In tomorrow’s deficit speech, the President will propose a replacement structure for the alternative minimum tax, which would create what he will call “the Buffett rule.” It will set a minimum tax for individuals earning over $1 million a year.
President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials [...]
Mr. Obama will not specify a rate or other details, and it is unclear how much revenue his plan would raise. But his idea of a millionaires’ minimum tax will be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House on Monday.
Mr. Obama’s proposal is certain to draw opposition from Republicans, who have staunchly opposed raising taxes on the affluent because, they say, it would discourage investment. It could also invite scrutiny from some economists who have disputed Mr. (Warren) Buffett’s assertion that the megarich pay a lower tax rate over all. Mr. Buffett’s critics say many of the rich actually make more from wages than from investments.
I don’t know how much work “many” is doing in that sentence, or whether it means a certain percentage or a majority. The statistics show much more involvement in investment from the upper classes. And they use the itemized deduction schedule as heavily as a farmer uses a tractor. Greg Mankiw aside, the rich aren’t paying anywhere close to their nominal tax rate, and that’s if they reveal their total income to the IRS at all rather than stashing it in some secret overseas account. And Buffett is right that we should correct that inequity.
It’s unclear whether this would raise as much money as the alternative minimum tax, which is habitually patched every year because it would otherwise dip close to affecting the middle class. This millionaire’s minimum tax would only hit about 450,000 tax returns out of the 144 million filed in 2010, or 0.3% of all taxpayers. So would that be revenue-neutral, or would it fail to raise as much money as the AMT? And what baseline are you using? Does this replace the AMT as it would be collected without a patch, or the AMT with the patch that gets attached every year? Apparently Obama will leave that open-ended. But it would be hard to make this revenue neutral unless it raised a lot more money from that top 0.3%.
This millionaire’s minimum tax also seems like a clever way to eliminate the “carried interest” loophole, where income from money managers is taxed at the capital gains rate of 15% rather than the top marginal income rate of 35%.
This is obviously not something Republicans will take kindly to, and we’ll hear familiar charges of class warfare. The truth is that there is a class war on right now, and the rich have been winning it soundly for 30 years. The millionaire’s minimum tax is the least we can do to restore a modicum of balance to the system.
The question that must be raised is what else will come of the President’s speech. Here’s the early read:
Mr. Obama, in his plan, will call for more than $300 billion in 10-year savings from Medicare and Medicaid but not for changes in Social Security.
Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, one of six Democrats on the 12-member joint committee, said Mr. Obama must make it clear that those reductions from entitlement programs “are tied to his proposals to raise revenues by cutting special-interest tax breaks and asking the folks at the top to pay more.”
“Otherwise,” Mr. Van Hollen added, “there’s a risk the Republicans will cherry-pick the pieces they like and leave behind the ones they don’t.”
It doesn’t say whether the Medicare eligibility age is on the table. But Van Hollen is right that Republicans will pick and choose from the menu of options, like they have done on the jobs bill. It’s a strange argument for Van Hollen to make, however. After all, he’s ON the committee. What Barack Obama says about whether or not the tax piece gets attached to the health safety net pieces matters less than whether HE and his Democratic colleagues on the committee demand that attachment. After all, without one of their votes, nothing on the Super Committee can pass.
UPDATE: This seems to be linked to the AMT and not the Bush tax cuts, so I don’t know what Ezra Klein is talking about. But yes, if the MMT (millionaire’s minimum tax) is the substitute for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, it would probably end up being a giant tax cut relative to current law.