News / Economy

Man Behind Obama’s 'Buffett Rule' Calls For Tax Fairness

Warren Buffett (file photo)
Warren Buffett (file photo)
Kent Klein

One of the most controversial pieces of President Barack Obama’s economic plan is named for one of the richest men in the world.  The president calls his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations “The Buffett Rule.”  Some Republicans are calling it class warfare.   

Warren Buffett says he paid almost $7 million in taxes last year.  He says that is not enough.

“I think people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes," said Buffett.

The billionaire investor wrote an opinion article in the New York Times in August, claiming that all 20 employees in his office pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes than he does.

Buffett suggested increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires.  He wrote, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.  It is time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

President Obama is incorporating Buffett’s proposal into his plan to reduce the federal deficit.  
“Middle-class families should not pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires," said President Obama. "That is pretty straightforward.  It is hard to argue against that.  Warren Buffett’s secretary should not pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.”

The president announced his deficit-cutting plan on Monday, and said it would include a provision he called the “Buffett Rule.”

The rule states that “No household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of its income in taxes than middle-class families pay.”  Administration officials have not given details on how the plan would be put into effect.

Some reports have shown that most of the richest Americans already pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than lower- or middle-income taxpayers.

Meanwhile, some Republicans call the proposal class warfare. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says it would stifle job creation.

“If he is feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check," said McConnell. "But we do not want to stagnate this economy by raising taxes.”

Obama said Thursday the purpose of his plan is basic fairness.

“If asking a billionaire to pay their fair share of taxes, to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher, is class warfare, then, you know what?  I am a warrior for the middle class," he said. "I am happy to fight for the middle class.  I am happy to fight for working people.”

Public opinion polls show that most Americans agree with Warren Buffett that the richest citizens should pay more in taxes.

Buffett is ranked as the third-wealthiest person in the world, with $39 billion.  He has been investing for 70 years, since he was 11-years-old.  His success has earned him the nickname “The Oracle of Omaha.”

Buffett endorsed and contributed money to Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, and he is scheduled to host a fundraising event for the president in October.  Tickets will cost $35,000 each.

The 81-year-old chairman of the conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway has committed to gradually give all of his company stock to philanthropic foundations.  He said more than 99 percent of his wealth will go to philanthropy during his lifetime or at death.

“My wife and I, when we were in our twenties, decided that whatever we had that we did not need should go to somebody that did need it," he said. "We had that planned for years, and lately we have taken up with this Giving Pledge to try and encourage others to feel the same way.”

The Giving Pledge was started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.  They are asking hundreds of the richest Americans to pledge at least 50 percent of their wealth to charity.

President Obama praised Buffett’s generosity while awarding him the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in February.

“And yet for all the money he has earned, you do not see Warren Buffett wearing fancy suits or driving fancy cars," said Obama. "Instead, you see him devoting the vast majority of his wealth to those around the world who are suffering or sick or in need of help.  And he uses his stature as a leader to press others of great means to do the same.”

Buffett is known for his relatively modest lifestyle.  He does not live in the financial and media center of New York, but in his less glamorous home town, the central U.S. city of Omaha, Nebraska.

When awarding Buffett the Medal of Freedom, the president joked about his frugal living.

“I should point out he is so thrifty, I had to give him a White House tie the last time that he came here to visit," he said. "His was looking a little shredded.  So then, when Bill Gates came, he wanted one too.”  

Now President Obama is hoping that Warren Buffett’s prestige and reputation as a business leader and philanthropist will help build support for the administration’s economic plan.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.