"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Buffett Rule

Expect to hear the mantra over the next few months of the Presidential campaign that the budget deficit could be fixed if only the Republicans would let us tax the very rich through Obama's proposal of the "Buffett rule," which would put a minimum tax on the very wealthy (incomes over $1 million) of 30%, even where the income takes the form of interest income or capital gains income, which have historically been taxed at lower rates.   This is the politics of envy, and it's all the Obama campaign has.

Putting aside, however, the notion that somehow it's "fair" that American citizens, who have likely already been taxed at punitively high rates in making the money that formed their wealth, now should be taxed again at punitively high rates when that previously-taxed money earns interest (and then again taxed, a third time, when they die)... it is risible to suggest that the Buffett Rule, if implemented, would impact the budget deficit in any meaningful way.   Indeed, with a ten-year budget close to $50 trillion dollars, the impact of the Buffett Rule, estimated to be $50 billion over ten years (or about $5 billion a year), is approximately 0.1% of the Obama Administration's budgeted spending, at a time when we are projecting deficits running to 30-40% of our annual revenue.   Not to be too obvious... THAT'S WELL-WITHIN THE MARGIN OF ERROR OF HOW ACCURATELY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN EVEN CALCULATE WHAT ITS REVENUE AND SPENDING ARE IN ANY GIVEN YEAR!  

In other words, the Buffett Rule's $5 billion a year is less than the amount of money the federal government simply loses track of in any given year.   It's peanuts, it has no meaningful effect on the budget deficit, and for Obama to claim that it would have an effect is the basest kind of demogoguery.

To put all that in a visual aid:

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