One of the most interesting things in Obama’s speech unveiling his budget just now — in pure political terms, at least — was that he proposed that a form of the Buffett Rule should be central to it. Whether by coincidence or design, this will only draw more attention to the fact that the likely GOP presidential nominee himself benefits handsomely from the unfairness in the tax code that the Buffet Rule would undo.
Jackie Calmes explains the proposal:
President Obama proposed in his new budget blueprint to tax dividends of the wealthiest taxpayers for the first time as ordinary income subject to their top income-tax rate, which was the level that existed until the Bush administration lowered the rates. The proposal, being released on Monday morning with other parts of the budget, would raise about $140 billion over 10 years.
Assuming that the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of the year, as required by law, dividends for the top 2 percent of income-earners would be taxed at 39.6 percent. Before 2002, the richest taxpayers paid a 35 percent tax on dividends, like on all ordinary income.
Republicans are certain to try to block the change, as they have done to thwart Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to end the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year.
Here again you’re seeing one of the potential perils for the GOP of picking Romney as their standard bearer. This all but ensures that Romney’s one wealth — and, more to the point, his own lower tax rate — will be central to the political conversation for the next few months.
As I’ve been noting here, the Buffett Rule will be voted on in Congress in some form or other, whether it’s as a stand-alone bill, part of a larger proposal, or part of Obama’s budget. Virtually all Republicans are expected to vote against it. If the Dem game plan is to turn Romney into the walking embodiment of everything that’s unfair about our economy and tax code, and of all the ways it’s rigged against the middle class and for the rich, this will only help support that narrative.
Indeed, if Dems have their way, Republicans will be voting en masse to protect the wealth of their own presidential candidate, one who is worth as much as $250 million and is benefitting to an untold degree from a tax rate that’s lower than many middle class taxpayers pay. Maybe I’m missing something, but this doesn’t seem like very good optics for Romney or the GOP.