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Blog: Feeling Sorry for the Top Earners?

Feb 19, 2013 | By Marge Clark, BVM

The Buffet Rule is intended to place an additional tax on those with income over $1 million/year. Many members of Congress continue to insist that we cannot do this because that would stop them from creating much-needed jobs. I seriously wonder about this for two reasons:

  • I’ve not seen evidence of their creating great numbers of jobs in the 12 years during which they have enjoyed significant tax benefits. The unemployment rate rose to nearly 10%, and has only slowly returned to 7.8 as of January 30, 2013.

  • Millionaires are well within the top 1% of earners in this nation – whose income accrued to 20% of the total national income. With the exception of two brief peaks (2000 and 2007) this is the highest percent of total national income that the group has held since before the Depression (1939).

As our legislators work to improve the economy of the nation and to protect those who are most vulnerable, The Buffet Rule seems one important action to include. It seems reasonable to hope that there would be scaled amounts or percentages for the Buffet Rule, as those with the greatest income are surely able to give the greatest support to the other 99.99% of the population (in 2011, 15,837 families, the top 0.01%, received annual incomes above $7.9 million each).

Sources: Saez, Emmanuel, 1.23.2013. Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2011 estimates) http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2011.pdf

Piketty and Saez (2003), series updated to 2011 in January 2013 using IRS preliminary tax statistics. Table A1 and Table A3, col. P90-95, P95-99, P99.99-100.

Income is defined as market income including (or excluding) capital gains.