Should There Be a Minimum Tax for the Wealthy?

Billionaire Warren Buffett proposes a 30 percent tax on those with incomes over $1 million.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
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Billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote Monday in the New York Times in support of a minimum tax for the wealthy. He argued that the wealthy will not shy away from investment because of higher taxes, and have more than ample income to contribute more to the government.

Buffett has been a vocal proponent of raising taxes on the wealthy, scoffing at efforts by Republicans to protect the ultrarich from paying more. He said Congress, "right now," should enact a rate of 30 percent for incomes between $1 million and $10 million, and a rate of 35 percent for those making more than that.

A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

He said that those who argue that instituting a minimum tax on the ultrarich can't be done until the entire tax code is reformed are making excuses, although changes of the confusing system are badly needed:

But the reform of such complexities should not promote delay in our correcting simple and expensive inequities. We can't let those who want to protect the privileged get away with insisting that we do nothing until we can do everything.

President Barack Obama supports the "Buffett Rule," which calls for the 30 percent minimum tax rate on people making over $1 million. Republicans think such provisions are "class warfare" and see higher taxes as detrimental to the economy.

[ Read the U.S. News Debate: Do the Rich Pay Their Fair Share in Taxes?]

"There's a reason we have low rates on capital gains," said House Speaker John Boehner. "That's because it spurs new investment in our economy and allows capital to move more quickly."

Republicans also oppose allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those in higher income brackets—Buffett proposed a cutoff at $500,000—because they say small businesses will be adversely affected. Some small businesses would be subjected to the higher taxes because they are taxed as individuals, which could lead to a decrease in hiring and a further stalling of the economy.

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