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America’s version of the ‘tax the rich’ debate

17 April 2012

9:27 AM

17 April 2012

9:27 AM

While the battle continues to rage over the government’s plan to cap
tax relief, on the other side of the Atlantic the US bill that inspired it has been killed. The ‘Paying a Fair Share Act
2012’
— more commonly known as the ‘Buffett Rule’ after billionaire Warren Buffett — failed to get the votes it needed to be debated in the Senate. It was backed
by a majority of senators, with 51 voting ‘Yea’ to 45 ‘Nay’s, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Fraser explained on Friday how Obama’s efforts to ensure that — as
the President puts it — ‘If you make more than a million dollars a year, you should pay the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle
class families do’ inspired Nick Clegg’s ‘Tycoon Tax’ proposal, which has in turn led to the current ‘charity tax’ debacle. Obama began pushing for the measure in
September, inspired by Warren Buffett’s statement that he shouldn’t be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. He’s even invoked Republican hero Ronald Reagan’s support for closing the
loopholes exploited by the rich:


Last month, Democratic senators introduced the bill — which called for a minimum tax rate of 30 per cent for those earning over $1 million — although, significantly, it kept existing tax
breaks for charitable donations. In reality, though, the Democrats never held out much hope of getting the bill through either the Senate or the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Indeed, last night’s vote was split almost exactly down party
lines. 50 of the 53 Democratic senators voted for it and just one against, while 44 of the 47 Republicans voted against it and just one for. Instead, Obama’s party want to make this a major issue for
November’s elections. Certainly, it’s one where public opinion is clearly on their side. A CNN poll released yesterday shows that 72 per cent of Americans support the Buffett Rule, with just 27
per cent opposed.

And the whole debate gained extra political potency in January, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney released his tax returns for the last two years. They showed him paying an effective
tax rate of less than 15 per cent, and Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden has since begun to contrast the Buffett Rule with Romney’s fiscal
policies:

‘The “Romney Rule” says that the very wealthy should keep every tax break and loophole they have and get additional new tax cuts every year that are worth more than what the
average middle class family makes in a year.’

And the Democrat-supporting MoveOn.org has put out a video comparing the Romney and Buffett Rules through the ever-effective medium of cats:


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