Warren Buffett, the legendary investor and billionaire many times over, knows money. He also knows what is good for the country, and his knowledge confounds the wisdom of the party that looks after rich people such as himself.
The Republican Party seems to view the task of deficit reduction as the most important thing in the universe, except for one thing that should be part of any plan to cut government spending: raising revenue to help shrink the deficit by increasing taxes on the richest Americans.
GOP ideology is rigid on this point. Tax cuts are a sacred totem to be worshipped, while tax increases are an abomination in the sight of their lord, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax zealot to whom almost all Republicans in Congress are pledged. To which Mr. Buffett has this timely rejoinder: "Stop coddling the super-rich."
That was the headline over an essay by Mr. Buffett that the New York Times published this week. He argued for shared sacrifice, a notion mocked by conservative policies. He detailed the tax advantages of the very rich, and how unfair they are while the "poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet."
Last year, he wrote, his federal tax bill was $6,938,744, which "sounds like a lot of money." But he added that "what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income -- and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent."
Mr. Buffett's call for taxing the super-rich differs from President Obama's plan, which defines the rich as those who make more than $250,000 a year. Mr. Buffett would have Congress raise tax rates for those who make more than $1 million, with an additional increase for annual incomes of $10 million or more. Such a policy would finally debunk the dubious claim that tax increases on the rich would hurt small business.
Next time conservative members of Congress claim that taxing the rich would hurt them and harm jobs, Mr. Buffett's essay should be waved in the air while its final words are invoked: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time to get serious about shared sacrifice."