Driving the conversation: No part of President Obama’s newly-unveiled deficit reduction plan has attracted more attention than the so-called “Buffett Rule” – mentioned in yesterday’s WIAF – which would bar individuals making more than a million dollars from paying a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle income Americans.
There’s just one problem with the proposed law: it already exists, as Heritage’s Curtis Dubay pointed out yesterday.
[T]he Congressional Budget Office shows that Buffett Rule is already in effect. The highest earners pay more than double the amount of taxes as a share of their income than middle income earners. The top 1 percent of earners currently pays 29.5 percent of their income in all federal taxes while middle income families pay 14.3 percent.
The President and his staff surely know this so the Buffett Rule likely refers to something else. It is impossible to say for sure since, as usual, the President’s plan is light on details. One likely direction the President may propose when details come out is to equalize the taxation of capital gains with the taxation of income for millionaires. The President wants the top income tax rate to be 39.6 percent like it was before the Bush tax cuts. And that’s just for starters. Perhaps the Buffet Rule would then raise the capital gains rate to that level. This comes after three years of the President claiming he only wanted to raise the capital gains rate to 20 percent.
The Associated Press also picked up on the redundancy of the proposal, which seems geared more towards stirring up populist anger to the president’s political advantage than any actual policy objective. The AP’s fact-checking team, citing some of the same data as Dubay, wrote on Tuesday:
President Barack Obama makes it sound as if there are millionaires all over America paying taxes at lower rates than their secretaries…
The data tell a different story. On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.
An “Obama Sap” comes clean: New York Times columnist David Brooks laments in Tuesday’s paper:
When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them.
I liked Obama’s payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play along. But of course I’m a sap. When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.
One wonders why it took Brooks so long to come to this realization, given that campaigning from the Oval Office has been a hallmark of this presidency.
Fast and Furious developments: A recording obtained by CBS News suggests that the FBI may have covered up a third weapon from the botched AFT operation at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder. The conversation between an ATF special agent and the proprietor of a gun store used as part of the operation mentions “three weapons” found at the scene. Take a listen:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is holding a conference call for the press this morning. Scribe will have the details for you as they come in.
Strange bedfellows: Sarah Palin is “a lot smarter than most people credit her,” says…Ralph Nader?!
Disarray in the west?: “US and European diplomats are scrambling to stave off a Palestinian quest for statehood at the United Nations on the eve of the world body’s annual General Assembly,” ABC News reports.
Hope and Change: Female staffers felt frozen out of White House decisions, the Washington Post reports.
Imbalance breakdown: Keith Hennessey takes apart the president’s “balanced approach” claims.