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Political Economy
Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 09/19/2011

Celebrities and taxes: the famous wade into policy debate

President Obama has announced a new plan for reducing the nation’s deficit, and now the chattering class in Washington is analyzing his proposals.

But lately, the inside-the-Beltway crowd isn’t the only one voicing opinions on tax policy. Wealthy players in Hollywood and the business community have been offering up their takes. Here’s a sampling:

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett. (Seth Wenig - AP)
Warren Buffett: The billionaire investor penned an opinion piece for the New York Times in August titled “Stop coddling the super rich.” In it Buffett proposed an immediate increase on taxable income greater than $1 million that would include dividends and capital gains. He recommended an additional rate increase for those making more than $10 million.

The Berkshire Hathaway chief also said that income tax rates for the poor and middle class should remain unchanged because, in our struggling economy, those Americans “need every break they can get.”

And Buffett advised urgency in revamping the tax code: “Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems,” he wrote. “Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness.”

Actor Matt Damon. (Evan Agostini - AP)
Matt Damon: The Hollywood heavyweight has not been shy about discussing his liberal politics. (Remember when he made headlines for ripping President Obama after having been a staunch supporter in the 2008 election?)

Recently, the “Contagion” star waded into the tax debate, telling interviewer Nicholas Ballasy that our current tax structure is “criminal” in the benefits that it provides for the wealthy.

He dismissed the notion that tax breaks for the wealthy are a catalyst for job creation. “Everybody’s socking their money away. Nobody went and started a business with their Bush tax cut,” he said.

Damon’s comments reflected a disgust with the partisan gridlock that has characterized this debate. “I don’t know what you do in the face of that kind of intransigence,” he said. “My heart does go out to the president; he is dealing with a lot.”

Chuck Woolery: The game-show host made a mock public service announcement in which he chided those “suffering with the unbearable pain of obnoxiously high bank balances or low back pain from sitting on overstuffed wallets” and tried to help them find ways to bring down to deficit.

Are there more instances of celebrities talking tax policy that we’ve left out? Let us know in the comments section.

Related stories:

Obama proposes new taxes on the wealthy

Wonkblog: Why the White House changed course

Tax breaks: Vast majority go to households

By  |  12:05 PM ET, 09/19/2011

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