Multiple times in recent weeks, President Obama has justified the need for higher taxes by saying that Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Of course, this is a preposterous talking point (especially since Buffett owes hefty amounts of back taxes going back nine years). This morning, avowed Obama "sap" David Brooks makes the point that this is an unserious argument that reeks of liberal politicking:
He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)
This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it.
And right on cue, the Associated Press also hammers Obama on this point:
The data tell a different story. On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.
Obama may continue to campaign on the disingenuous soak-the-rich rhetoric, but the facts mean it's probably not going to be as persuasive as he'd like.