One reason why I think the new gambit on just extending the tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income won’t work is that there are enough wankers in the Democratic caucus like Joe Lieberman, who will consider a “sensible compromise” the position that gives Republicans everything they want, only to kick the can on this debate two or three years down the road, so they can get skittish about it again and re-run the movie with another short-term extension.

These Conservadems aren’t likely to listen to actual rich people who may know a thing or two about their spending habits, so I’m not expecting much from introducing them to Warren Buffett.

Billionaire Warren Buffett said that rich people should pay more in taxes and that Bush-era tax cuts for top earners should be allowed to expire at the end of December.

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further,” Buffett said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week With Christiane Amanpour” that is scheduled to air on Nov. 28. “But I think that people at the high end — people like myself — should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

Now, on the specifics of what precise tax rates each class should face I’m not sure I totally agree with Buffett. But on the broad strokes I agree completely, and I don’t have the self-interest problem that he hurdles easily in calling for tax increases on himself.

Better than his call to tax the wealthy, Buffett rejects the prevailing view of the country’s ruling class for 30 years, the idea of trickle-down economics:

“The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you,” Buffett, chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in the interview. “But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

This has been a total failure of the media to properly explain economics. Republicans are saying things like “the only way to get our economy moving again is to not raise taxes on anyone.” But they’re actually just calling for the status quo on the Bush tax cuts. And though those tax cuts were sold as critical to economic and job growth, the truth is that they failed. Miserably. The last ten years, with these same tax rates in place, were the worst for economic and job growth in the entire post-war era. Even the so-called growth periods in this decade had very low increases in jobs, and nothing for wages. There is no possible way that extending these tax rates will boost the economy. The tax rates are in place right now, and the economy is sluggish. You can make an argument that increasing taxes would depress consumer spending, but Buffett explains why that’s a silly argument to make with respect to the rich.

As I said, I think Republicans will win this game of chicken over the tax cuts, mainly because they win games of chicken habitually. But if Democrats could manage to spread the ideas Buffett has described here, they’d be better off in the long run.

David Dayen

David Dayen