Billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, says he's willing to pay more in taxes, but lawmakers need to do their job and change the law.
By now, you recall that folksy billionaire Warren Buffett came out in 2011 and said the country's wealthiest 1 percent should pay more in taxes than the 99 percent of Americans. Buffett's secretary pays a higher percentage of taxes than does her billionaire boss. President Barack Obama subsequently asked Congress to pass the Buffett Rule tax.
The plan, scheduled for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate on April 16, stands little chance of passing in Congress. But it is a prominent symbol of the efforts the president and congressional Democrats are making to portray themselves as champions of economic fairness. Republicans dismiss the idea as a political stunt with little real effect on the budget.
"We don't envy success in this country. We aspire to it," Obama said in his Saturday radio and Internet address. "But we also believe that anyone who does well for themselves should do their fair share in return, so that more people have the opportunity to get ahead -- not just a few."
Obama has proposed that people earning at least $1 million annually -- whether in salary or investments -- should pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
"The tax system is a disgrace," said Rubenstein, speaking at the Council of Institutional Investors spring conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "When you have inequity in the system as we do now, it's not good for the country as a whole.
Earlier this year, Romney's tax return revealed that the former Massachusetts governor paid an effective tax rate of just 14.5%.
According to the documents, Romney took in $21.7 million in long-term capital gains over the past two years, and of that, $12.9 million was in so-called carried interest. Income from carried interest is taxed at the preferential rate of 15%, instead of the top income tax rate of 35%.
Rubenstein is also correct in saying that he is currently paying his fair share of taxes according to the current tax law.
"I think it's a little unfair for people to say you're not paying your fair share of taxes," said Rubenstein. "I'm paying what I'm supposed to pay. Change the law, and I'll pay what I'm supposed to pay."
The U.S. bishops conference ought to take the opportunity to issue a full-throated press release before the April 16 vote in the Senate in support of Congress passing the Buffett Rule tax. The vocal conservative bishops will be placing themselves at odds with their wealthy Catholic Republican donors.