Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peter Shiff's Bursting of Buffett's Bubble and Rothbardian Power-Elite Analysis

"Buffett's Bursting Bubble" by Peter Schiff explodes the lie about Warren Buffett paying less taxes than his secretary:

The problem is that Buffett's entire argument is constructed on deception. Buffett is rated as the third richest man in the world for managing the nearly $393 billion in assets, and he highlights that he pays only pays 17.4% of his income in taxes. But this is because he earns less than 1% of his annual wealth from his salary, while over 99% is earned as the largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett claims that he discounts his Berkshire holdings because he plans to give it all to charity when he dies. So, it's not that the tax rates are so low, it's that Buffett plans to give away 99% of his wealth.
But even accounting for this clever accounting trick, Buffett is still grossly understating his personal tax burden. He owns roughly 1/3 of Berkshire's outstanding shares, the profits from which are subject to a 29% corporate tax rate. Last year, Berkshire paid $5.6 billion in taxes – and the IRS says they owe $1 billion more! In addition to corporate taxes, Buffett is also subject to an additional 15% capital gains tax on his stock when he cashes out, not to mention any future estate tax, leaving many to conclude that his share of taxes is certainly higher than his secretary's.
The host of goes on to explain Buffett's motives:

But also, as mentioned earlier, Buffett personally benefits from the current corrupt state of affairs. He gets prestige from nominal gains in his stock price. He gets bailout money to guarantee the insolvent companies in which he invests. Even that estate tax that will hit him when he passes currently allows him to buy out other businesses at a steep discount.
Murry N. Rothbard developed the discipline of Power-Elite Analysis where one traces the enactment of a policy back to its beneficiary. Employing this tool, Rothbard was able to discover that, contrary to popular belief, more or less all restrictive policies on one industry or another were lobbied for by the industry itself. Thus the railroad industry was behind the Interstate Commerce Commission, and act that was an ostensible restriction on the railway industry, but in fact served as government sponsored cartelization of the existing industry and prevented the entry of new competitors on the market. A lecture on the topic can be found here.

The question then is would Mr. Buffett have ever been able to amass the sort of fortune he has under the rules he is proposing? His proposed mandate to Congress of a 30% minimum tax for "millionaires"--an ambiguous term in itself--would more than anything be an obstacle for newcomers to emulate his success in that capital accumulation would be nearly impossibble. 

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