Warren Buffett assails Grover Norquist on taxes

The wealthy investor slams the anti-tax lobby, calling for higher rates on the rich.

By Jason Notte Nov 26, 2012 3:00PM

Taxes copyright Thinkstock, SuperStockHow does Warren Buffett get back into fighting shape the Sunday after Thanksgiving? By using the New York Times' op-ed page to crack conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist square in the jaw.

With the fiscal cliff on the horizon and the entire political and financial ecosystem scrambling to find a solution, it's a bad time to be an anti-tax zealot. Buffett called out the tax-averse Norquist by name in his Times op-ed piece Sunday as he pressed for a 30% tax rate on those making between $1 million and $10 million a year and a 35% rate for those making $10 million or more.

Dismissing the notion that well-heeled investors would stop investing because there's a greater tax liability for their gains, the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) chief executive is looking for a tax rate exceeding President Barack Obama's proposed "Buffett Rule." That plan would impose a minimum 30% rate on those making $1 million or more a year, but does little to tax capital gains or carried interest. Those don't qualify as ordinary income and are taxed at a far lower rate that favors wealthy taxpayers.

How does Buffett justify the hike? By noting the far more extreme levies he once paid as a wealthy investor. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was taxed between 70% and 90% on dividends and between 25% and 27.5% on capital gains. By 1992, he notes that the tax paid by the 400 highest incomes in America dropped to 26.4% percent of adjusted gross income. By 2009, it was down to 19.9% on a group that made an average of $202 million a year -- or $97,000 per hour for a 40-hour work week. Half paid less than 20% and a quarter paid less than 15%.

Even once-fervent supporters of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform are coming around to Buffett's line of thinking. Before the November elections, Norquist got 238 out of 242 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 41 out of 47 GOP senators to sign his "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" vowing to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits."

The elections dropped the number of GOP pledge signers in the House to fewer than 220, while the Senate saw its ranks of GOP tax hawks cut from 41 to 39. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss signed Norquist's pledge nearly two decades ago, but says the fiscal cliff has made him shy away from that stance.

"I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge," he told the Macon, Ga., television station WMAZ on Wednesday. "If we do it (Norquist's) way then we'll continue in debt and I just have a disagreement with him about that."

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Republican Congressman Peter King from New York had Chambliss' back, taking to the morning shows on Sunday to express their support for changing the current tax structure. Buffett, meanwhile, doesn't want these converts to just dither around with the tax code while more money flies out the door. He wants to see changes implemented immediately so "carried interest" stops converting labor income to capital gains and offshore tax shelters stop making it easy to duck payments.

His targets are revenues at 18.5% of gross domestic product and spending at 21% of GDP. Considering revenues are 15.5% of GDP now, while spending is still at 22.4%, there's still a lot of sacrifice to be made at both ends of the spectrum. CNBC's Robert Frank suggest that it's not just the rich who could stand to pay more taxes, as deductions drop the rate paid by folks making $30,000 to $100,000 to between 4.8% and 7.7% -- or far less than their standard rate.

True, but Buffett's continued line of argument is that those in the upper echelons can spare a little extra far more than the folks in the middle income brackets. As incentive to implement changes more quickly and assuage the fears of taxpayers below the "Buffett Rule" threshold, Buffett further suggests ending President George W. Bush's tax cuts for high-wage earners. The not-so-minor caveat would be changing the cutoff from an almost upper-middle-class household income of $250,000 a year to an unquestionably rich $500,000 a year.

Buffett's been talking about this for a while, but this past week has offered the first signs that people in Washington on both sides of the aisle are listening. Let's see who else let Buffett's ideas digest over the holiday weekend.

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Nov 26, 2012 4:55PM
We need more than a spending FREEZE, we need to roll back all of Obama's 800 billion in new special interest payback spending.  We don't need to raise taxes to make this permanent.  

The government now consumes 24+% of GDP.  This is up from 19% under W, who also was a spender.

No tax increases on ANYONE until we return to the budget of 2008 spending levels.
Nov 26, 2012 4:55PM
You people are such chumps, Buffet knows this is going to kill businesses, and then he can come in and swoop them up for a song. He's a real vulture capitalist!!!
Nov 26, 2012 4:54PM
Warren has the integrity of a honest and wealthy US citizen! I applaud your actions!
Nov 26, 2012 4:54PM
 It is funny that Buffett and Gates are pleading for more taxes. If Gov't is so efficient, then why did they put their fortunes in a trust instead of giving it to the Obama Group???
Nov 26, 2012 4:54PM
Warren Buffet is taxed at the dividend rate just like all the rich old coots. So his tax idea / pledge of 30 and 35% does not effect him in the slightest since he is not paid a normal salary or wage like most Americans. If congress and the president would do the following then our nation would be better off.

Eliminate all Tax credits. That way there is zero deductable for everyone.

All persons making under 1 million dollars per year pay 12% of total income
All person from 1 million to 5-million pay 18%
5-million - 20-million 30%
Over 20-million 35%

If part of your compensation package is stock it is taxed at the 35%.

All corporate taxes are zero. All profits have to be shared with shareholders (if publicly traded) and /or  business expansion here in the U.S.  or they can also donate the money to Churches, charity, public education etc. If they elect none of the above it is taxed at 80%

Nov 26, 2012 4:54PM
Why does Warren Buffett owe the IRS a billion dollars in back taxes?
Nov 26, 2012 4:53PM
Nothing worse than a hypocrite that wants to legislate to others what he or she is unwilling to do

voluntarily  their self. Pay the higher rate for the last 10 years Warren, lead by example and then speak. Otherwise shut up.

Nov 26, 2012 4:53PM






We the citizens need to deeply thank Warren Buffett for his persecution of the Grover Norquist propaganda and nasty filthy rich cause of no tax increase from the rich. The whole thing seems so absurd, so completely out of constructive feelings for the progress our country. The rich needs to make when a greater contribution, as it’s the work of the proletarians, the Joe, Mary, and Susan next door with his labor that help to put the millions in their pockets. They do need to fairly contribute to the economy, and to lower the deficit from the terrible past mistakes of the trillions of dollars wars expenses that drained our economy for so long from the presidential missteps of Bush! There are Bills signed by Obama to create jobs, but trashed and violated by the Tea Party and the Republicans in the House. These type of Tea Party guys in Congress is what we get when Sara Palin gets geared up to speak trash, and stupid people followed her to the guillotine, a total disaster and gargantuan economical block from progress sick Congress!

With the fiscal cliff quickly approaching and the entire political and financial institutions scrambling to find a solution, this worthless Congress better do go along to increase the tax on the privileged rich. We are tired of the lies. We know that the great president Ronald Regan, and Bill Clinton increased taxes on many different occasions of their presidency to foment the economy, but then, there were people with brains wanting to do their job, that is, work for the people, and not only to screw the citizens, and not to go to Congress to fill their filthy pockets with their rich friends political favors. Congress members with their millions, their lack of coming to work, their many months extended vacations at the tax payer expenses. You bunch of Congress pirates, you need to leave Congress. It’s unfortunately that many of you returned because many States with Republicans majority put you there! We are sure it was an intentional manipulation from the Republican, and the Tea Party to lock the Congress again if the case Obama wins the November 6, elections! It seems is working well you Republicans and Tea Party against the people of the USA!


Nov 26, 2012 4:49PM

Could we please begin by getting rid of the tax loopholes, simplifying our tax code?   Get rid of ALL of them as far as I am concerned.


Nov 26, 2012 4:35PM
How about this, everyone pays their taxes @ 30% across the board to their state.  It is then the states responsibility to distribute a percentage of that to the federal government.  At that point the lower, middle class and rich all pay the same tax percentage.  Fair is Fair I guess.  However, all sales taxes should be eliminated completely as it's pretty crappy that we have pay additional sales taxes for items that we purchase with already taxed dollars.

Let me know what you think...

Maybe the 30% across the board is not fair to lower income folk, but it would put everything on an even playing field.

In addition, the current deductions such as dependents, interest payments, charitable donations up to a certain percentage and other common deductions should still be allowed when preparing taxes.  It's not fair that a person gives to charities and not have an opportunity to write a certain percentage off.

Depending on your deductions, 30% can come down to 20% - 25% making everyone happy come tax season. :)

Best case scenario would be 0% taxes!  But unfortunately, that is not the American Way!
Nov 26, 2012 4:34PM

I think that they should tax billionaires like bufett 50%, and not just income, but wealth.  You want to get money from two-faced billionaires like buffett, tax wealth, not income.  By taxing income, it is harder for any of the middle or working class to ever succeed.  While the filthy rich like Buffett will still be a billionaire even with a 50% or more tax on income.  This keeps him and his cohorts a distant aristocrcy from the rest of us.  Let him, put his money where his mouth is and stop hiring attorneys to get every loop hole possible for his income tax.  Go after wealth, not income if you truely want to move the money. 

PS... Obama and many of hid supporters are millionaires and billionaires.  They talk the talk, let them walk the walk.  They can volunterily donate to the national debt.  Obama could help just by using his own money to send his wife and kids on world wide vacations instead of using taxpayers money.  They could also stop sending money to foriegn countries.  Stop the State Department and the Pentagon from sending billions of $$ to countries that will never repay and do not even like us.  Use our tax dollars here, stop trying to buy friends, they hate us anyway.

Nov 26, 2012 4:31PM
I hate to have to say this, but Warren Buffet is an idiot. A very wealthy idiot, sure .... but an idiot nevertheless.  I can't believe he doesn't command sufficient math skill to be able to discover (even if he couldn't READ it somewhere) that raising taxes on the wealthy (who already pay the bulk of the taxes collected) will NOT do much at all - practically nothing - to help the government deficit, and will almost certainly harm the economy.  Besides, if this knucklehead thinks he doesn't pay enough in taxes, there is absolutely nothing stopping him from donating whatever he thinks is fair directly to the government of the United States. They already have a section of the IRS set up to take donations.  I can't figure out why he is pandering to us poor folk like this. Maybe Obama has promised him a job as ambassador to Tahiti if he helps him redistribute more wealth.
Nov 26, 2012 4:23PM
.I suggest that a new tax is added to the list ie a tax on charitable gifts. 97% on gifts given to foreign countries and 50% on gifts donated in the u. s. It is about time he paid some tax on his enormaous wealth. He has been wining about every one else he should join us give the money  to the central government.
Nov 26, 2012 4:22PM
People may listen to him if  Berkshire Hathaway paid the 1 BILLION dollars they owe in back taxes. What a loser.
Nov 26, 2012 4:22PM
Warren is a senile old fart who has already made his billions of dollars.  Guessing every one of the companies under the Berkshire Hathaway banner use every legal remedy possible to avoid paying their "fair share".
Nov 26, 2012 4:21PM
Warren Buffet (and all the other liberal 1%ers) should put their money wither their mouth is.  If you don't think you pay enough in taxes, take out your check book and make a check out to the us Treasury for any amount you feel you under pay.  Then an only then can you continue to be a blowhard for Barry's crooks.
Nov 26, 2012 4:20PM
Nov 26, 2012 4:20PM
I believe "Lastest Dispatches" or "Market Watch" is a thing of the past....Sad.
Nov 26, 2012 4:19PM
Buffett and Gates are talking about increasing income tax rates which have little effect on their investment holdings.  
Nov 26, 2012 4:18PM
i haven't even eaten one Twinkie in my life but Nabisco, Keebler or someone else can surely follow a recipe and reproduce it, maybe even a better one.  It must have been really bad at Hostess for the Union bosses to walk away on behalf of 18,000 workers.  Don't you  think we should be more sad and concerned about all those affected families' lives rather than another artery busting snack food?
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