By Peter Schroeder - 08/15/11 02:06 PM EDT
Warren Buffett, investment guru and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has called on Congress to increase the taxes he pays alongside his fellow "super-rich," and dismissed Republican arguments that the boost could hinder the economy.
The chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway accused lawmakers of being soft on millionaires and billionaires as millions of middle-class Americans struggle. Instead, he said, they should be looking to tap the wealthiest of the wealthy for more in taxes.
If he were in charge, Buffett said, he would immediately raise rates on the 236,883 households making more than $1 million on all income in excess of that amount, including money earned via dividends and capital gains. And households making more than $10 million should pay even more in taxes, according to the "Oracle of Omaha."
Buffett's call echoes that of President Obama during the debt-limit fight, as he tried and ultimately failed to increase the tax rate of the nation's wealthiest as part of a deal to tackle the deficit. Buffett has been a supporter of the president.
However, it did not appear that Buffett's argument was gaining substantial traction among tax-averse Republicans, who have argued that higher taxes on the nation's wealthiest would stymie investment and job creation.
"For tax-raising advocates like Warren Buffett, I am sure Treasury would take a voluntary payment for deficit reduction," wrote Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, on his Twitter feed.
But Buffett maintained that investment will occur if people think they can make money doing it, regardless of the ultimate tax burden.
"I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone ... shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain," he wrote. "People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off."
Buffett, who said he paid just 17.4 percent of his taxable income in taxes last year, zeroed in on the recently devised congressional supercommittee. He called on it to track down more than the $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts the panel has been charged with finding, lest the nation and the world lose faith in America's ability to address its problems.
Specifically, he said the six Republicans and six Democrats on the super-panel need to consider increased revenue as part of any deal, but should focus it entirely on the top 0.3 percent of taxpayers. In fact, they should extend the current payroll tax break, which he said helps the poor and middle class, "who need every break they can get."
When Standard & Poor's issued its unprecedented downgrade of the nation's credit rating earlier this month, it cited the insufficient debt deal, coupled with increasing skepticism about the ability of policymakers to enact major legislation, as reasons for the move.