Warren Buffett made a persuasive case yesterday in the New York Times for raising taxes on the rich. His suggestion prompts this one from me: why don't the rich who agree with him go ahead and voluntarily pay more taxes?
Buffett says he paid almost $7,000,000 in income and payroll taxes last year. Frankly, I think he should have paid 10 times that, given his net worth. But how about if his just doubled it? Surely he can afford $14 million without blinking. Why should he wait for changes in tax law to just pay what he thinks he should pay?
I think it would also be a very smart move on the part of the president to go ahead and personally pay in taxes as much as he would pay under the changes he advocates. I think a lot of Americans would be willing to follow his lead if they just felt they weren't the only ones -- including me. (I couldn't afford to double what I pay, but I probably could swing an extra $50.) It's the same psychology that sold billions in bonds to finance World War II. Neighbors competed with each other to buy more, not less.
Right now, the anti-government crazies have turned things upside down. Using the original Boston Tea Party as a model, they've managed to paint not paying taxes as some kind of expression of patriotism. What do they think, all their taxes go to line the coffers of the British empire? It's as if none of them ever drove across a bridge, sent their kids to school, or collected a Social Security check.
The president needs to make the case that there can be no better way right now to show love of country than putting your money where your mouth is. This is a perfect opportunity for him to show that the buck not only stops with him, but starts with him too.
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