Barack Obama fails the “Buffett Rule,” depriving his government of vital revenue.
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The Obamas also could toss in a few grand in alimony. True, neither Barack nor Michelle Obama has a former spouse. But, again, that shouldn’t bother America’s cash-strapped Treasury.
Claiming to receive Social Security or unemployment insurance might be a bit awkward. However, the president could add some amount for annuities. A big number, since no additional form or documentation is required.
Inflating earnings is just one way for the Obamas to hike their tax liability. They also could do more to pay their fair share by reducing claimed deductions and credits. For instance, they list $5,911 for half of the self-employment tax paid and $49,000 for a retirement (SEP) contribution. Social Security is effectively bankrupt and the Obamas won’t have any trouble making money after the president leaves office. They should have left off these deductions. A matter of social justice and all that.
The real money-maker, however, would be to stop claiming itemized deductions. The Obamas subtracted a sizable $278,498. Sure, doing so might be legal. But is it moral? Think of all the vital revenue they are denying Uncle Sam!
The Obamas could make sure that they paid their fair share — and simultaneously demonstrate that they are in tune with “real” people, who don’t enjoy lavish, tax-preferred write-offs — by taking the standard deduction, which would be $11,600 for the couple. Knocking $266,898 off their write-offs would let the Obamas pass the “Buffett Rule.” Problem solved!
But if that wasn’t enough, they also could forget the $5,841 in foreign tax credits claimed. Heck, why shouldn’t the Obamas simultaneously support Uncle Sam and a foreign government or two? States overseas need love (and money) too. It’s a matter of fairness worldwide.
The Bidens should do the same. Vice President Joe Biden declared: “We’re not supposed to have a system with one set of rules for the wealthy and one set of rules for everyone else.” Yet they made a nice $379,035 last year. (Since the Bidens made no income adjustments, their gross income is the same as their adjusted gross income.) That’s not uber-rich, but I wouldn’t turn down the extra cash.
On those earnings they paid $87,663 in federal taxes. Granted, they aren’t making a million, and they are paying a slightly higher rate than the Obamas — about 23 percent. However, they also fall substantially short of the magic 30 percent. Whatever happened to paying a higher rate than your secretary?
The Bidens should follow the same strategy as the Obamas. Write a check for $26,048 to get over the 30 percent threshold. Or toss in some extra income. The Bidens list no dividends, for instance. What an exciting opportunity for creative accounting! Then there are those empty lines for annuities and alimony on their tax return.
Moreover, the Bidens claimed $60,628 in itemized deductions. Simply listing the standard $11,600 would run up their tax liability. Think of how much money the federal government would “save.”
Yet when this idea was broached with the White House, Jay Carney said “Well, we disagree.” He dismissed the proposal: “Another real classy charge is the idea that, well, wealthy Americans who feel like paying their fair share, feel like paying taxes at a rate that middle-class Americans do — if they don’t, they have the option of doing it themselves by writing a check.” Well, rich Americans like the Obamas and Bidens do have that option. If the government won’t make them pay more and they view doing so as a moral duty, then why not ask them to contribute voluntarily?
Argued Carney: “Think what that says to middle-class American families who are trying to get by, who are paying their taxes and paying at a rate higher than Warren Buffett.” Actually, it would say to them that rich people like Buffett and the president who don’t believe they are paying enough are willing to put their money where there mouths are. Step up, do your duty, and write a check.
America’s tax system is a mess. Taxes should be used to raise revenue, not manipulate behavior. Rates should be lower; filing should be simpler.
We can argue about what constitutes “fairness” and how much the “rich” should pay. But those arguing for the “Buffett Rule” have an obligation to walk the talk. It’s bad enough for a really rich guy like Warren Buffett to claim he should be paying more — and do nothing. It’s far worse when someone, like the president, tries to take political advantage of the issue and then does nothing.
If President Obama hopes to win votes by posing as a defender of the middle class, he should make sure that he pays a higher tax rate than the middle class. Write the check, Mr. President!
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