It is hard to know what to make of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Based on his recent speeches, it appears that his number one campaign issue will be the “Buffett Rule,” which he acknowledges is a gimmick that will do essentially nothing to address the country’s fiscal crisis. So Obama is unserious; that is a given. But we assumed that the Buffett Rule could at least be effective demagoguery, given that Mitt Romney’s income consists almost entirely of long-term capital gains, so that his federal income taxes represent less than 20% of his adjusted gross income.
Now Obama has released his own tax returns, and guess what: the president pays only 20.5% of his adjusted gross income in federal income taxes–a smaller percentage, ostensibly, than Warren Buffett’s secretary, and a much smaller percentage than I pay on my income. The Obamas employ a number of perfectly legal tax avoidance strategies to keep their taxes down, and a substantial portion of their income was foreign. It is unclear from the Obamas’ tax return (unclear to me, anyway) what they have paid or will pay in foreign taxes, or whether any deductions were allocated to the foreign income.
But none of that matters. How on Earth does Obama think he can demonize Mitt Romney because Romney doesn’t pay ordinary income tax rates, when Obama himself paid only 20.5% in federal income taxes on an adjusted gross income of nearly $800,000? Lots of luck explaining that to the voters. Which leaves one wondering: what is the point of Obama’s making the “Buffett Rule” the centerpiece of his campaign?