Voluntary Taxes? Obama Will 'Ask the Rich' to Pay More, Claims New York Times

Sunday’s lead New York Times story by White House correspondent Jackie Calmes pushed the president’s new plan to raise taxes on “the wealthy.” The president, in what the Times seems to think is a bright idea, is calling his proposal the “Buffett rule,” after the billionaire who made waves with his complaint, printed in the Times, that uber-wealthy investors like him were not being taxed enough. Here is the stack of headlines: “Obama Tax Plan Would Ask More Of Millionaires – Called ‘Buffett Rule’ – Populist Sales Pitch to Press the G.O.P. in Budget Talks.”

Why write “Ask More of Millionaires”? Are these tax increases going to be voluntary?

President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials.

....

Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule,” in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

Mr. Obama will not specify a rate or other details, and it is unclear how much revenue his plan would raise. But his idea of a millionaires’ minimum tax will be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House on Monday.

Mr. Obama’s proposal is certain to draw opposition from Republicans, who have staunchly opposed raising taxes on the affluent because, they say, it would discourage investment. It could also invite scrutiny from some economists who have disputed Mr. Buffett’s assertion that the megarich pay a lower tax rate over all. Mr. Buffett’s critics say many of the rich actually make more from wages than from investments.
 

Note this paragraph, because you’ll see it again:


The Obama proposal has little chance of becoming law unless Republican lawmakers bend. But by focusing on the wealthiest Americans, the president is sharpening the contrast between Republicans and Democrats with a theme he can carry into his bid for re-election in 2012.

Calmes at least challenged the Buffett premise:

In 2007, when Mr. Buffett made news with his complaints about tax inequities, N. Gregory Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard who was an adviser to President George W. Bush, disputed Mr. Buffett.

Mr. Mankiw, who now advises Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, said that unlike Mr. Buffett and others who live on investment income taxed at 15 percent, millionaires typically pay the 35 percent marginal rate on their salaries, bonuses and business income. Even Mr. Buffett probably paid a higher effective rate than he claimed, Mr. Mankiw added, because much of his income came from corporate income that had been taxed before it was paid out to individuals.
 

Monday’s lead story by Helene Cooper had more details of Obama’s tax hikes on “the wealthy,” and repeated the silly “Ask the Rich” formulation: “President’s Plan On Deficit Mixes Cuts And Taxes – Foes See Class Warfare – Trimming Entitlements and Asking the Rich to Pay More.”
 

Mr. Obama’s proposal is certain to receive sharp criticism from Congressional Republicans, who on Sunday were already taking apart one element of the proposal that the administration let out early: the so-called Buffett Rule. The rule -- named for the billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett, who has complained that he is taxed at a lower rate than his employees -- calls for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers.

That proposal, which was disclosed on Saturday, was met with derision Sunday by Republican lawmakers, who said it amounted to “class warfare” and a political tactic intended to portray his opponents as indifferent to the hardships facing middle-class Americans.

Then Cooper demonstrated that both great minds and Times reporters think alike, as a paragraph in her article -- in bold below -- was identical to one that appeared in Calmes’s story on Sunday. (Perhaps it was inserted by a copy editor.)

Liberal-leaning organizations were rallying behind Mr. Obama’s proposals on Sunday.

“The report that the president is planning to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay taxes at a higher rate than their secretaries pay is welcome news that will be wildly popular with voters,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive center, in a statement. “We applaud the president for heeding the advice from progressives that he go big on his jobs plan.”

The Obama proposal has little chance of becoming law unless Republican lawmakers bend. But by focusing on the wealthiest Americans, the president is sharpening the contrast between Republicans and Democrats with a theme he can carry into his bid for re-election in 2012.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ