What the heck is the Buffett Rule, continued!


Third time may be the charm: In this morning’s New York Times, readers are given two separate accounts of the Buffett Rule. See our earlier post.

Since the rule will soon be voted on, it might be time to figure out what the heck it is. According to Salon’s Andrew Leonard, this is the formulation which will be voted on:
LEONARD (4/11/12): The Paying A Fair Share Act of 2012 would create “a minimum effective tax rate for high-income taxpayers.” Regardless of whether their income derived from long term capital gains, dividends, wages, or salary, Americans earning over $2 million a year would be required to pay a tax rate equal to 30 percent of their total income. Americans earning between $1-2 million would pay a graduated rate approaching 30 percent.
Leonard even offers a link to the legislation. For the sake of argument, we will assume he’s right.

Having made that assumption, who was right in this morning’s Times—the editors or reporter Jackie Calmes?

If Leonard is right, they both were wrong. (You could argue that Calmes’ account was technically accurate though grossly misleading.) Meanwhile, Leonard offers a range of estimates of how much revenue the act would produce: $47 billion to $160 billion in new revenue over ten years, he says. This morning, the editors kept it simple; “an estimated $50 billion,” they said.

What are the chances of passage? “Zero,” Leonard reports.


  1. I agree with Leonard. Zero chance that this passes.

    Also the Volcker Rule will almost certainly be watered-down to the point of irrelevance, though it won't be eliminated entirely because Volcker is too well-respected.

  2. In the tradition of the howler and to be precise

    The bill has no chance of getting the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster. An actual vote on the bill itself is unlikely

  3. I've tried to get an answer on another site, so far to no avail, so I'll try here. How come in all this talk about the Buffett rule, nobody even bothers to mention the Alternative Minimum Tax? Isn't that supposed to prevent millionaires getting away with 15% taxes paid, and how would the Buffett rule change that?

  4. Remember when the democrats had a sixty seat majority in the Senate in Obama's first term? They didn't even try to fix the capitol gains tax loophole. Heck, they couldn't even achieve the extremely modest step of raising the highest income tax bracket to Clinton era levels. Therefore, there's no reason either of these things will happen in the next ten years.

    We need to start asking why our government is so hopelessly paralyzed, and what can done to fix the problem. Simply electing democrats just isn't working.

    1. Oh, you mean that in addition to preventing the Second Great Depression, rescuing the automobile industry from the brink of extinction, winding down the War in Iraq, passing the nation's first national health care plan, demolishing Al Quaeda and killing Osama bin Laden, toppling Ghadafi, Obama didn't do everything else you wanted him to and solve every problem the nation has in his first two years?

      Boo hoo.

    2. Actually, it's very true that "simply electing Democrats" isn't working.

      When you point to a 60 seat majority, a logical question would be "Why couldn't "The Democrats" get more done with that?"

      And the answer would likely involve the fact that many of those Democrats came from states that are quite strongly Republican -- quite a few of those Democrats had very "conservative" constituents.

      The chances of getting them to line up with Obama's agenda (to the extent he actually had one), never mind a really left or progressive agenda were exactly two: Slim and None.

      There are probably better ways to design a structure of government to thwart progress, but the Senate and the Electoral College are pretty damn good at it!

      So maybe those are some reasons why "our government is so hopelessly paralyzed."

      But change in the wrong (IMO) direction is much easier. It's always a piece of cake to cut taxes on the rich, for example. Never too hard to start a war.

      Those things play well, even with people who won't benefit from the tax cut (or who will be screwed later, when the programs funded by the taxes get cut), or who will fight and die for no reason (or who will later be be appalled by the blowback from our "successes" like Libya, or Iraq).

      I think I have to agree more with 6:29 Anonymous: we DO need to fix our government.

      Not enough of 7:36 Anonymous' list are really successes of any measure. "Toppling Ghadafi?" Really? This strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to celebrate -- a war of choice, establishing an uncertain future, with ethnic-based killing that we've hardly paid attention to.

      "Winding down the War in Iraq" is hardly an Obama achievement anyway -- it was more or less in the cards already -- and he fought *against* Iraq's successful attempt to make us stick to our withdrawal!

      I'd be wary of premature celebration w/r/t the "demolishing" of terror networks as well.

      It's just not a question of "are we sufficiently grateful for the great things our Presidents achieve." The flip side if that is that is is all to easy to cite many ways in which Obama has, where his hands were free, pursued exactly the wrong agenda (please see Glen Greenwald, e.g. for specifics).

      At bottom, the US government is not particularly responsible to the needs of its citizens, as versus the wishes of its owners. And this is, sadly, by design.