By Mary Kate Cary |
Middle-class Americans are struggling daily to find jobs, pay their mortgages, send their kids to college and keep food on the table. Meanwhile, the ultra-rich are reaping benefits unavailable to the rest of us. No wonder middle-class taxpayers have long felt that our tax system is rigged against them. Frankly, it is.
Even billionaire Warren Buffett expressed dismay that his secretary paid a higher effective tax rate than he did. In 2010, Debbie Bosanek, Buffett's secretary in Omaha, Neb., paid a tax rate of nearly 36 percent while her boss, who earned $62 million that year, paid a rate roughly half that—17.4 percent.
Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, our current tax code has been bought and sold by powerful special interests. Millionaires and billionaires hired armies of lobbyists to write tax laws that benefit only themselves. They pushed for loopholes and special provisions that allow approximately a quarter of all millionaires in this country to pay lower effective tax rates than millions of middle-class families.
President Ronald Reagan sought to change these inequities in our tax system. Three decades ago, he said it was "crazy" that a bus driver could pay more in taxes than a millionaire and spoke of closing "the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share."
I agree with President Reagan and President Obama that hardworking, middle-class Americans deserve a fair shake. That is why I have introduced legislation in the House that would put into law what we've come to call the "Buffett rule."
The Paying a Fair Share Act would ensure that middle-class workers do not pay a higher tax rate than those earning more than $1 million a year. This common sense solution would address the disparity that Warren Buffett decried, and it would reduce the deficit by billions of dollars over the next decade.
It's high time we leveled the playing field between middle-class taxpayers and millionaires and billionaires. The Paying a Fair Share Act will help restore people's faith that if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have a chance to get ahead.
I am asking all of my colleagues to join me in taking this first step to strengthen our middle class and rebuild our economy with a commitment to shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.
About Tammy Baldwin U.S. Representative
Jason Fichtner Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Chuck Collins Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies
Alan D. Viard Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
Jonathan Collegio Communications Director for American Crossroads
Chuck Marr Director of Federal Tax Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities