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Republicans Not Enamored of Buffett’s Progressive Taxation Plea

You’ll be shocked to know that Republicans didn’t think much of Warren Buffett’s appeal for tax fairness and a more progressive system.

Republicans blasted back at Warren Buffett after the billionaire investor argued in a newspaper opinion piece that the mega-rich in the U.S. are “coddled” by the tax code.

“For tax-raising advocates like Warren Buffett, I am sure Treasury would take a voluntary payment for deficit reduction,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote in a tweet.

“If Warren Buffet wants to pay more taxes and send more of his money to Washington, why doesn’t he just do it?” tweeted Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has led the push against tax increases to help reduce budget deficits.

How about he does it when you do it, John and Brad?

If this is the best they’ve got, this childish “If you like high taxes rates so much, why don’t you marry them?” argument, they don’t have much at all. Hilariously, some flak at Heritage tries the idea that Buffett “downplays the role taxation plays in investment decisions.” Because what would Warren Buffett know about investment decisions?

Buffett targeted his message squarely at the Catfood Commission II, he said on Charlie Rose yesterday. “If I could pick 12 readers for it, they’re the ones,” he said. Well, I don’t think they’re listening. The Republicans are clearly opposed to any increases in tax rates on the rich. And Jim Clyburn took them off the table for the Democratic side.

“Let me be very clear: Even in the Biden committee, none of us ever talked about raising tax rates, we are not there,” the assistant minority leader said Monday on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.” “We believe, however, that closing loopholes can get us to where we need to be.”

Ah well, Warren, it was worth a shot.

This Catfood Commission II is off to a pretty rough start. In addition to pre-compromising on tax rates, Clyburn is talking about “taking care of my hometown” and particularly the military bases there, to justify the need to come to a deal and avoid the trigger cuts to defense. It’s unclear why, say, protecting Social Security and Medicare wouldn’t constitute “taking care of my hometown.” The three Senate Democrats on the panel – Patty Murray, John Kerry and Max Baucus – have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today that’s full of bromides but ultimately comes to the conclusion that, while nodding to the urgent jobs deficit in the country, “we are ready to get to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to report out a balanced plan, with the shared sacrifices this moment requires.”

This actually fits right in line with the US Chamber of Commerce’s call for a “grand bargain” that would include a restructuring of the tax code which “should not single out specific industries or individuals for punishment.” And of course, it would also have cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Put it this way, if the ultimate recommendations from the Catfood Commission II look more like Warren Buffett’s prescription and less like the Chamber of Commerce’s, I’d be surprised. The best hope is probably no recommendations at all.

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David Dayen

David Dayen