Obama campaign ramps up support for ‘Buffett Rule’

A week before a Senate vote, the Obama campaign on Monday ramped up its advocacy of the “Buffett Rule,” which would impose a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on the wealthiest Americans.

“We don’t envy success in this country; we all strive to achieve it,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters. “But we also know that anyone who does well for themselves should do their fair share in return. The Buffett Rule will help make our system reflect our values, so that all Americans play by the same rules, do their fair share, and get a shot at success.”

Messina was joined on the call by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip, and Representative Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. The conference call kicked off a week of promotion for legislation enacting the rule, including a visit to Exeter, N.H., by Vice President Joe Biden.


Durbin stressed the revenue-generating potential of the Buffet Rule, citing a Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the higher rate would raise $47 billion over the next 10 years.

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“We know that to reduce the deficit, we’re going to need revenue,” Durbin said. “And if we’re going to have revenue as part of it, let’s make certain that we collect it in a fair way, so that people believe that our tax system is really one that is fair for all families across the board.”

Baldwin offered practical examples of what Buffett Rule revenue could fund. The taxes of just one of the 400 richest Americans, she said, could pay for 5,400 maximum Pell Grants or enroll 3,600 children in Head Start programs.

The Obama campaign has compiled a list of similar examples on a new website encouraging passage of the Buffett Rule.

The Senate is expected to hold an initial vote on the rule on Monday. It is not expected to reach the level of support needed to prevent a GOP filibuster.


Republicans have called the Buffet Rule “class warfare” and argued that its deficit-reducing power is overstated. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that President Obama’s 2013 budget plan would add $6.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Even if Buffett Rule taxes did raise $47 billion in 10 years, the new revenue would mitigate less than 1 percent of the projected deficit expansion.

The Mitt Romney campaign said Monday that raising taxes on “job creators” drags down the economy.

“We appreciate the Obama campaign reinforcing Mitt Romney’s platform of lowering tax rates across the board in order to jumpstart this bad Obama economy,” communications director Gail Gitcho said in a statement.

The Buffett Rule is named for billionaire Warren Buffett, a vocal critic of a tax system that allows him to pay an effective tax rate less than that paid by his secretary, Debbie Bosanek.

Though the highest federal income tax rate is 35 percent, many wealthy Americans earn much of their money through capital gains on investments, which are taxed at only 15 percent. Their effective tax rates — the percentages paid on all forms of income — can be less than those of middle-income earners.


Romney, for instance, paid an effective tax rate of just 14 percent on $45 million worth of income over the last two years, according to tax returns he released in January.

Messina slammed Romney — who backs House Republicans’ plan to lower the top tax bracket to 25 percent — for endorsing a budget that “looks out for people just like him.”

“Mitt Romney’s tax plan doesn’t ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. It just doesn’t,” Messina said. “In fact, it does just the opposite.”

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the author of Republican budget and a potential running mate for Romney, has said his spending plan would “close the tax shelters and loopholes that are disproportionately used by the wealthy so that we can get more tax revenue by having a broader tax base with lower rates.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.