Back in the fall of 2011 when Warren of Buffett Rule fame first began angling for a positive Wikipedia entry by insisting he wasn't paying enough taxes, Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, wrote an article on the White House blog awkwardly titled "Buffett Rule Facts and Fictions." If Buffett himself was guilty of comparing apples and oranges as I wrote about in January, Mr. Sperling grabbed an armful of fruit and began throwing it up in the air with a blur of numbers creating a bewildering illusion of fiscal expertise. In the midst of his statistical juggling act appears this whiplash-inducing, grammatically-challenged non sequitur:
Does it seem right that an American who makes over $110 million pays an effective tax rate of about 18 percent, but if they had a fire at their house, those who would be risking their lives to put the fire out, could be seeing far more taken out of their every additional dollar earned while they are risking their lives?
For crying out loud, what does public safety have to do with personal tax rates? Are there not other groups who would be far less worthy than millionaires? What about child molesters and other criminals? Should firefighters risk their lives to save their burning houses? And what about those citizens whose effective tax rate is zero? Is it "right" for firefighters to risk death or injury for someone who contributes nothing toward their salary? If this is not class warfare, then I have never seen it. What's next? Means testing for 9-1-1 calls?
In the olden days in England, building owners posted plaques on their properties signifying which fire insurance company they used so the firefighters would know whether or not to extinguish the blaze. Instead of a plaque, perhaps the modern day equivalent would be a laminated Form 1040 on the front door. But today in England and America, virtually everyone find public safety and emergency services to be legitimate domains for government involvement. It is bizarre that the White House would choose to bolster its argument with a Monty-Pythonesque, "Nice house (and nice low tax rate) you got here. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it."
Jeryl Bier blogs at Speak With Authority