Business, Economics and Jobs

Warren Buffett's call for tax on wealthy ignites debate


Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, attends the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 7, 2011 in Sun Valley, Idaho.


Scott Olson

Warren Buffett's reiteration of his view that wealthy Americans should be taxed more in a New York Times op-ed has drawn intense media interest, as Congress gets ready for a fresh round of negotiations about reducing the country’s debt burden.

In an op-ed in the New York Times on Monday, Buffett called for higher taxes from the rich to ostensibly bridge the massive U.S. debt gap, which stands at $14.3 trillion this month. 

Buffett wrote that he paid just under $7 million in federal payroll and income taxes last year — about 17 percent of his income, a lower percentage than anyone else in his office. 

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The billionaire investor "pushed the issue to the forefront this week by urging members of the new Congressional supercommittee on deficit reduction to stop 'coddling' him and other affluent Americans and raise their taxes," writes David Kocieniewski in a Times analysis of the piece. 

Buffett's comments have struck a particularly sensitive chord in the United States, coming just as Congress grapples with reducing the country’s debt burden, the Financial Times says.

Opponents of tax increases were incensed by Buffett's remarks.

“He’s doing a great disservice to the discussion,” said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, an influential antitax group.

“It’s the most disturbing argument that a guy like Buffett can make," Chocola told the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has entered into a confidentiality agreement and commenced discussions with reinsurance company Transatlantic Holdings Inc.

Dow Jones reports that Berkshire Hathaway is continuing to negotiate with Transatlantic Holdings despite a claim by Buffett on Monday that Berkshire's $3.25 billion bid for the reinsurer had been withdrawn, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Berkshire made its offer on August 5, outbidding Transatlantic's agreed partner Allied World Assurance Co Holdings Ltd. and hostile suitor Validus Holdings Ltd.

Buffett discussed the Transatlantic deal and his New York Times Op-Ed piece in an hour-long interview with Charlie Rose.

But Buffett, better known as the Oracle of Omaha, maintained that his firm's $52 a share bid for Transatlantic Holdings Inc has expired.

"We made an offer about a week ago," Buffett said, according to a transcript of his interview with Rose.

Forbes suggests taxing Jennifer Aniston instead.