Following President Obama's introduction of a plan for “economic growth and deficit reduction,” the right-wing media have rushed to defend the rich from the proposed tax increases. However, the one rich person they are not defending is Warren Buffett, a billionaire who has argued that the country's wealthiest individuals should no longer be “coddled” by a “billionaire-friendly Congress” and should instead pay higher taxes.
Obama Bases Tax Proposal On Buffett's Call To Stop “Coddl[ing]” The Rich
Warren Buffett: “It's Time For Our Government To Get Serious About Shared Sacrifice.” In a New York Times op-ed, Warren Buffett, one of America's richest men, called on the U.S. government to increase tax rates on the wealthy, claiming that he and his friends “ha[d] been coddled long enough by billionaire-friendly Congress.” From The New York Times:
Last year my federal tax bill -- the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf -- was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income -- and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine -- most likely by a lot.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. [The New York Times, 8/14/11]
Obama Cited Buffett's Argument In Proposal For Millionaires And Billionaires To “Pay Their Fair Share.” From “Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction”:
And the plan calls for the Congress to undertake comprehensive tax reform that lowers tax rates, closes loopholes, boosts job creation here at home, cuts the deficit by $1.5 trillion, and observes the Buffett Rule -- that people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay. To assist the Committee in its work, I also included specific tax loophole closers and measures to broaden the tax base. Together with the expiration of the high-income tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, these measures would be more than enough to reach this $1.5 trillion target. [WhiteHouse.gov, September 2011]
Right-Wing Media Jump To Defend The Rich While Criticizing Warren Buffett
Limbaugh: “I Would Be Embarrassed ... If Someone Wanted To Name A Tax Increase After Me.” During his radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated:
LIMBAUGH: Mr. Buffett, and I've met Mr. Warren Buffett twice at his golf tournament, although I didn't play with him. He wouldn't play at his charity golf tournament. He's very nice. He's a funny individual. At the time I met him he was on this big estate tax kick, and he's still on it. And Mr. Buffett, I just have an observation, maybe a question. You've done very well. You are one of the wealthiest men in the world, and now look at the high honor that has been bestowed upon you: your name attached to a tax increase. That's -- I would be embarrassed. I would not allow it. I would disassociate my -- if someone wanted to name a tax increase after me, ain't no way, especially, Mr. Buffett, this tax increase is on people that are not millionaires, and they're not billionaires.
And you're going to be remembered as much for this as anything else -- the Buffett Tax Increase, the Buffett Rule, and all this happens while you still owe the federal government a billion dollars you're still haggling over. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/19/11, via Fox Nation]
Fox's Dennis Kneale: Warren Buffett Is “A Hypocrite” And This Is “Not His Business.” From the September 19 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
DENNIS KNEALE (Fox Business senior correspondent): The top one percent pay 40 percent of all federal income tax even though they get only 19 percent of the income. They pay 40 percent of the federal income tax. They pay 28 percent roughly of all federal taxes, of all kinds when you add them together. How much do you want, sir? How much is enough? This is clearly class warfare. And when you then bring in Warren Buffett, who is worth $50 billion, and you use him to justify raising a tax on millionaires -- understand, a millionaire, a guy who earns a million dollars a year would have to work for 50,000 years to get the wealth that Warren Buffett has. I don't want Warren Buffett deciding that that millionaire has to pay higher taxes. It's not his business.
Worse -- he's a hypocrite. He wants the government to collect more tax. Why is it that when he dies he will take his entire foundation fortune which would provide billions of dollars to the government and instead he's going to give it to Bill Gates' Foundation so that the government doesn't touch a penny of it? How is it that his company, though it reaps billions, it pays very low in taxes? You know what, he's allowed to do that. He should do that. We should hold onto as much of our money as we can. We'll make the economy better not worse. This plan's going in the wrong direction in every way, I fear. [Fox News, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, 9/19/11]
Fox Business' Charlie Gasparino: Buffett Is “A Very Good Investor Who Has Tremendous Blind Spots.” From the September 19 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CHARLIE GASPARINO (Fox Business senior correspondent): I think it's hypocritical that Warren Buffett was the brain child of this. Of all people, a man who has already made his billions, came up with this cockamamie plan to tax millionaires now.
NEIL CAVUTO (host): Well, because he famously said he was paying a higher rate than his -- his secretary was paying a higher rate than him.
GASPARINO: Guess what? The Buffett Plan -- Orwellian name for this thing, the Buffett Plan, they don't want to call it a tax, I will call it the Buffett tax -- doesn't hit Mr. Buffett. It hits everybody else -- entrepreneurs, small businesses, people that make a million dollars, who by the way, when they make a million dollars they spend a lot of money to keep working class people employed.
I don't know where to begin on this. You know, Warren Buffett is embraced by the mainstream media as some sort of god, but when you look at his record, he's a kind of a -- he's a very good investor who has tremendous blind spots. Famously came out in favor of Moody's and S&P, said that they didn't cause the financial crisis when we all know -- and by the way they did, and he had an investment in Moody's. Defended David Sokol, one of his fund managers on one of the sleaziest trades I've ever seen. The guy bought stock recommended in a company that he recommended that Buffett buy and made $3 million after Buffett bought the company -- defended that.
CAVUTO: So you think this guy -- attaching his name to it isn't quite the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
GASPARINO: Not anymore. I think, and this is proof positive. Remember, Warren Buffett has made his millions and billions. Why does he care about people that are striving for that? [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/19/11]
Fox Panel: Buffett Is A “Hypocrite” Who “Wants To Punish People After He Became A Billionaire.” Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted a panel to weigh in on Obama's economic growth and deficit reduction plan. Two members of the panel attacked Buffett with one individual saying Buffett is a “hypocrite” who “wants to punish people after he became a billionaire.” From Lou Dobbs Tonight:
TITO MUNOZ (small business owner): This is not about cutting the deficit. This is basically about taxing people -- American people so they can cover the big government creation under the Obama umbrella. And I think this is class warfare, like same situation from the start of this administration. And the American people are the creators of the economy. They are the creators of opportunity and jobs in America. And we have to reward those people. We have to reward people who really work hard, who invest their future, their pain, their intelligence into the market so they could make more jobs for everybody here in this country.
And Obama what he's doing is destroying that initiative, destroying the freedoms of the people to grow better in America. And I think what he's doing is he's taxing people to the max and Buffett, I think Buffett is another hypocrite because he made big money in the 80s under the Reagan administration, cut taxes, and low tax revenues from the area, and now he wants to punish people after he became a billionaire. I don't know.
LORI ROTHMAN (guest host): Alright, let me let Joyce come in here. What is your fundamental thinking on raising taxes to cut the deficit?
JOYCE KAUFMAN (radio talk show host): Well, it never works. When you raise taxes, you stop production, you stop the producer class from having any incentive to do better. Warren Buffett is free to pay as much as he wants in taxes. He can go to the IRS.gov website and give as much of his money as he wants to. He might start by paying that almost a billion dollars that Berkshire Hathaway has been wrangling with the IRS for about the last couple of years. When he gets that cleaned up then we'll talk about taxes.
ROTHMAN: Fair point. Alright Steve, last word. What are you hearing from your listeners?
STEVE COCHRAN (radio talk show host): Well, I think people are generally caught up in the whole part of the labels here. I mean, I like Warren Buffett. He's an incredibly generous guy, but the reason he paid 15 percent as opposed to what his secretary paid is because he took advantage of the exact loopholes he's talking about. But people aren't hearing that. What people are hearing is that they're being taken for granted and that successful people are jobbing the system. This needs to open a debate on absolutely finally, not just talk, changing the tax code. The tax code is the enemy, not the folks that are successful. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/19/11]
With The Exception Of Buffett, The Right-Wing Media Is Busy Defending The Rich
Following The Announcement Of Obama's Plan, The Right-Wing Media Leaped To The Defense Of The Rich. On the day Obama announced his plan, members of the right-wing media made the following statements in an attempt to shield the rich from paying higher taxes:
- Fox & Friends' Doocy: “These Taxes Will Go Onto The Shoulders Of The Job Creators.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]
- Fox's Camerota: “Is The White House Inciting Class Warfare?” On the September 18 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Alisyn Camerota asked if the White House is “inciting class warfare.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 9/18/11, via Media Matters]
- Majority Of Fox Panel Agrees That Poor, Middle Class Should Be The Ones Paying More Of Their Fair Share. During a panel discussion on Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard, a majority of panelists agreed that Obama “ha[d] the wrong sense of fairness going” and advocated that the bottom 50 percent of tax payers should be forced to have some “skin in the game” and have their taxes hiked. [Fox Business, America's Nightly Scoreboard, 9/19/11 via Media Matters]
- Bill O'Reilly: “If You Tax Achievement, Some Of The Achievers Are Going To Pack It In.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]
- Fox's Brit Hume: “If [Income] Inequality Is At A Very Much Higher Level Who Cares?” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]
- Neil Cavuto: Ad By Millionaires Supporting Tax On Millionaires Is “Taking Class Warfare Viral.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]
- Rush Limbaugh: Obama's Tax Plan Is “Specifically And Purposely Class Warfare.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/19/11, via Media Matters]