The Washington Post

A simple solution to inequality: Stop talking about it

Travis Waldron catches Brave Truth Teller Chris Christie in a remarkable moment: He’s so visibly annoyed with Warren Buffett for pushing issues of economic and tax fairness to the forefront of the national conversation that he literally tells Buffett to “shut up”:

Here’s the exchange, with CNN’s Piers Morgan:

MORGAN: You know where I’m going at with that. Warren Buffett keeps screaming to be taxed more.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, well he should just write a check and shut up. Really. And just contribute. The fact of the matter is that I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check. Go ahead and write it.

It’s kind of remarkable that Republican officials in positions of real influence and responsibility continue to repeat this silly line in public without any apparent sense of embarrassment.

Let’s try to walk through this really slowly. The problem that Buffett and other wealthy people are trying to solve by calling for higher taxes on their class isn’t simply that they as individuals would like to be contributing more towards the tax burden, but can’t. Rather, the problem as they’ve identified it is a society-wide one: We need a massive boost in revenues to keep society functioning at acceptable levels and to address profound and in­trac­table fiscal problems that threaten the country’s future.

This problem will not be solved if Warren Buffett writes a check. Buffett’s point is that the scale of the problem requires his class as a whole to chip in a bit more to solve it. So doing will require relatively minimal sacrifice, and will prevent more of the burden for maintaining a functioning society — which helps enable wealth in the first place — from falling on those who are far less equipped to bear it. This won’t happen unless taxes are raised on the very wealthy. Voluntary contributions won’t quite cut it. This requires a society-wide solution.

Of course, it’s very inconvenient for Republicans to have people like Buffett out there forcing issues of inequality and tax unfairness into the national conversation. It makes it a lot harder to equate proposed solutions to them with “envy” and “class warfare,” as so many Repulicans and conservatives like to do. It would be a lot easier if Buffet did just shut up.

By the way, the “just shut up” response to inequality is not exclusive to Christie. As you’ll recall, the GOP’s likely standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, recently opined that we should confine our discussion of these matters to "quiet rooms.”

Maybe it’s time to inaugurate the “just shut up” caucus?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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