Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taxing the Rich -- Has the States Hit a Tipping Point?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taxing the Rich -- Has the States Hit a Tipping Point?

Article excerpt

Byline: James Fenton VIEW FROM AMERICA

[bar] T IS true that the coincidence was embarrassing: Mitt Romney, being pressured by fellow Republicans to publish his tax returns, did so on the same day that Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address, in which he attacked precisely the alleged injustice that those tax returns exemplified. The very rich pay federal taxes at a lower rate than most of the middle class.

But we knew that, surely? We have been reminded of this time and again, most notably by Warren Buffett, who made a point of saying that it was wrong that he, Buffett, should pay tax at a lower rate than his secretary. Indeed, President Obama had already taken up this point, with Buffett's permission, in a big way, formulating a Buffett Rule.

In his keynote speech this week, Obama had planned to make his understanding of the Buffett Rule clear: the richest one per cent should pay, in federal taxes, not less than 30 per cent. To dramatise the message, Buffett's secretary herself, Debbie Bosanek, was invited to sit in on the event, in a place of honour next to the President's wife.

All this must have been discussed and evaluated well in advance of the event, and well before Romney's published returns revealed, hours before the State of the Union speech, that last year he paid just under 14 per cent on an income of $27 million.

Yes, the coincidence was embarrassing.

But was it more embarrassing than usual? I often find myself embarrassed for the Republicans, never more so than when they repeat their hysterical refusal to allow anything other than tax cuts as an answer to society's or the economy's needs. But then I often find myself embarrassed for the Democrats too. Really, political life here can pass in a vortex of embarrassment.

So who is this tweeting? "Romney's tax returns might kill his chances. See Republican establishment panic now." Rupert Murdoch: why should Murdoch feel that an orderly tax return, showing a prudent use of available loopholes, and resulting in a satisfactorily low overall federal tax bill, should kill a rich man's chances of running for the White House? And why the alleged establishment panic? Let us exclude for a moment the real possibility that Murdoch and his own tax advisers took one look at Romney's published figures and saw, as others have, that there is more to come, and that if you were able to look at the candidate's previous years' returns you would find him paying even less, and making more controversial use of, for example, his Swiss bank account, or his Cayman Islands portfolio, or some "deferred interest" boondoggle.

On the presently available evidence, why is it wrong that a man whose income comes from investments rather than his salary (he has no salary) should pay a tax which reflects the well-known fact that income from investments is taxed at a different rate from wages or salary? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.