Tired of being “coddled” by Uncle Sam, uber-rich investor Warren Buffett wants affluent Americans such as himself to pay higher taxes – and many of New York’s wealthiest think that’s a capital idea.
“How much money do you really need? Give it back to the government, pave some roads,” said Manhattan millionaire Lawrence Benenson, 44, a partner at a real estate investment and development firm.
Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO, penned an op-ed in The New York Times Monday encouraging the government to reconsider the tax cuts enjoyed by him and his millionaire and billionaire buddies.
“While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks,” wrote Buffet, who’s worth a stunning $50 billion.
Scores of New York’s millionaires have signed on to campaigns encouraging “tax equality,” including the group Responsible Wealth.
“People who are just scrimping and saving to pay their rent, they shouldn’t pay one penny more,” said Edith Everett, a retired Wall Street stockbroker from the Upper East Side. “Rich people make their money on the backs of the workers.”
Businessman Bill Samuels, 68, said that the argument to raise taxes on the super-rich isn't being pitched correctly, and that’s why it’s seen as anti-business.
“I agree with Buffett, and I don’t know why everybody doesn’t,” Samuels said.
Buffett’s made the argument before, but it’s resonating now because of the recent debt crisis in Washington and anxiety that the U.S. economy is sliding into another recession.
A bipartisan congressional committee has been tasked with figuring out how to reduce the country’s deficit for the next decade by a November deadline. Tax reform could be part of that process.
The federal income tax on the highest income earners is already set to increase from 35 percent back to 39.6 percent if the Bush-era tax cuts aren’t renewed in 2012.
Buffett suggests raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million and further taxing folks who earn in excess of $10 million.
The so-called Oracle of Omaha said he paid nearly $7 million in income and payroll taxes last year, or 17.4 percent of his taxable income. That was a lower proportion than his less-wealthy employees, who averaged 36 percent, he said.
On a bus tour in Minnesota Monday, President Barack Obama cited Buffett’s piece as a battle cry for his supporters: “You don’t get those tax breaks. You’re paying more than that, and I think you’re a little less wealthy than he is,” Obama said.
Republican lawmakers, however, don’t want any tax increases, arguing that the wealthy drive the economy by creating jobs and investing. Some even took a jab at Buffett’s proposal.
“Nothing is stopping Warren Buffett (or anybody) from making a donation to the Treasury if he feels he’s under-taxed,” tweeted Illinois Rep. John Shimkus.