Who Does Warren Buffett Think He’s Kidding?

Warren Buffett wants his taxes raised.  Now, in my mind anyone who wants their taxes raised is numbskull stupid.  Consider how government wastes your tax dollars and you’ll have to agree.  We have a $14 trillion dollar accumulated deficit that arose seemingly out of nowhere, with a quickness never before imagined.  It will rise another $1.3 trillion this fiscal year alone.  The government spends only a small part of the money it takes from us on the things we really need government to do for us — roads, police and fire, national defense, etc.  The bulk of the money the government confiscates from taxpayers and spends benefits the few at the expense of the many so that if all that spending were stopped in its tracks the only thing the most of us would notice is that our taxes just went down and our liberty went up, by a lot.

Buffett probably did not accumulate his multiple billion dollar fortune by being stupid.  But his stated reason for wanting his taxes raised turns out to be false.  He says his secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does.  Only thing is, he’s wrong about that.  The rich in America, like Buffett, actually pay the overwhelming majority of all taxes collected by the government.  Never mind facts, Buffett can believe whatever he wants but if he chooses to believe his secretary is getting hosed by the government, why doesn’t he just give her a raise?  Or why doesn’t he call for her taxes to be lowered?  Neither of those things is on his mind.  So what is he really up to?

When Charlie Rose pointed out to Buffett that even if the government confiscated all of  the wealth of people like him the math doesn’t compute.  It’s not enough money to clear the deficit for even one year and the government could only do that one time because then Buffett and all like him would be in the poor house. Buffett replied with an answer that opens a window into his psyche:  “I don’t think that what I’m talking about on taxes solves the deficit gap at all. But I think fairness is important.”

Ah, fairness.  It’s not just for children anymore.  It’s also for head-up-their-asses billionaires.

If you have as much wealth as Buffett, what can you buy with it that you haven’t already bought?  Certainly, there are no material things that will excite you anymore because you already own all those.  We know money can’t buy you love, so….wait a minute.  That’s it.  Love, admiration, attention and self-aggrandizement.  Maybe that is what Buffett hopes to get out of his buffoonish calls for Obama to raise his taxes, and everyone else’s making over $200,000 a year as well [that’s the level at which Obama considers you to be a “millionaire.”]  But wait you say, anyone as rich as Buffett is surrounded by sycophants, what does he want with more of the same.  Yes, Buffett and his ilk are surrounded by people who profess to believe in his immortal greatness, but their phoniness becomes transparent and gets tiresome fairly quickly.  Genuine belief by others in one’s greatness usually cannot be had by financial success alone, cannot be bought with one’s money.  But one’s money might find other ways to get it, such as adopting a stance of self sacrifice for the common good.  I have a lot of money, I want to do good with it.  That’s why rich people establish foundations named after them and donate their money to causes that spend it in ways that do more harm than good in the world.

Like everyone else in his class, Buffett probably already has a trophy foundation, he needs something more.  He needs to be seen as a savior, to be remembered like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Whitney, etc., the great philanthropists of the 19th and early 20th century.  He’s already given billions to education, medical research, family planning (i.e., abortion) so he will be remembered as a philanthropist, if not by all at least by liberals.  Maybe more is needed for true immortality. A rich guy committed to…fairness!  That’s where immortality lies for an 81-year old multiple billionaire.

He is taking a risk.  He might just be remembered for allowing his name to be associated with expanding an already bloated government that gobbles up the prosperity of its most productive citizens and doles it out in ways that make more and more people dependent on government handouts, destroying their aspiration to achieve the American dream.

There may be other more practical reasons for Buffett’s supposed generosity, that have nothing to do with any idea of “fairness” and everything to do with his attempting to advance his own peculiar self interest.  See for example, The Buffett Tax Gambit by Ira Stoll.  Mr. Stoll suggests we should consider the “Buffett Rule” in another way.  By framing the fiscal debate on the tax rate of millionaires Buffett and his allies in politics avoid the debate of other questions, such as:

• Who should allocate capital, the people who earned it and own it, or the politicians in Washington as influenced by their lobbyists and campaign contributor cronies?

• How did we accumulate $14 trillion in debt so rapidly, and what are the consequences of that?

• How and why has federal spending grown to $3.8 trillion in 2011 from $1.8 trillion in 2000?

A debate over millionaire tax rates, which can hardly hurt anyone as rich as Buffett, is the debate they prefer to questions such as those above.  Read all of Ira Stoll’s excellent article for more explanation of what Buffett might really be up to.

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