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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren E. Buffett smiles at the New York Stock Exchange before ringing the opening bell on September 30, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama's new plan for a higher tax rate for millionaires has been dubbed the "Buffett Rule" in reference to the billionaire investor, who supports the plan. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
After months of President Obama campaigning for the “Buffett Rule,” an initiative that would impose a minimum 30 percent tax on everyone making over one million dollars per year, the Senate on Monday rejected consideration of the measure named after America’s second wealthiest individual Warren Buffett.
The vote was largely along party lines and Democrats were therefore unable get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and proceed to a full consideration. Obama has repeatedly called the proposal an issue of tax fairness, while Republicans say that the tax won’t help lower the country’s 8.2 percent unemployment rate or put a dent in the $15.6 trillion national debt. Despite the rejection, Democrats have vowed to keep fighting to prevent people like Buffett from paying fewer taxes than his secretary.
In a gridlocked Congress, however, passing the bill was never truly a realistic objective for Democrats, who were more interested in gaining political leverage from the move by being able to use the block as evidence that Republicans care more about protecting millionaires than supporting middle class Americans.
Should Americans earning more than one million dollars per year be required to pay higher taxes? Was the White House push for the “Buffett Rule” simply a strategic gimmick used to gain public support during an election year or is it a genuine grievance?
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies, Cato Institute