ranking of the world's billionaires) has this response to Buffett's op-ed. "Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good ... I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington."
  • In the Washington Times, Terry Ponick ("The Prudent Man") writes that "Buffett's blathering is a lot of pernicious nonsense." He contends Buffett "loves" the federal estate tax because "you can always buy insurance from one of Buffett's companies to help avoid it."
  • In a commentary published in the Kansas City Star, E. Thomas McClanahan isn't buying Buffett's argument that he's never seen anyone "shy away from a sensible investment" because a potential tax bill. He asks, "Is Buffett actually suggesting that if the current capital gains rate is more than doubled, the effect on the economy would be nil?"

NEUTRAL:

  • The Detroit Free Press uses Buffett's op-ed as a jumping off point for a lengthy Q&A on the issue, noting "the truth — always elusive — is more nuanced than the talking heads' sound bites."

  • Economist Robert McTeer, former president of the Dallas Fed, writes in Forbes that Buffett "did not demagogue in his (Times op-ed) as one would assume based on its reporting" and probably didn't choose its "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich" headline, but "I’m guessing serious damage was done by the title and the short-hand, slip-shod coverage of his piece in the popular press." McTeer himself says he doesn't have a "firm position on the issue of carried interest or the taxation of professional investors. It still seems unfair even when you recognize the logic of it."
  • In Florida, the Palm Beach Post has an article headlined "Warren Buffett pushes higher tax rates, but some doubt those would be right or beneficial." A local business owner says if tax rates are increased for the wealthy, "You're being penalized for working hard or succeeding." But a CPA in town who, the paper notes, "makes his living helping his well-to-do clients hang on to their money," doesn't agree with the argument that higher tax rates would discourage investing and hiring. "It's hard for me to feel like I need to put out a collection plate for these poor rich guys."

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