Today, Senate Democrats are attempting to pass the so-called Buffett Rule, which creates a 30% minimum tax on top earners.
The bill isn't expected to pass, and even some on the Democratic side of the aisle are calling it out for the partisan gamesmanship it is. Last week, democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine blasted the rule as much ado about nothing:
the content of it is fine, but I do question a little bit the priority of doing this right now, and let me tell you why: If the Buffett Rule passes, that will help reduce the deficit by $45 billion over 10 years.
Kaine is close. Based on an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Buffett Rule would raise an additional $4.7 billion per year over the next decade from the 0.1% of US taxpayers affected. Given the estimated budget deficit this year (ending September) of $1.2 trillion, that works out to less than 1/2 of 1 percent (0.375%) of this year's deficit. In other words, it's insignificant. Warren Buffett himself has admitted this won't solve the problem even if passed.
The real value of the Buffett Rule is as a political talking point which resonates with Obama's base. It also happens that one of the 0.1% of taxpayers affected by the Rule would be Mitt Romney, President Obama's likely opponent in this year's election. That's not a coincidence. I just received a campaign solicitation from the Obama administration which begins, "I love the Buffett Rule for the same reason Mitt Romney opposes it."
The Buffett Rule is campaign politics disguised as legislation. Even some Democrats, like Tim Kaine, aren't willing to pretend otherwise.