Sunday, November 21, 2010

Warren Buffett Isn’t Much Helping the Conversation About Taxes

Warren Buffett believes that the truly wealthy should pay more taxes, asserting, essentially, that his peers don’t pay their fair share. He is a smart business man, but I’m not sure what he thinks a higher tax rate on the wealthy will accomplish. It won’t balance the budget and the money won’t be used well even if those taxes do increase.

If he wants the wealthy to be a force that helps the economy and helps the government’s bottom line, then he should encourage the wealthy to invest in new businesses, to invest in ideas, to work to support what they believe will lead our nation to better days. And if our government wants to see jobs created, they won’t get in the way. Every new job created is a productive, contributing citizen when that job comes from the private sector. Every new job created by the government, on the other hand, is another tax-funded drain on the coffers. We need more of the former and fewer of the latter--and Buffett is advocating for the wrong side of the equation.

If he wanted to help even more, he would encourage a smarter, more disciplined government less eager to spend money that it doesn’t have. I doubt very seriously that he would dare to run a business using the same rules that our government does--and if his business were running into the same kinds of difficulties, he would be looking for ways to run leaner and more efficiently. Our government, on the other hand, has a pair of crutches to keep it from having to behave in an adult manner: taxpayers and the ability to manufacture money. Why make the hard decision to cut programs or benefits, why austerity, when it is so much easier to print more money or raise taxes.

Whatever the case, though, Mr. Buffett is encouraged to give give give to the government coffers. The money won’t be used well and it won’t be used efficiently and it won’t make a difference in the final calculation. If it makes him feel like a better man to throw good money after bad, though, there is no one stopping him. If he doesn’t, though--if he chooses to find smarter, better ways to invest and spend and give charitably--then it proves that he doesn’t believe his own lie. It proves that he knows that the government isn’t the path to the best results.


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