Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Larry Downing/Reuters)
Warren Buffett has been talking for months about the unfairness in our tax system, pointing out that his secretary pays more in taxes than he, a billionaire, does. Buffett could be getting his day on the Senate floor, courtesy of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Last week, Whitehouse announced his intention to introduce a bill that would rectify some of the tax inequality our current system allows. In a conference call with reporters today, he explained his legislation and confirmed that he will introduce it in the Senate this Wednesday.
Using Rhode Island wages as his example, he argued that the top 400 taxpayers in America are paying about the same percentage of income as a truck driver. "In theory," Whitehouse said, "we have a progressive tax code in which the greater income you have, the more you pay in percentage of income. Unfortunately, there are these huge exceptions to the rule of a progressive tax system,” he added. “I hope that many of my colleagues believe that these are loopholes that we can and should close.”
His bill would do that quite simply, without actually rewriting any tax code. Taxpayers making more than $1 million would pay either their regular amount, if it's 30 percent or over of their income, or if it's less, 30 percent. They would be able to take charitable deductions in determining income, as in the current system.
The bill is currently being scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation, and he has two early cosponsors, whom he chose not to name today. Whitehouse hasn't determined with leadership when his bill might be considered, but with the Bush tax cuts expiring in January 2013, he sees plenty of opportunity for the legislation to set an agenda for the White House and Democrats on basic tax fairness. There's probably not enough time to have it included in the ongoing conference on the payroll tax cut extension, but Whitehouse says he "wants to put it in wherever we can."