Warren tells us yesterday that he and his super-rich friends aren’t paying enough in taxes (and I just love how the term “super-rich” always makes me think of “Wile E. Coyote – Super-Genius”). Super-rich Warren tells us:
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot
Two responses come immediately to mind. The first, much like Pat Buchanan pointed out this morning – you CAN pay more, Warren. But I understand that misses the point of his “Stop Coddling the Rich” article. My second thought is that guys like Warren Buffett should spend less time playing into the class warfare debate and more time choosing which of the several flat tax proposals he likes best. But maybe that’s an argument for a different day.
Thinking about it further, Warren Buffett has pledged for himself and his family, and he’s challenged more of his super-rich friends to give 50% or more of their wealth away to charity with an eye toward an additional $600 billion in charitable giving by the super-rich. And plenty of these super-rich folks have signed on. As Warren explains about his own pledge:
First, my pledge: More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day.
Admirable! And I want to be absolutely clear about this much – I think it is a great thing that Warren Buffett has chosen to leave 99% of his wealth to charities that provide for education and help the poor and fund the sciences and the arts. And here’s the greater point that came only after I burned through my first two initial reactions: government funds all those things too. Shall we take Mr. Buffett’s actions to speak louder than your words?
If there’s one thing that Warren Buffett’s lifetime of successful investing has shown us it’s that he knows how to get a good return on his dollars. Surprising that he’s chosen to NOT leave his fortune to the government. Quite the opposite. Not only is he not allowing the government to choose how to invest his money on education, science, assistance for the poor, and so forth; he’s gone a step further. Warren Buffett is taking his money and putting it all in tax-exempt charitable funds. He’s pledged to raise $600 billion in charitable giving from his super-rich friends and play keep-away with it. Warren Buffett may be paying less than he thinks he should be paying now, but he’ll be paying even less than that in death – and apparently, that’s perfectly fine.
I’ll say it again, though – charity is admirable. I’m all in favor of Warren Buffett and his super-rich friend (or, rich super-friends) leaving their money to charity. What’s galling is when that same person playing keep-away with his money gets all preachy about what others should be doing with theirs. When Warren Buffett and his super-rich friends all get together and pledge to use their vast resources to retire the budget deficits of federal government or the fifty states, then I’ll take back my insults. I suspect that everyone will have suddenly misplaced their wallets when THAT pledge is proposed.
Investing in government is a poor use of money. Which isn’t to say it’s not a necessary one; just that, given the option, most would choose a better investment. Mr. Buffett, inasmuch as you, the great master of wise investments, has shown us that giving your stacks of million dollar bills to the government is not the best investment, who the hell are you to tell ANYONE what to do with their own money?!