Author Stephen King is the latest gazillioniare to urge Congress to enact the “Buffett Rule,” which would levy higher taxes on the wealthy. His words, as printed here, are heavily edited; his piece, written for the “The Daily Beast” website (run by Newsweek) is laced with crude profanities and cruder fat jokes about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Still, his argument is worth examining.
“Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!” is the title.
“At a rally in Florida (to support collective bargaining and to express the socialist view that firing teachers with experience was sort of a bad idea), I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income,” King writes. “My question was, ‘How come I’m not paying 50?’ The governor of New Jersey did not respond to this radical idea, possibly being too busy at the all-you-can-eat cheese buffet at Applebee’s in Jersey City, but plenty of other people of the Christie persuasion did. Cut a check and shut up, they said.”
But King rejects this amazingly simple solution. He gives to charity, he says.
“All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough,” he continues. “What charitable 1-percenters can’t do is assume responsibility — America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts.
Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny.”
Those things can only be done by one entity, he contends” “united American citizenry.”
Will making the Buffett Rule law accomplish any of those goals? Let’s look at this realistically.
Taking Warren Buffett and President Barack Obama at their words, let’s say that taxes are raised to a minimum effective tax of 30 percent on anyone earning $1 million or more per year.
Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan agency, says that will raise between $4 billion and $5 billion a year, assuming none of the millionaires goes looking for tax shelters.
How about using the money to help the sick and the poor? Considering the U.S. spends an estimated $1 trillion per year on these endeavors (counting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and many other programs), the one-half of 1 percent the Buffett Rule revenue would add doesn’t seem like much.
And education? Study after study shows that federal spending is making education (at all levels) more expensive, less accountable and less effective. If only the problems in education were as easy as spending more money on them.
As for global warming, it’s naggingly unclear how federal spending of any amount will help (if, as King assumes, the “science is settled”). Rather, carbon emissions could only be cut through draconian restrictions on the energy sector of the economy. Sure, federal grants could underwrite “green” and alternative energy initiatives, but how have those worked out lately?
King’s conclusion falls apart because his premise is flawed: the federal government can’t fix the problems he lists, no matter how much money it takes from successful citizens. History has demonstrated this time and again.