ABC Trumpets ‘Fairness’ of Obama’s ‘Buffett Rule’ Tax Hike Quest

“President Obama has declared it is time to take action on taxes because people in the middle class are paying a larger percentage of income tax than the super-rich,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer announced Monday night without bothering to note, as neither did CBS nor NBC, that the super-rich are already paying a disproportionate share of income taxes.

ABC reporter Bianna Golodryga, who is married to former Obama OMB chief Peter Orszag, assured Sawyer that Obama would not raise taxes immediately, but insisted “the more secure a plan is right now the better it will be in the long run.” (For who?) Sawyer, as if there is a rebound now: “So let the recovery continue?” Golodryga: “Continue now, but have a plan in place to raise taxes over the next few years.” Sawyer related: “They say for fairness.”

Golodryga began by touting:

Today, an unassuming secretary who lives in Omaha and happens to work for billionaire Warren Buffett may be the arbiter of what is fair and not in America. Buffett, worth $50 billion, recently expressed outrage that under the American tax code, he paid just 17.4 percent of his income in taxes while his secretary paid double that rate at 33 percent.

She saw nothing but popularity and more justified revenue for the government in Obama’s plan:

They proposed a new rule, the Buffett Rule, which would require millionaires to pay the same rate as middle class Americans. So is it fair for the richest to pay at a lower rate? Some 72 percent of Americans say no. They support higher taxes on folks who earn more than $250,000 a year to help reduce the deficit. So how much money would we raise if millionaires and billionaires were required to pay the top tax rate of 35 percent? Based on IRS figures from last year, the new rule would add some $37 billion a year to the nation's coffers.

One wonders if that is simple static analysis or takes into account what the wealthiest would do to reduce the percent of their wealth subject to the higher rate?

Unlike the stories on ABC, CBS, and NBC, over on FNC’s Special Report, Ed Henry pointed out: “IRS data shows the top one percent, with adjusted gross income of at least $380,000, already paid 38 percent of the total income tax in 2008.”

Later in the program, during the panel, Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard observed:

Remember back when the Republicans brought up health care repeal for a vote? Everybody in the media called it a political stunt said this is crazy, there’s no chance of it passing, the President is never going to sign it, this is a political stunt. Now, when the President does something that’s manifestly a political stunt, you have the media asking questions about the substance of a proposal that we know is never, ever going to pass.

Indeed, CBS and NBC led with Obama’s political stunt.

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley began by stressing how the public agrees with Obama’s approach:

Good evening. President Obama called today for one and a half trillion dollars in new taxes to reduce the deficit, but the Republican leadership said in effect read their lips and, well, you know the rest. With that the Campaign 2012 battle over taxes has begun. Our latest CBS News/New York Times poll finds that most Americans agree with the President on one thing. When we asked whether budget deficit reduction should include both tax increases and spending cuts, overall 71 percent said yes. And among Republicans, 57 percent agreed.

On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams opened:

The President’s thinking appears to be this: We’re in a recession with rampant unemployment. The government needs money. Rich folks have done well and have a lot of money and need to pay more of their fair share in taxes. The President even invoked the name of a famous billionaire to help make his case. Well, that's where the Republicans come in. They have made it very clear they won't have it, and they insist it would be the best way to hurt the economy and slow down growth and investment. So on another issue as basic as taxes and who should pay what, the split right down the middle was very clear today.

From August 15: “Networks Embrace Buffett’s Call for Higher Taxes on ‘Mega-Rich,’ ABC Salivates Over Spending It

The story on the Monday, September 19 ABC World News:

DIANE SAWYER: The billionaire and his secretary who have ignited a giant battle about taxing the rich in America. President Obama has declared it is time to take action on taxes because people in the middle class are paying a larger percentage of income tax than the super-rich and he said he wants Congress to close the loopholes and create a minimum tax the rich must pay.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share on taxes or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay for Medicare. We can't afford to do both. This is not class warfare. It's math.

SAWYER: And tonight we'll beak it down with three big questions. Do Americans think it's fair to raise taxes on the rich? How much money will that bring in and the big question, will it help or hurt job creation in America? ABC's Bianna Golodryga begins it all with the billionaire and his secretary who lit the fuse on the whole fiery debate.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Today, an unassuming secretary who lives in Omaha and happens to work for billionaire Warren Buffett may be the arbiter of what is fair and not in America. Buffett, worth $50 billion, recently expressed outrage that under the American tax code, he paid just 17.4 percent of his income in taxes while his secretary paid double that rate at 33 percent.

WARREN BUFFETT: I don't think our tax system is very equitable



GOLODRYGA: The reason for this difference is that she has a regular job and gets a simple paycheck, while he gets tax breaks because of his high-flying investment income. Enter the White House today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million.

GOLODRYGA: They proposed a new rule, the Buffett rule, which would require millionaires to pay the same rate as middle class Americans. So is it fair for the richest to pay at a lower rate? Some 72 percent of Americans say no. They support higher taxes on folks who earn more than $250,000 a year to help reduce the deficit. So how much money would we raise if millionaires and billionaires were required to pay the top tax rate of 35 percent? Based on IRS figures from last year, the new rule would add some $37 billion a year to the nation's coffers.

CLINT STRETCH, DELOITTE TAX LLP: There is an opportunity to raise a fair amount of money there, but it's not going to be the way that we solve a $4 trillion or $5 trillion deficit problem.

GOLODRYGA: Republicans say the increase in tax revenues could come at a high cost, American jobs.

CONGRESS PAUL RYAN, ON FOX NEWS SUNDAY: It will attack job-creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy.

SAWYER, TO GOLODRYGA: So, what is the White House answer to that, that it would hurt job creation?

GOLODRYGA: Well, all experts say right now that the White House shouldn’t come out – the White House even says that they’re not going to come out and raise taxes any time soon. This would be a plan that would go into effect the next few years, but the more secure a plan is right now the better it will be in the long run.

SAWYER: So let the recovery continue?

GOLODRYGA: Continue now, but have a plan in place to raise taxes over the next few years.

SAWYER: They say for fairness. Okay, thank you, Bianna.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center