Today, Forbes released its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, which is topped by Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett. Overall, the total worth of the 400 “rose to an estimated $1.37 trillion in 2010, up 8% from 2009.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), though, doesn’t think that the very richest of the rich have made gains. Inhofe wants to spend $830 billion over the next decade to extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans, and said that those who want to see the tax cuts for the rich expire are fudging the numbers, “making everybody think they are middle class and that the super-rich are getting richer”:
“It’s a continuation of class warfare. Nothing’s changed,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said. “They try to play to the numbers, making everybody think they are middle class and that the superrich are getting richer.” Inhofe specifically rejects claims that extending the tax cuts automatically would add to the deficit.
As the Forbes list makes clear, the super-rich are, in fact, getting richer. And at the same time, their effective tax rate has been falling, all the way to 16.6 percent according to the latest data (as most of their income is subject to lower capital gains and dividends rates).
Of course, allowing the high-end Bush tax cuts to expire would affect people making far, far less money than those on the Forbes 400 list. But those affected are still in the richest two percent of American households, and 80 percent of the cost of extending the cuts would go to millionaires. And as The Wonk Room explains, income inequality is the worst it has been since 1928, with the top one percent of households earning an increasingly larger share of the country’s income. But maybe Inhofe is able to square all this by convincing himself that tax cuts don’t add to the deficit, and thus can be given to anyone whenever he wants, for free.