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Occupy the Senate

Had the Occupy movement not captured headlines, and had its messages not engendered sympathy from a middle class that has been systematically harmed by the axis of money and politics, then it’s possible that the Buffett Rule – a change to the tax code that would ensure that millionaires whose income comes largely from investments pay taxes on that money at a rate similar to that earned on other income, like business profits or regular wages. It’s named after Warren Buffett, the billionaire whose income comes largely from his myriad investments, who lamented that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he. 

Last night, the Senate took up this change to the law, and it never made it to a vote. A single Democrat voted to block it, and a single Republican voted to bring it to the floor.  The Republicans filibustered, and the Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to pass this legislation. (It’s high time to abolish the Senate filibuster, because the Constitution has been systematically circumvented – by both sides – to require that every legislation receive a supermajority for passage. This is unconscionable.) Without the threat of filibuster, the Buffett Rule would have passed the Senate 51 – 45. 

The bill would impose a minimum 30% effective federal tax rate on those with adjusted gross incomes above $1 million, although it phases in for those making between $1 million and $2 million.

Taxpayers subject to the Buffett Rule would still get a break for charitable deductions and could count both the income and payroll taxes they paid when calculating what they would owe

There’s nothing about that plan that should make Republicans reject it. Frankly, it makes sure that the wealthiest Americans don’t avoid paying taxes through an impossibly large, byzantine system that is specifically geared to lend loopholes to those who can afford them. 

The Buffett rule isn’t even controversial

It’s supported by 72% of Americans; of those, 53% of Republicans back it, and 70% of independents do, too. Unfortunately, it’s supported by only 2% of Senate Republicans; it’s only controversial among those whom the 1% have paid to oppose it. 

Americans don’t think the rich should get special breaks that regular folks don’t get, yet the Republicans in congress have made class warfare – by the rich against everybody else – a platform plank, and they’re shouting “socialist” at anyone who points it out. Problem is, it’s not working, and they’ve just selected someone who directly benefits from the failure of the Buffett Rule to be their nominee. 

This should be fun. 


  • Jesse Griffis

    Maybe we’ll get lucky and the shelving of this stupid legislation (let’s add more crap on top of the crap we already have instead of just fixing it already) will provide some impetus to reform the entire pile of crap. Dare to dream.

    Not gonna happen this close to the Pres election, of course… and by next year it’ll probably be forgotten.

  • Max Planck

    The Senate was the  ideal venue for enacting this spectacle.  While in favor of the spirit and intent of Buffett, I believe  the Tax Code is in need of far greater and radical surgery to achieve even a basic degree of equity and fairness. That’s well beyond our current Senate’s grasp, given its moribund procedures and dysfunctional rules  as well as the fact that the place is bought and paid for by the deep pocket special interests and influential PACs. Additionally, given that it’s governed by dull-witted party apparatchiks who communicate via competing sound bytes on “home turf”‘ cable network outlets, there’s no reason whatsoever to expect anything of value to come out of that chamber.

  • Mike_Chmiel

    How about a progressive tax code with stepped up rates for higher incomes, but with lower rates across the board and absolutely no deductions whatsoever?

    Get rid of the meaningless deductions and you are halfway there.

  • hwhamlin

    Net effect on the Obama Deficit after ten years under the “Buffett Rule” (which Barry said is not about redistribution of wealth, but about “closing our deficit”):
    New debt without the extra tax: $6,391,000,000,000;
    New debt with the extra tax: $6,344,000,000,000.
    Another perspective: If we collected the Buffett Tax for the next 250 years (the Nation has existed for 236 years), the additional revenue would not cover Barry’s deficit for 2011 alone.

    • Alan Bedenko

      I’ll quote Josh Marshall,

      If you can’t agree that centi-millionaires should be paying a higher percentage in taxes than school teachers and service industry workers, then tax equity is a joke. And if you can’t raise taxes on the wealthiest people in the country, how exactly do you expect to ever tackle the country’s fiscal shortfall?