Obama says Warren Buffett is right about taxes

CANNON FALLS, Minnesota Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:06pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota August 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota August 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

Related Topics

CANNON FALLS, Minnesota (Reuters) - Small-town Americans probably don't make as much money as Warren Buffett, but they pay more of their income in taxes, President Barack Obama said on Monday, citing the billionaire investor to argue that the government needs more revenues to balance the budget.

Obama referred to an opinion column written by the Berkshire Hathaway Inc chairman as he made the case to about 500 people at a town hall meeting in rural Minnesota that any attempt to close the U.S. deficit gap should include tax increases for the rich as well as spending cuts.

Cannon Falls was the first stop on Obama's three-state bus tour through middle America intended to connect with voters as he embarks on his 2012 re-election campaign.

He is expected to focus on jobs and the economy after a bitter debate in Washington over debt and deficits that triggered a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating.

"I put a deal before the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, that would have solved this problem.

"And he walked away because his belief was we can't ask anything of millionaires and billionaires and big corporations in order to close our deficit," Obama said, referring to the divisive fight with congressional Republicans over how best to deal with the country's massive budget deficit.

In a column headlined "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich," Buffett wrote in The New York Times on Monday that he paid $6,938,744 in income tax last year, only 17.4 percent of his taxable income.

"That's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office," Buffett wrote. "Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent."

Buffett urged members of a new congressional "supercommittee" looking at ways to balance the budget to raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, and even more for those making more than $10 million.

"My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," Buffett wrote. "It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

Congressional Republicans -- and Republican candidates vying for the party's nomination to run against Obama next year -- oppose any increase in taxes. Obama wants taxes to be increased for the wealthiest Americans.

"You don't get those tax breaks. You're paying more than that. Now I may be wrong, but I think you're a little less wealthy than Warren Buffett. Now that's just a guess," Obama said, to laughter from his Minnesota audience.

Republican presidential nomination front-runner Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire ex-businessman, said Buffett had failed to take into account corporate taxes paid by his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

"The problem with rich people is that many of them are smart," Romney said in the key primary state of New Hampshire.

"High taxes on entrepreneurs and investors dissuade them from putting Americans to work," he said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Jason McLure in New Hampshire; editing by Todd Eastham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (32)
dorsaighost wrote:
apples and oranges … Warrens Buffets FICA contributions stop at 106K but his Social Security benefits are capped as well … if we are talking about income taxes, you know the taxes that fund everything else after Social Security (which is paid for by FICA) he pays much much more of his income than the average American as a percentage of his “income” …

Aug 15, 2011 5:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dorsaighost wrote:
Warren Buffet and his friends can write out a check to the US Treasury anytime they think they should pay more in taxes. Since he hasn’t then I have to assume he’s lying when he says he can pay more.

Aug 15, 2011 5:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SantaFean wrote:
The corporations who rule America and own Congress will not allow themselves to pay their fair share. With the backing of the Federal Reserve the corporations will keep their money, keep the jobs offshore and make sure that they make record profits. You, on the other hand, will pay more and more “fees”. President Obama is much better than Bush, for sure. But he needs to take a chance and tell it like it is….he is fighting the corporations that rule America and he needs our help in getting it back. Term limits, true finance reform….what happened to those ideas? The Supreme Court, again controlled by corporations, ruled that corporations can spend as much as they care to in electing “our” leaders. The facts are that Congress does not represent US, the people.

Aug 15, 2011 5:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.