Former AmEx CEO Bashes Buffett's Call For Higher Taxes on Rich

As NewsBusters reported, America's media last week gushed and fawned over billionaire Warren Buffett's call for higher taxes on the rich.

On Monday, Harvey Golub, the former CEO of American Express, responded to the Oracle of Omaha in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that reveals a side of this tax story media refuse to share with the American people:

Now that I'm 72 years old, I can look forward to paying a significant portion of my accumulated wealth in estate taxes to the federal government and, depending on the state I live in at the time, to that state government as well. Of my current income this year, I expect to pay 80%-90% in federal income taxes, state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and federal and state estate taxes. Isn't that enough?

Others could pay higher taxes if they choose. They could voluntarily write a check or they could advocate that their gifts to foundations should be made with after-tax dollars and not be deductible. They could also pay higher taxes if they were not allowed to set up foundations to avoid capital gains and estate taxes.

This was a point MSNBC's Pat Buchanan made on last Monday's "Morning Joe." There is absolutely nothing stopping people like Buffett from paying far higher taxes if they so desire.


If one of the nation's richest men is truly uncomfortable with the idea that those working in his office pay a higher tax rate than he does, he could file his taxes in much the same way they do rather than do everything in his power to pay less.

His complaint is akin to a methamphetamine manufacturer bemoaning the damage his product is doing to the society as he invests in another illegal lab. In both cases, there's a simple solution to soothe the conscience that neither party opts for due to selfish financial reasons.

Yet in the case of Buffett, the media are happy to go along with the charade. Golub isn't:

Today, top earners—the 250,000 people who earn $1 million or more—pay 20% of all income taxes, and the 3% who earn more than $200,000 pay almost half. Almost half of all filers pay no income taxes at all. Clearly they earn less and should pay less. But they should pay something and have a stake in our government spending their money too.

This is potentially the most frustrating aspect of the Left and their media minion's position on this issue.

While Democrats and their press surrogates talk about "shared sacrifice," they completely ignore the close to 50 percent of the country that don't pay any federal income taxes and the small percent that pay almost all of the total collected.

When Obama and Buffett refer to the so-called rich paying "their fair share," making this happen would actually require cutting the top rates rather than raising them.

As we are a nation with a progressive tax code, those that make more are taxed at a higher rate thereby guaranteeing that they are almost always paying more than "their fair share."

Yes, in the case of a very small percentage of Americans who make most of their money through investments, this isn't always the case as our present code taxes income differently than capital gains.

This has been the case for decades as politicians on both sides of the aisle have typically seen the economic benefit of encouraging investment in private and public companies as well as real estate.

Although nobody wants to talk about it, changes to how residential real estate capital gains are taxed had a great deal to do with the explosion in home prices in the previous decade.

If you want to see a real bear market in housing and stocks, tinker with this part of the tax code and watch how quickly investors flee both.

But I digress, for Golub wasn't done:

Why do we require that public projects pay above-market labor costs? Why do we spend billions on trains that no one will ride? Why do we keep post offices open in places no one lives? Why do we subsidize small airports in communities close to larger ones? Why do we pay government workers above-market rates and outlandish benefits? Do we really need an energy department or an education department at all?

Here's my message: Before you "ask" for more tax money from me and others, raise the $2.2 trillion you already collect each year more fairly and spend it more wisely. Then you'll need less of my money.

Indeed.

The reality is that we're largely in this predicament because spending has risen 41 percent in the past four years.

If we spent next year exactly what we did in 2007, we'd have a $200 billion surplus. If we spent what we did in 2007 adjusted for inflation, we'd have less than a $50 billion deficit.

The problem isn't that we tax too little. It is that we spend too much.

More importantly, raising taxes doesn't solve our government's desire to spend. Quite the contrary, it encourages it.

Going back to the illicit drug analogy, we currently have a government hooked on spending. The Left claims the solution is to give it more money.

Isn't that like claiming you can cure a junky's problem by giving him more heroin?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.