Friday, December 14, 2007

Sure Warren, I’ll pay more taxes, but only if ...

Warren Buffett has been all over the business press recently suggesting that the very rich, those on the Forbes 400 list, are taxed advantageously to the rest of the workforce. That it makes no sense that his tax bill as a percentage of income is lower than that of his secretary or housekeeper.

He is absolutely right.

It makes absolutely no sense that he, or I should pay a smaller percentage of our income than those who go to work 8 hours a day and have to save as much as they can to afford a vacation every year and stress out about whether or not they can pay their rent, mortgage or college for their kids.Its also wrong that those who must live paycheck to paycheck find themselves paying the same amount of taxes on consumables as the super rich. That eight percent sales tax on life's basic necessities is real-time cash out of pocket, a far greater percentage of income and much more expensive money than the federal taxes we pay the following April 15th.

I would be perfectly fine paying a higher percentage of income, both in federal income taxes and as part of a consumption tax on luxury items. If Warren wants to buy or build a yacht for a hundred million dollars, nail him with a 10 percent federal tax surcharge. If I want to buy a Gulfstream Jet for $40 million, nail me with a 10 percent federal surcharge above and beyond current taxes. There are plenty of items, from jewelry to $100,000-plus cars to $10 million or more first, second and third homes. If you can afford to buy these kind of goodies, and choose to, cough it up.

Will I avoid the Gulfstream or Warren the yacht because of the surcharge? Will I drive a used car instead of my new expensive Lexus Hybrid? Nope. You are rich when you know that money is no good unless you can enjoy it. No one on the Forbes 400 or nearby is going to let a 10 percent increase in the cost of a luxury item get in the way of enjoying the lives they have always dreamed of.

The perspective that Hillary Clinton is offering that $250,000 in annual earnings qualifies you as rich is not only ridiculous but its a huge disincentive to those who work their asses off every day and have accomplished a salary that rewards their hard work. It also will impact millions who can least afford it.

I will tell you who will suffer the most if a "tax increase for the wealthy" starts at only $250,000. The 50-plus-year-old executive who has spent the last 25 to 35 years working his or her butt off to reach a $250,000 annual salary. The 60-year-old executive who is already scared that their job could be eliminated tomorrow and that they have not saved enough for retirement.

Is that who you want to impact Hillary? Men and women who are approaching retirement already in fear of job security and their futures?

Not a good idea.

Instead, go after those of us who are really rich.

I'm OK with paying either higher taxes at my level of income OR paying a consumption tax on luxury items that cost more than the $250,000 threshold that Hillary thinks is the level of income that defines rich. But my agreement to pay more taxes comes with a caveat.

Right now I hate paying taxes because I feel like I'm giving money to a known crack addict. However much you give, it's not enough. They will buy their crack, get a short term high and soon be back asking for more.

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