Obama cites Buffett during talk on taxes

Aug. 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- President Obama used billionaire investor Warren Buffett's commentary Monday in which he said U.S. Congress has shielded the wealthiest from taxes for too long.

"[He] said we've got to stop coddling 'billionaires like me,'" Obama told a crowd during a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls, Minn., when he was advocating a balanced approach of cuts in spending and increases in revenue to reduce the country's deficit."

In the commentary published Monday in The New York Times, Buffett "pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than anybody in his office, including the secretary," Obama said. "He figured out ... he paid about 17 percent. And the reason is because most of his wealth comes from capital gains."

Obama told the audience, "You don't get those tax breaks. You're paying more than that. And -- now I may be wrong, but I think you're a little less wealthy than Warren Buffett. That's just a guess."

In his commentary, the Oracle of Omaha said Congress has for too long spared the wealthiest Americans from paying their fair share in U.S. taxes.

"I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them," he said.

"Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering," Buffett said.

Buffett indicated he was astonished that Congress, year after year, panders to the nation's wealthiest citizens.

"Stop coddling the super-rich" was the headline above the article, in which Buffett said tax breaks "and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species."

"It's nice to have friends in high places," Buffett wrote, with a touch of sarcasm.

Buffet said the Top 400 richest American taxpayers earned taxable incomes that totaled $16.9 billion in 1992 and paid federal taxes at a rate of 29.2 percent.

By 2008, however, the 400 richest in the country earned a taxable sum of $90.9 billion "but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent."

In his own office, Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest men in the world, said he paid a tax rate lower than 20 of his staff members.

"We mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks," he wrote.

Buffett challenged the 12-member committee in Washington charged with putting together a $1.5 trillion austerity package to raise revenues collected from the wealthiest Americans.

"It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice," he wrote.

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