Posted on 04-05-2012
Buffett Rule: Everyone pays their fair share
President Barack Obama
Editorís Note: The following are remarks by President Barack Obama in his weekly address on March 31, 2012.
Over the last few months, Iíve been talking about a choice we face as a country. We can either settle for an economy where a few people do really well and everyone else struggles to get by, or we can build an economy where hard work pays off again Ė where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. Thatís up to us.
Today, I want to talk to you about the idea that everyone in this country should do their fair share.
Now, if this were a perfect world, weíd have unlimited resources. No one would ever have to pay any taxes, and we could spend as much as we wanted. But we live in the real world. We donít have unlimited resources. We have a deficit that needs to be paid down. And we also have to pay for investments that will help our economy grow and keep our country safe: education, research and technology, a strong military, and retirement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
That means we have to make choices. When it comes to paying down the deficit and investing in our future, should we ask middle-class Americans to pay even more at a time when their budgets are already stretched to the breaking point? Or should we ask some of the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share?
Thatís the choice. Over the last decade, weíve spent hundreds of billions of dollars on what was supposed to be a temporary tax cut for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Now weíre scheduled to spend almost a trillion more. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years. Warren Buffett is paying a lower rate than his secretary. Meanwhile, over the last 30 years, the tax rates for middle class families have barely budged.
Thatís not fair. It doesnít make any sense. Do we want to keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans like me, or Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates Ė people who donít need them and never asked for them? Or do we want to keep investing in things that will grow our economy and keep us secure? Because we canít afford to do both.
Now, some people call this class warfare. But I think asking a billionaire to pay at least the same tax rate as his secretary is just common sense. We donít envy success in this country. We aspire to it. But we also believe that anyone who does well for themselves should do their fair share in return, so that more people have the opportunity to get ahead Ė not just a few.
Thatís the America I believe in. And in the next few weeks, Members of Congress will get a chance to show you where they stand. Congress is going to vote on whatís called the Buffett Rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year Ė like 98 percent of American families do Ė your taxes shouldnít go up. Youíre the ones struggling with the rising cost of everything from college tuition to groceries. Youíre the ones who deserve a break.
So every Member of Congress is going to go on record. And if they vote to keep giving tax breaks to people like me Ė tax breaks our country canít afford Ė then theyíre going to have to explain to you where that money comes from. Either itís going to add to our deficit, or itís going to come out of your pocket. Seniors will have to pay more for their Medicare benefits. Students will see their interest rates go up at a time when they canít afford it. Families who are scraping by will have to do more because the richest Americans are doing less.
Thatís not right. Thatís not who we are. In America, our story has never been about what we can do by ourselves Ė itís about what we can do together. Itís about believing in our future and the future of this country. So tell your Members of Congress to do the right thing. Call them up, write them a letter, pay them a visit, and tell them to stop giving tax breaks to people who donít need them and start investing in the things that will help our economy grow and put people back to work.
Thatís how weíll make this country a little fairer, a little more just, and a whole lot stronger.