After my job interview this morning I stopped by the Coffeetree on Walnut before heading downtown for work. Coffeetree is one of those lovely coffee shops that spreads out a few different papers for customer perusal. The have the Post-Gazette, the Times, and the Wall Street Journal. It was my bad luck that only the Journal was still not spoken for. The news in the front of the A section was well-reported and valuable. Then I got to the Opinion page and my blood started to boil. I know Rupert Murdoch is a scum-sucker, but I still have the layover feeling of the Journal as a reputable news organization and I was simply blown the fuck away by how brazen the Opinion Editor wrote around facts and presented agenda. Apparently the Journal has it out for Warren Buffett, because there was editorial (“Buffett’s Latest Tax Break”) next to a third of the letters column devoted to their last Buffett editorial (“Warren Buffett’s Tax Dodge,” August 17).
The blood boiling stopped after I took out my red pen and had little fun teachering the page. The Buffett editorial has the most red ink, and I’d like to take a moment to show how in four short paragraphs the editor makes two conflicting points, and how both of them are fucking awful. The first sentence reads: “For a guy who spends a lot of time advocating for higher taxes, Warren Buffett does a remarkably good job of minimizing his own corporate tax bill.” Is this an editorial about closing tax loopholes? No way! The writer says he supports the minimizing of the tax bill, because Berkshire Hathaway can “no doubt can invest the money more wisely than the Federal government is likely to do.” He even uses the phrase “tax-avoidance triumph.” The avoidance he’s referring to is Buffett’s recent investment in Bank of America, because under current tax law Berkshire Hathaway would pay about 10.5% on roughly $300 million in dividends expected from the investment each year. This comes directly after the writer complains of the 35% corporate tax rate America has, “the second highest in the world.” to get to the 10.5% figure the government gives a 70% exclusion on dividends received from another corporation. Then he or she goes on to support the policy and wonder why there isn’t a One Hundred Percent exclusion on dividends earned by invested in another corporation. The editorial is capped off with the statement “most Americans know that more jobs will be created if the money is deployed by the Berkshire bunch than by the Beltway boys.” Awful alliteration aside, these short paragraphs are so wrapped around each other that the last sentence is the only takeaway most readers will have. I, for sure, was fucking baffled.
I want to go through the points made in the editorial again, chronologically.
1: Warren Buffett is untrustworthy because he advocates higher taxes but pays lower taxes.
2: Mr. Buffett should be lauded for finding ways to lower his tax bill, because the government is bad at spending money wisely.
3: The US corporate tax of 35% is too high.
4: Mr. Buffett will pay much less than this rate because of an exclusion of money made by investing money in another corporation, that sneaky bastard.
5: The exclusion is a wise policy but 70% is too low.
6: Mr. Buffett will pay along the lines of 10.5% on his Bank of America investment. (With this in mind look up there at number 3: what’s our corporate tax rate again? In any case, it’s too high.)
7: By not volunteering to pay the full 35% rate, Mr. Buffett has abdicated his moral high ground and his calls for higher tax rates on the mega-rich should be ignored or derided.
8: The government sucks, so they shouldn’t get the money anyway.
If nothing else, the hall-of-mirrors feeling this editorial produced for me was impressive to me as a writer, for its incredible craftsmanship. The mixture of small-government talking points and character assassination results in a fine, frothy mixture of hackery. I was wondering how the arch-capitalists were going to figure out how to disown Warren Buffett, who is better at this capitalism thing than anyone else.
My fucking head hurts.