Beltway pundits like Dana Milbank have been bashing the Buffett rule – slightly higher tax rates on a handful of the wealthiest Americans – as insufficient to fully close America’s budget gap. But as TPM’s Brian Beutler details, they’re completely missing the point:
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says it would raise about $160 billion over 10 years. That’s not a huge figure. But if Republicans win big in November and make the Bush tax cuts permanent, a Buffett Rule could in theory serve as a bulwark to both preserve a measure of fairness in the tax code and hold on to a small but significant source of revenue for important but cash-starved federal priorities.
And yet all of this is largely beside the point. All Buffett Rule critics knock Obama for not pursuing more comprehensive tax reforms. If they’d paid even passing attention to the events of 2011, they’d know that the only tax reforms Republicans back either raise no revenue, or are conditioned on the idea of locking in the Bush tax cuts permanently. They imply future cuts to government programs that neither Democrats nor most Americans are prepared to accept, but are at the root of the GOP’s tax strategy. The Buffett Rule is designed to make those demands politically noxious – and perhaps clear the way toward a more reasonable approach to balancing the country’s priorities.
The Buffett Rule is the bare minimum Congress can do, the lowest of the low-hanging fruit to even begin to make our tax code a little more favorable to middle-class families and a little less favorable to millionaires like Mitt Romney, George Allen and Rep. Eric Cantor. If Congressional Republicans won’t even support that, Dana Milbank thinks it’s President Obama’s fault for not pushing for more comprehensive reforms? To show your support for tax fairness, call your Senator, write a letter to the editor or join a MoveOn Tax Day protest in your community.