President Obama, who Democrats and those on the liberal left herald as the champion of tax fairness, released his personal tax returns last week and it immediately opened new debate over what level of taxes the wealthy should pay.
Remember this Obama pledge from the 2012 election?
"I want an America where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."
Or how about these statements which were often repeated in his campaign to a second term:
"What people really want is fairness. They want people paying their fair share of taxes. All I'm saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay their fair share in taxes. Do we want to keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans like me, or Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates – people who don't 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 can't afford to do both."
Also last week, the president released his budget, which would raise about $1 trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade. The budget includes the so-called Buffett Rule, which would impose a 30 percent minimum federal tax on Americans earning $1 million or more per year. The rule, which Democrats and the Obama campaign regularly hammered at us in last year's election campaign, is named for the billionaire investor who says he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.
The White House said the president and first lady Michelle Obama paid $112,214 in federal income taxes for 2012 on adjusted gross income of $608,611, an effective rate of 18.4 percent.
So that means Obama, the Commander in chief of all those One Percenters he railed against during last year's re-election campaign, paid 12 percent less than the 30 percent benchmark he wants for millionaires in his own budget.
In 2011, the first family paid total federal taxes of $162,074, an effective rate of 20.5 percent. According to tax returns, the decline was due primarily to falling royalties from sales of books the president has written.
Even more embarrassing "fair share" news for the administration surfaced in an Internal Revenue Service report that showed 36 of Obama's executive office staff owing the government $833,970 in back taxes.
This White House staff is well paid, with 457 aides totalling more than $37 million in wages last year.
Obama added seven more staff members than George W. Bush had in his last year in office, and the overall payroll went up by $4 million. The report shows that nearly one-third of the Obama aides have salaries topping $100,000 and that 21 rake in a salary of $172,200, each.
Federal employees who are delinquent, totalling more than $3.4 billion in back taxes, number in the thousands. The offenders also include employees in both houses of congress. Members of the U.S. Senate, whose tax laws become the law of the land for everyone else, themselves owe $2.1 million while employees in the House of Representatives owe $8.5 million.
The Washington D.C. delinquents can also be found in the Department of Education, where employees owe $4.3 million, the Department of Homeland Security, where 4,697 workers owe about $37 million.
The Treasury Department does not escape unscathed, having 1,181 employees with delinquent taxes totaling $9.3 million. Even former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had to pay up $42,000 in his own back taxes before being confirmed as Obama's secretary in 2009.
It's great to see our officials in Washington leading by example.
By Jim Zbick