WASHINGTON WATCH: Buffett Rule's failure is shameful

Middle-class American families are going through some tough times right now, and it is difficult for them to understand how last year 7,000 millionaires in America didn't pay a single penny in federal taxes because of loopholes for the rich.

The public has supported the passing of the Buffett fairness doctrine, which would have ended the circumstances in which billionaires like Warren Buffett would pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than their secretaries, but the bill failed. It was blocked in the Senate 51-45 in a filibuster vote.

With their historical record number of filibusters, Republicans in the Senate voted against the "Buffett rule," which lets millionaires and billionaires off the hook by not having to play by the same rules as the rest of us, many of whom are really sacrificing.

Republicans and Democrats voted almost along party lines, with the Republicans voting it down because they said it wouldn't do anything to help the deficit.

Excuse me, but the Buffett rule would have required the nation's top earners to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the measure would not have lowered rates for the poor, but the $47 billion it would have raised during a 10-year period would have gone to deficit reduction or to help middle-class families. He also said that he felt that the American people would prefer to spend $47 billion in lots of ways other than tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

The Democrats' position has become most popular with the public. A CNN/ORC poll found that 72 percent of Americans favor taxing the very wealthy 30 percent. The Buffett rule would start phasing in earnings above $1 million and reach a full 30 percent for annual incomes about $2 million.

Schumer went on to say, "It could be called the Buffett rule or the Romney rule." I don't think Mitt Romney is going to want to have this inequity remain when he is an example of it, having paid only a 13.9 percent tax rate on his last public tax return. Schumer has vowed to keep bringing the Buffett rule back until Republicans give in the way they did on the payroll tax cut fight. This will be something we should watch very closely.

As previously stated, the vote was along party lines, with only two senators crossing party lines - Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Of Nevada's Senate delegation, Republican Dean Heller voted against the bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted for it.

I don't understand the Republicans' saying that the bill wouldn't generate enough money to really help the deficit, but then going ahead and cutting the RSVP programs that give poor seniors $13 million with the explanation that it would help the deficit. But then, senior benefits and programs have been on the chopping block for some time now.

I will leave you with Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona's final remark: "The rich are paying plenty; it is the bottom half of the income ladder that is doing too little." So get going, lower half, and see how you can help the rich. Stay tuned.

• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.


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