Forbes contributor Paul Roderick Gregory got some attention with his post Wednesday afternoon headlined "Warren Buffett's Secretary Likely Makes Between $200,000 and $500,000/Year."
Buffett's assistant, Debbie Bosanek, is in the news after sitting in Michelle Obama's box for Tuesday's State of the Union address in which President Obama repeated what Buffett has been saying for years: "Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary."
It's part of Obama and Buffett's argument for higher tax rates on the nation's wealthiest taxpayers, with the implication that a secretary doesn't get paid all that much and thus it is unfair she is paying a higher tax rate than her extremely wealthy employer.
Gregory appears to be trying to poke a hole in that argument by saying that at her supposed income of $200K to $500K, Bosanek "is scarcely the symbol of unjustice that Obama wishes her to project."
He assumes Buffett's tax rate is around 15 percent since most of his income comes from capital gains. Then, looking at IRS data, Gregory finds that:
"... taxpayers earning an adjusted gross income between $100,000 and $200,000 pay an average rate of twelve percent. This is below Buffett’s rate; so she must earn more than that. Taxpayers earning adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $500,000, pay an average tax rate of nineteen percent. Therefore Buffett must pay Debbie Bosanek a salary above two hundred thousand."
While we have no idea what Bosanek's compensation actually is, it does appear that Gregory's argument is based on an "apples to oranges" comparison.