Obtuse Observer

August 22, 2011

Buffett: Stop Misleading Your Readers

Warren Buffett recently wrote an article telling us to Stop Coddling the Super Rich during these difficult economic times.  His article was strong on class baiting and weak on providing the reader with a well rounded picture on the issues.  You can find the article here.  I’ll respond to the article in a series of posts rather than one big article that no one will read.  My purpose is not to suggest that billionaires can’t afford to pay more taxes; they can.  My purpose is to illustrate that popular views about who pays federal income taxes and how much are skewed and that Mr. Buffett’s article played on those misconceptions. 

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To Buffet’s claims.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.” 

I really don’t know what relevance this could have in an article about taxes.  Either Buffett included a non sequitur making his credibility suspect or he did it for a reason.  I’m going with he did it for a reason.  Mr. Buffett is setting up an us vs them dynamic, not hard when  one group is the mega-rich.  This is commonly known as demagoguery.  Although Mr. Buffett waters his assertion down quite a bit to escape getting hammered on facts they way Charles Rangle did after writing in a NYT Op-Ed asserting that, “A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.” they both used the same rhetorical device.

Buffett and Rangle are not very strong on the facts when using this trope but it does allow allow the opportunity to correct the record about who actually serves.  From an exhaustive study by Dr. Tim Kane at The Heritage Foundation regarding the demographics of the US Armed Services:

The household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population. There are slightly higher proportions of recruits from the middle class and slightly lower proportions from low-income brackets. However, the proportion of high-income recruits rose to a disproportionately high level after the war on ter­rorism began, as did the proportion of highly edu­cated enlistees.

The facts are that Mr. Buffett makes an unsustainable claim of fact in his second paragraph in order to put the reader into the mind-set of a victim to encourage enmity for the subject of his attack; himself and others in the undefined class of mega-rich.  This is not how an honest dealer should begin his efforts to clarify a complex issue.

Buffett’s “federal tax bill” next time

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