Mr Buffett said that he was taxed at 17.7 per cent on the $46 million he made last year, without trying to avoid paying higher taxes, while his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30 per cent.
I don't really understand that part and certainly don't agree with it.
Of course you don't agree with it, Mike; you do try to be fair about things.
Do you believe that Warren Buffet's situation is in substance different from that of other people in his bracket who make appropriate use of tax attorneys and current tax law? I, for one, find it unlikely that Mr. Buffet would know of tax breaks that others don't, and suspect his situation is probably not unusual for folks in his tax bracket.
My impression is that the budget is fairly inelastic with a fairly rigid set of expenses, generally predictable, and that there's not a lot of cutting that can be done. The notion that there's a lot of waste in government is to some extent a red herring. There is a massive exception to that, near as I understand, but for the most part the expenses are fairly fixed. The notion of President Obama putting a freeze on spending, for example, seems reasonably silly because the amount of money it's actually possible for him to freeze out of the total is very small indeed and would make very little difference in the total amount of the expense we face. I think it's bad politics and probably unrealistic.
I mention this material because other people, Mike, yourself included, have mentioned this material in the discussion of equality so far, and it seems generally accepted that it's Okay to do so.
The place where the expenses are out of hand, it seems to me, is on the servicing of the interest on the national debt. To ask where the money is to come from to service the national debt is a very good question indeed. To give a good answer to that question, we must ask where the sources of our national debt have come from. Then we must ask if we are still inurring debt from those sources, to see if we are putting ourselves in the position of not only having to pay interest on old debt, but are also aquiring new debt without being aware of it.
This is a problem of awareness of our actions.
When we ask about who is responsible for paying, I think this question is vital.
The parallel questions are these: Who is responsible for knowing what the sources of our current indebtedness are? What are they? And how much are they?
To talk about making cuts is a useless question unless we know what we are actually using to run up our debt with, and how much of that is attributable to which programs. We need to be able to point to the programs and make specific plans for specific changes in these programs.
Where do we look?