KINGSPORT — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander pledged Thursday to vote against the so-called “Buffett Rule” called for by President Barack Obama to make millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
The Obama administration is calling for a Senate vote on the rule, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who the administration says pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.
Alexander, before attending an annual gathering of Eagle Scouts at the MeadowView Marriott, rejected it.
“Instead of playing politics, what President Obama ought to be doing is joining me and 36 other senators of both parties who have endorsed his debt commission report,” Alexander, R-Tenn., said. “Instead, he’s talking about raising taxes. The tax increases he’s talking about wouldn’t be enough to pay for 1 percent of the amount of new debt that his budgets will add over the next 10 years. I think the people of Tennessee and this country want us to cut out the game playing and start working seriously on big problems. At a time when we’re borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend in the federal government, the president of the United States ought to be working with Congress of both parties to reduce the debt and not engage in cynical, political games.”
The debt commission Alexander is talking about is the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which proposed in 2010 a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan running through 2020.
The commission’s proposals included cuts to discretionary spending and defense, Medicare cost controls, a reduction in entitlements and modifications to the Social Security program to raise the payroll tax and retirement age.
A similar budget plan based on the commission’s proposals was recently rejected by the House.
Alexander said he would support both the debt commission’s plan and GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s so-called “Path To Prosperity” plan calling for $5 trillion in spending cuts.
“I hope (likely GOP presidential nominee) Mitt Romney, if he’s the Republican nominee, when he turns around to President Obama, says ‘Mr. President, I support your debt commission report. If you’ll join me in doing that we can go to the Congress and ask them to pass it this year and not wait until next year,’” Alexander said.
In contrast, the Obama administration contends 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 — like 98 percent of American families do — your taxes shouldn’t go up,” says the administration’s talking points on the Buffett Rule. “About 55,000 millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than millions of middle-income Americans. A full 22,000 households that made more than $1 million in 2009 paid less than 15 percent of their income in income taxes — and 1,470 managed to pay no federal income taxes on their million-plus-dollar incomes...
“And the very wealthiest American households are paying nearly the lowest tax rate in 50 years — some are paying just half of the federal income tax that top income earners paid in 1960. But the average tax rate for middle class families has barely budged. The middle 20 percent of households paid 14 percent of their incomes in 1960, and 16 percent in 2010.”
At the MeadowView gathering, Alexander’s main message to Eagle Scouts and the Sequoyah Council of the Boy Scouts of America was about honoring the Scouting experience.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., joined Alexander at the gathering. Both are Eagle Scouts.
Alexander said he became an Eagle Scout in 1953 at age 13.
“I learned to not be afraid of the outdoors, to live in the outdoors, to love the outdoors,” Alexander said of his Scouting experience. “I realize how much time older men gave to me when I was a boy and how much that meant to me. I want to encourage the Eagle Scouts of Upper East Tennessee to give back to the boys and help them grow into men. ... I think today a lot of fathers don’t take their sons to the outdoors because the fathers themselves haven’t been in the outdoors, and they are afraid of it.”