At times it seems President Obama believes the Buffett Rule — his proposal that Americans making more than $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent in federal income taxes — is the only solution needed to solve the nation’s staggering fiscal crisis. But with a Senate vote coming Monday in which the measure faces united Republican opposition — plus no future in the House — this week is likely to mark the end of the Buffett Rule as a major part of the Obama agenda. That’s not just because of the political opposition; just as important, the Buffett Rule is running into a dead end because a significant part of the political class in Washington has finally admitted the idea is little more than a gimmick that would do nothing to fix the country’s problems.
Of course, conservatives and Republicans have thought that all along. But in recent days, the trouble for Obama has been far broader, as commentators and politicians — faced with nonpartisan estimates that enacting the Buffett Rule would raise about $4.7 billion in revenue per year, less than a drop in the bucket of a $1 trillion-plus annual deficit — admitted that there’s just not much there.
Washington Post liberal columnist Dana Milbank opened the floodgates mid-week when he published a piece that began, “President Obama admits it: His proposed ‘Buffett Rule’ tax on millionaires is a gimmick.” Milbank didn’t give the president the full benefit of context — Obama was trying to make the case that the Buffett Rule was worthwhile, even if it would have little effect on the deficit — but Milbank’s column started a wave of anti-Buffett talking points.