Strong opinions, weakly held

Warren Buffett on tax rates

Here’s what Warren Buffett has to say about the possibility of a flat tax and taxes in general:

I wouldn’t support it. We have, in my view, a taxation system that’s much too flat already. If you look at the payroll tax—which is over 12% now, and that applies on the first $80,000 or $90,000 of income—Bill and I pay practically none of that in relation to our income. For the people that work for us, their tax rate in many cases is the same or even higher than my own, since the rate on capital gains and dividends was cut to 15%. What has gone on in this country in recent years is a huge benefit to the very rich and not that much relief to people down below. Frankly, I think that Bill and I should have a higher tax rate on the income we get. We pay less than half the rate that I was paying 25 years ago when I was making a lot less money. They have really taken care of the rich.

I’ve linked to Buffett’s views on the estate tax before, but I just can’t get enough:

Our kids are going to be rich, in the top half-a-percent of the world, but 99% of what I have will go to philanthropy, and Bill has the same attitude, basically. We are not going to turn out super-superwealthy kids. They’ll be wealthy, there’s no question about that, but the idea of dynastic fortune turns me off. If you talk about equality of opportunity in this country and really having everybody with talent having a fair shot at getting the brass ring, the idea that you hand over huge positions in society simply because someone came from the right womb, I just think it’s almost un-American.

Via Rebecca Blood


  1. Buffett’s thinking about opportunity and equality (his “ovarian lottery” story which he sometimes uses when spekaing to college students) seems pretty clearly influenced by John Rawls’ writings on justice. (Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger, the person who is probably the second biggest influence on Buffett’s professional thinking after Ben Graham, is a rock-ribbed Republican. I’d love to sit the two of them down at a dinner party and have them design a tax scheme together.)

  2. As far as I know, Warren Buffett is free to give as much additional money to the US government as he wants. He should put his money where his mouth is. If he wants higher taxes, he should take out his checkbook and voluntarily pay higher taxes.

  3. You know, I have to admire Warren’s honesty and forthrightness when talking about taxes. Very, very few people (that I know) would come out and suggest that they should pay more so that others should pay less.

  4. Jonathan — you need a new crowd. 😉

  5. Gotta agree with acm. I don’t have nearly as much money to spare as ol’ Warren, but I’m more than happy to pay more so that others with even lesser means pay lower taxes (or none).

  6. The only thing more un-american then a landed gentry is social engineering under the guise of tax law.

  7. The Buffett sons, Howard and Peter, generously support an annual indigenous leadership award through the Portland, Oregon based nonprofit Ecotrust. The 2005 Buffett Award is November 30th.


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