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.

More from Top Stocks

Nov 26, 2012 4:16PM
  Amazing the outrage so many feel about making these very wealthy pay more even though none that show this outrage have any chance of aquiring such wealth. To disagree is one thing but the anger expressed by those on the right at the thought these super wealthy people might have to again pay half what they did 30 years ago is rediculous. They parrot Limbaugh who is one of those super wealthy people himself. Paying a 30% rate wouldn't put them in bread lines.
Nov 26, 2012 4:16PM

Very Good Active,.....Yes they always want to take it out on the 47%...

I believe the Election spoke mulititudes.....As it will again in 2014.

Nov 26, 2012 4:15PM
I'm in full agreement with the Buffet Tax Raise on the super-rich.  If the report above is true and I am pretty sure that it is, 15% to 20% tax on the super-rich is not enough.  I understand they have lavish lifestyles and their mortgages, exotic cars, clothes payments are way high compared to the regular people of America, but they need to carry the tax burden along with the middle class.  Hey, 30% of 1 million still leaves you with 700K.  I'll take than any day!

1 Million and Up @ 30%
250 K to 999K @ 27.5%
100K to 249K @ 25%
50K to 99K @ 23%
20K to 49K @ 20%
20K below @ 10%

How does that sound to everyone... It's not that difficult Washington.  Just make it happen!
Nov 26, 2012 4:12PM
JEB.......ahh, I mean James E....?  You are on the WRONG FORUM.
Nov 26, 2012 4:09PM
You people are all crazy.  Hostess will be back with all new management and new employees with the exception of hiring some of them back.  They want to start a new.  Get rid of the Union and all the people that are slackers,trouble makers,and been there many years and high salaries.  All plants do this to get rid of union and trash.  So they'll be back with in less then a year.  Personnally I don't like Hostess cupcakes,they are dry,very,very little cream filling in them,and too expensive.  They also down sized the size of them. I used to love them and they had the best ever one called,"lil angel cakes"  they stop making them.  The twinkies are tasteless,dry, little cream filling and I won't by them if they come back on the shelf again.  I will stick to my little Debbie and Nickles brands.
Nov 26, 2012 4:08PM

Delmar....It's not just about taxing the Rich....The tax maize has to be changed or adjusted to a more workable solution...Yes the Rich are not going to make a huge dent, but will make a difference over a longer period of time...

I don't know about a "spending freeze"...SPENDING HAS TO BE CUT ALSO...


And offshore monies should be hunted down and taxed at a rate comparable to low dividend or maybe even interest rates...Capital gains are already very low AT THIS TIME FRAME.

That's part of the disgusting practice of the Elite...

Nov 26, 2012 4:07PM
Government needs to take a pay cut.  Like everything else these days, we paying high level government employees too much for too little.  No more pay raises until the federal debt is eliminated!  Twenty percent pay cut across the board effective immediately for those making $120k or more a year.
Nov 26, 2012 4:05PM
It's about frick'n time someone took aim at Glover Norquist. It looks like the Republicans are starting to defect. I'd think the Republican's pledge to uphold the laws of the United States would be more important than a pledge to uphold the greed of the wealthy Robmes.
Nov 26, 2012 3:53PM
Thanks Warren Buffett for standing up to Grover Norquist.
Nov 26, 2012 3:49PM
so what I am seeing is that if you win the 425 million lottery you want except it or mabe just give it away to needy or maybe donate to the government so they can us your money wisely.
Nov 26, 2012 3:44PM

Let's first get rid of the 15% max tax on the millionaires and billionaires hedge fund profiteers who bought the US congress to give them this incredible deal.  You make 10-100 million salary or you make 10-100 million gaming the stock market, you pay the same rate.

Stop the Hostess hedge fund scams, You decide to buy a cash/pension rich company, you get a JP or GS or bank to back you on paper. You raid the cash and pension millions, load up the business with debt to keep running for a while, go bankrupt, put thousands out of work, put unemployment payment millions burden on states, have US taxpayers through federal law, take up paying the unfunded pensions, sell or license brand names for tens of millions and then pay only maybe 15% max tax or less if you structured it through another offshore deal. Sweet isn't it?

Thought for the day" Do you think now Romney will redo his 2011 taxes where he only took deduction for some of his charity deductions so that he could say he never paid less than 15% in taxes and now redo and get the other millions back?"



Nov 26, 2012 3:39PM

Citizens these rich perverts need to be blasted out of their seats, they are there doing nothing while the american citizens are hungry. We need to get these worthless removed. We have these Tea Party in the House of Representatives because worthless opportunist like Palin and her promotion of these low class members. They are back because of some Republican control States voted to bring some of these Tea Party back to oppose Obama, while hurting all our citizens jobs and progress. This need to stop, next time make sure these rich pile of junk will not return to destroy America while they enjoy big pay, and 10 months vacation a year!

We are awaiting impatiently the coming Fiscal Cliff confrontation with the President versus the House of Representatives. It’s imperative the rich pay a little more money in tax to improve our economy, and to help pay our Fiscal Debt. The people want now for The House of Representatives to make America a better place to live, to pay our Nation Bills to correct the deficit! And then, of course! President Obama, may needs to get ready to clip for last time, Boehner wings. We think, one way or another, Boehner, Ryan, Cantor will return to the old times tricks of bartering one goods for another, like many times before, but we the people aren’t going to be the losers this time, all that past abuse was very humiliating to our citizens, you, and all your followers Tea Party and Republican Members in the House, so many members with poor conscience, and careless for the future of our country. You, and the full House members have obstructed the President too much, too many times, much too far! Boehner, keep playing hero is telling the president how to fix the economy. Listen you all, one more time it’s getting old, and we, all of us, millions of us, are waiting impatiently for the fairness created by our president with this new Congress. We are here, all of us, late at night, awaiting in front of our TV sets, the final results of the efforts from yours/our president Obama, to dismantled the infernal machine of your House of Representatives budget locks, and he will cut your engines power, with all of you aboard members, all of you have a good live with millions, you’re all rich, but the country is very poor, you have grown with the dollars provided by the sweat and work from our backs. You all have purposely with you apathy for the needs of our nation hunger induced by you all, a systemic cruel land of no jobs for the American people. You all Tea party and Republican members are the abusers, continuous negation to work for the people, by the people, and only for the people, and in 2014, we will let all of you feel the powerful winds of anger from all the guts of the millions American citizens that will not take it again from you, or anyone like you! We have too much hunger in our country, and you need to help now!


Taxing the rich will benefit our deficit for a few days.   We need a spending freeze.  We may have to go cold turkey, but we need to get our spending under control   Why not just let the Cliff come and what happens, happens???


There isn't anyone that can't agree we can and should be taxed by the Gov'ts, both State and Federal, but what people are offended by is the amount of people not paying anything towards their own country.  


They are along for the free ride.  That has to stop.  We as a nation are already good Samaritans, but to help those that can help themselves is a travesty against the rest of us.

Nov 26, 2012 3:26PM

Quit being jealous, Mirage....Cut loose with some of those bucks...

Sounds like Buffet is ready?


And don't come back with, that you are not jealous; That would be absurd..

Nov 26, 2012 3:22PM

Yup....I can agree along with just about anything Warren says about the subject...

Most Americans should.

Nov 26, 2012 3:16PM
Hey Buffet, according to the IRS, you owe 308 million in back taxes.  You are a hypocrite telling us the 'rich' should pay more all the while fighting tooth and nail to pay what YOU ALREADY OWE...

What a complete moron, he must be a democrat...
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

125 rated 1
264 rated 2
485 rated 3
679 rated 4
640 rated 5
617 rated 6
632 rated 7
493 rated 8
276 rated 9
153 rated 10

Top Picks

TAT&T Inc9



Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.