Billionaire Buffett defends proposed tax rate change

WASHINGTON Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:03pm EST

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett attends a news conference after the opening ceremony of Tungaloy Corp's new plant in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture November 21, 2011.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett attends a news conference after the opening ceremony of Tungaloy Corp's new plant in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture November 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Increasing taxes on the wealthy would bring fairness to U.S. taxpayers across the board, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said on Wednesday, backing the tax reform that President Barack Obama proposed in his State of the Union address.

On Tuesday, Obama proposed a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on those who earn a million dollars or more, reviving his call for the so-called "Buffett rule," designed to prevent millionaires from paying a smaller share of income taxes than middle-class taxpayers.

Buffett published an editorial in August stating that his own 17.4 percent effective tax rate was lower than that paid by wage earners in his office. He also said wealthy people should pay more taxes.

"The question is what is fair when you have to raise multi-trillions to fund the United States of America," Buffett said in a joint interview with his long-time secretary, Debbie Bosanek, on ABC News.

"<Raising taxes> will not change my behavior. I have paid all different kinds of rates and I've always been interested in making money. I believe this should be a defining issue. Debbie works just as hard as I do and she pays twice the rate I do," said Buffett, a Democrat and Obama supporter.

Bosanek pays a tax rate of 35.8 percent on her income, ABC said. She attended Tuesday's State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

"I just feel like an average citizen. I represent the average citizen who needs a voice," Bosanek told ABC. "Everybody in our office is paying a higher tax rate than Warren."

Buffett said he does not blame Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney or other wealthy people for paying lower tax rates than most Americans and challenged Congress to make a change.

Buffett also lashed out at assertions by some Republicans that the "Buffett rule" is class warfare, the report said.

"If this is a war, my side has the nuclear bomb," Buffett said. "We have K Street (Washington lobbyists). We have Wall Street. Debbie doesn't have anybody. I want a government that is responsive to the people who got the short straw in life."

Shortly after the proposed millionaires' surtax was first raised, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC's "Meet the Press": "With regard to (Buffett's) tax rate, if he's feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check."

(Reporting By JoAnne Allen; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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
Comments (22)
Intriped wrote:
I think we are trying to slip on a shoe that does not fit all. This is not the approach I would like to see and I am not a millionaire. If this is the only answer then a compromise of 23 to 25% should be considered. Remove any possible loop holes and make it amendable after a 2 year run would also be a direction to consider. Ideas should be tried but they should also be installed as a test run and not a golden rule. I am not an Obama fan but he has his good side also and I think he is honestly tired of some of the inequities some Americans face in our current way that business is conducted and the lopsided outcome of past, present and future considerations.

Jan 25, 2012 9:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ml001 wrote:
Billionaire-bolshevik Warren Buffet probably isn’t happy to pay higher tax rates (or else he wouldn’t be fighting the IRS and hiding billions in his tax exempt foundation).
However putting his neck out and calling for higher taxes on behalf of his friend Obama isn’t much of an ask considering the Obama secured him multi-billion dollar bailouts on his massive Goldman and GE stakes and personally ensured Keystone XL wouldn’t muscle in and compete with Warren’s BNSF business.
Warren Buffet is a model crony capitalist.

Jan 25, 2012 9:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
BallBreaker wrote:
I don’t think that there’s many average Americans making between $200K and $500K a year as a secretary and buying a second home in this economy. Not quite the short straw in life.

Jan 25, 2012 9:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.