On Sunday, billionaire investor Warren Buffett penned a New York Times op-ed calling for lawmakers to increase taxes on the wealthy, correcting for some of the current inequities that, for instance, allow Buffett to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. “While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks,” he wrote. “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
Several Republicans, when asked about Buffett’s critique of the tax code, have attacked the Oracle of Omaha himself. 2012 GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney said Buffett is simply wrong about his tax rate, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said, “I have a suggestion. Mr. Buffett, write a big check today.” Even Buffett’s own GOP congressman, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), blew him off, saying, “Mr. Buffett has my ultimate respect, but we disagree on taxes and takings.”
However, not all Republicans were so quick to dismiss Buffett’s point:
At a town hall meeting in West Point, Neb. later the same day, a woman asked [Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)], “Did you hear what Warren Buffett said?”
“Yes, and I don’t necessarily disagree with him, either,” said Fortenberry, a Republican.
Fortenberry later told USA TODAY that he doesn’t want to see taxes raised on small businesses and entrepreneurs. But he said Buffett is right that loopholes in the tax code “skew in favor of the ultra-wealthy, ultra-wealthy corporations, and the overseas aristocracy.”
One tax loophole in particular that has earned Buffet’s ire is the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to count the income they make from managing other people’s money as capital gains (and thus have it taxed at 15 percent) rather than standard income (which has a top tax rate of 35 percent). As Buffett put it, “Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as ‘carried interest,’ thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate.”
If Fortenberry were to push for closing the hedge fund manager loophole, he would face stiff Republican opposition, but he wouldn’t necessarily face it alone. In a town hall meeting this week, Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) also called for closing this particular loophole.