It appears that President Obama will make the “Buffett Rule” a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. This is about the dumbest issue since Quemoy and Matsu, two islands that were never heard of before or since, briefly dominated the 1960 presidential campaign. As Obama admits, the Buffett plan is purely symbolic, advocated for the sake of “fairness” even though it will raise hardly any revenue.
So far, Republicans have reacted as you would expect. They have taken the principled position that the Buffett Rule is a bad idea because it would destroy jobs. That is true, of course, but it may not be not good politics to counter a purely symbolic proposal with a practical answer. And, while debating the Buffett Rule may offer an opportunity to educate the public on the realities of federal taxation–i.e., the fact that high-income Americans pay vastly more than their fair share of federal taxes–it would be more advantageous to have that same debate over the Democrats’ other proposals for broader-based tax increases.
So how about if the GOP responds to any legislation incorporating the Buffett Rule by seeing the Democrats their demagoguery and raising them with a couple of demagogic proposals of their own, in the form of proposed amendments? The Republicans could say, sure, we’ll go along with the Buffett Rule if you Democrats will agree to the Reynolds Tax, a 50% surtax on the increased incomes of former government officials when they move into the private sector, working for the same companies they once regulated. Or Republicans could offer an amendment incorporating the Clooney Rule, based on the fact that actors and actresses are such advocates of higher taxes: a new, 80% tax rate on all income in excess of $1 million earned by acting in any film or theatrical production. Or they could counter with the K Street Rule, an 80% tax on all income in excess of $1 million earned by lobbying. Or the Ambulance Chaser Tax, an 80% levy on all lawyer contingent fee income in excess of 10% of a recovery. (That one would provoke howling from coast to coast, from one of the Democrats’ prime constituencies.)
Are any of these proposals good ideas? Well, they are all at least as good as the Buffett Rule from a policy standpoint. None would destroy jobs, as far as I can see. So why shouldn’t the Republicans respond to Obama’s demagoguery with a double or triple shot of their own?