The Oracle of Taxation

Warren Buffett: $39 billion worth of hypocrisy.

In an October 11 letter to Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp, business magnate Warren Buffett revealed his adjusted gross income to be $62.855 million in fiscal year 2011. While it’s certainly reassuring to know that there is still room for that kind of wealth creation in our society, the context in which “The Oracle of Omaha” made such a self-indulgent revelation is slightly less so.

Although Mr. Buffett’s taxable income was reportedly $39.815 million this past year, Berkshire Hathaway’s primary shareholder payed only $6,923,494 in income taxes and another $15,300 in payroll taxes, confirming a 17.4% tax rate. This means that despite being the third richest individual on the face of the earth, the billionaire pays approximately half of what most individuals in the $379,000-plus tax bracket do.     

Incredibly, Mr. Buffett was not writing to Congressman Huelskamp to express his gratitude; rather the letter was the most recent in a series of imbecilic requests for higher tax rates on “high-income earners.” For years, the billionaire has squawked about the perceived injustice of system in which the 400-richest individuals pay only a 21.4% tax rate. While these vociferous cries for increased extraction of wealth at the very top are bad enough, now Mr. Buffett has changed his tune; where he used to be content as the self-appointed taxation spokesman for the richest 0.01%, he now presumes the right to request a tax increase for the 325,413 taxpayers who earn more than $1 million annually. Even if one can overlook the inherent hypocrisy of a billionaire business mogul agitating for policies that inhibit the profit-motive, it is impossible to ignore the unadulterated arrogance of his repeated recommendations.

In June of 2011, Mr. Buffett went on record as saying, “I can afford to pay more taxes.” That shouldn’t come as surprise; any individual whose net worth exceeds $39 billion can afford to pay for a lot of things. But just because this one man finds himself flush with cash does not mean that almost a quarter-of-a-million Americans that he presumes to speak for are in an analogous position. To stand atop the socioeconomic pyramid, peer down several tiers, and shout, “because I can afford to pay more, you must too!” is not only an affront to the households in question, but also to republicanism in general. As a citizen, if you want to toss more money onto a bloated bureaucratic bonfire, then fine; more power to you. The last time I checked there is no law that limits how much an individual can give to the government. But to assume that because you can, others must also, is a cancerous mentality.

Nick Desatnick