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US debate intensifies over taxes on the rich from FT

2011.07.22
*無断転載しているので、取り扱いには注意してください。ちなみに、掲載は2011年8月20日。


US debate intensifies over taxes on the rich

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7eff3a7e-ca7b-11e0-94d0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1VlWtSaeC

Henry Bloch knows a lot about taxes and a lot about wealth. He is the retired honorary chairman of H&R Block, a Kansas City-based tax services company, which he founded with his brother in 1955.
Having amassed a fortune by helping Americans process their tax returns, the philanthropist – and registered Republican – believes the time has come for higher taxes on his richest fellow countrymen.

“It’s not going to hurt the wealthy to part with a little money,” Mr Bloch, 89, a navigator on B-17 bomber missions during the second world war, told the Financial Times this week. “This is a wonderful country and that’s the least they could do.”

Mr Bloch’s words highlight the intensity of the debate over the taxation of the highest-income Americans as the US struggles to find ways to reduce its long-term budget deficits.

On Monday, Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, proclaimed that he too was in favour of raising more revenue from his cohorts. “While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks,” Mr Buffett wrote in The New York Times.

The call for higher taxes on the wealthy – which is shared by President Barack Obama and many congressional Democrats – appears to chime with the desire of most Americans. A CNN poll this month found 63 per cent of Americans favoured higher taxes on businesses and rich citizens to curb the soaring debt.

Even so, Republicans in Congress are showing few signs of backing down from their position that any tax increases would damage America’s weak economy – and that additional levies on the wealthy would hurt the generators of new employment at a time when it is desperately needed.

With some conservatives even decrying the efforts to impose higher taxes on the rich as “class warfare”, Republicans resisted any such measures in this month’s last-minute agreement to raise the US borrowing limit, which initially contained only reduced spending on government programmes.

The next front in the political battle will come when a bipartisan committee of 12 lawmakers has to decide – by November 23 – how to save a further $1,500bn from US budget deficits over the next decade. Republicans leaders have again indicated that they would not approve any deal containing tax rises. They also have some powerful backers among America’s wealthy elite.

Steve Forbes, the conservative publisher and flat-tax advocate, suggested Mr Buffett should simply give money to the government rather than have others shoulder higher tax burdens as well. “Treasury actually has a programme called ‘gifts to the US’ ... so, if he wants to send a couple of billion, I’m sure it would be gratefully received,” he told Thestreet.com.

However, most of the country’s richest have remained quiet in public on whether they should be taxed more, fearing the attention that might come from taking a position on either side. Opponents of higher taxes on the wealthy may not want to appear to be greedy. “No one wants to be the bad guy,” says David Logan, an economist at the Tax Foundation in Washington.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has seemed to embrace the idea of higher taxes. At a town hall meeting with Barack Obama in California this April, the president was pitching the White House deficit reduction plan, which includes higher taxes on the wealthy. “I’m cool with that,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

Also in April, Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, told a conference: “I think those well off should pay a lion’s share, I have no problem with that.”

Last year, Washington state served as a microcosm of the national debate on the matter. Bill Gates Sr, father of Bill Gates Jr, the founder of Microsoft, led a campaign to approve a ballot initiative that would have imposed an additional levy on the wealthiest state residents.

Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.com, donated money to efforts to defeat the measure. The “no” campaign won, perhaps in a sign that while Americans like the idea of taxing the rich, they fear that one day they too could be affected, either if they make more money or if it eventually leads to higher middle-class taxes.

But Frank Jernigan, a retired Google software engineer, is part of a group called the “patriotic millionaires for fiscal strength” that is advocating higher taxes on the rich and has been emboldened by Mr Buffett’s call. “Before Google, I lived my life like most Americans – barely making ends meet,” he says. Since then, Mr Jernigan says he has travelled the world, including Antarctica, and now resides in a luxury flat in San Francisco. “I don’t believe it would make one bit of difference” to pay higher taxes, he says.


FT graph
(このグラフ、個人的にはかなり衝撃)

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