The Wall Street Journal assesses Obama’s claims about the Buffett Tax.
Forget Warren Buffett, or whatever other political prop the White House wants to use for its tax agenda. This week the Administration officially endorsed what in essence is the Obama Rule: Taxes must be high simply to spread the wealth, never mind the impact on the economy or government revenue. It’s all about “fairness,” baby.
This was long apparent to those fated to closely watch the 2008 campaign, but some voters might have missed the point amid the gauzy rhetoric about hope and change. Now we know without any doubt. White House aides made it official Tuesday in their on-the-record briefing on the new federal minimum tax that travels under the political alias known as the “Buffett rule.”
The policy goal is to impose an effective minimum tax of 30% on the income of anyone who makes more than $1 million a year. When President Obama first proposed this new minimum tax he declared that the rule “could raise enough money” so that we “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade.”
Then he added: “This is not politics; this is math.” Well, remedial math maybe.
The Obama Treasury’s own numbers confirm that the tax would raise at most $5 billion a year—or less than 0.5% of the $1.2 trillion fiscal 2012 budget deficit and over the next decade a mere 0.1% of the $45.43 trillion the federal government will spend. When asked about those revenue projections, White House aide Jason Furman backpedaled from Mr. Obama’s rationale by explaining that the tax was never intended “to bring the deficit down and the debt under control.”
So if it doesn’t do what Obama says it’s supposed to do, what would really do?
The Buffett rule is really nothing more than a sneaky way for Mr. Obama to justify doubling the capital gains and dividend tax rate to 30% from 15% today. That’s the real spread-the-wealth target. The problem is that this is a tax on capital that is needed for firms to grow and hire more workers. Mr. Obama says he wants an investment-led recovery, not one led by consumption, but how will investment be spurred by doubling the tax on it?
The only investment and hiring the Buffett rule is likely to spur will be outside the United States—in China, Germany, India, and other competitors with much more investment-friendly tax regimes. The Buffett rule would give the U.S. the fourth highest capital gains rate among OECD nations, according to a new study by Ernst & Young, to go along with what is now the highest corporate tax rate (a little under 40% for the combined federal and average state rate). That’s what happens when politicians pursue fairness over growth.
When you make it less attractive for people with capital to invest their capital here at home then they will take their capital and invest it abroad. What Obama’s proposal accomplishes is to outsource jobs – the exact thing that he is always complaining about. It’s higher taxes and more regulation, especially EPA regulation, that causes capital (and consequently jobs) to move overseas. If you want capital to come into America, you lower the tax rates.