Warren Buffett’s Secretary is No Poor Little Victim

Warren Buffett and his puppet, President Obama, used Buffett’s secretary last night as a campaign prop during the State of the Union address. They say she pays a higher tax rate than her boss. So, is Mrs. Bosanek really a defenseless victim of rich folks and an unfair tax system? The answer is no. If Warren Buffett wanted her to pay a lower tax rate, he’d pay her in stocks. Then she’d pay the capital gains rate like all of the other “rich” folks. Unfortunately, few on the national stage are making that case very well. But still, if she’s paying a higher rate than rich guys like Buffett, she’s hardly a victim.

Insofar as Buffet (like Mitt Romney) earns income primarily from capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent (and according to Obama need to be raised for reasons of fairness), we need to determine how much income a taxpayer like Bosanek must earn in order to pay an average tax rate above fifteen percent. This is easy to do.

The IRS publishes detailed tax tables by income level. The latest results are for 2009. They show that taxpayers earning an adjusted gross income between $100,000 and $200,000 pay an average rate of twelve percent. This is below Buffet’s rate; so she must earn more than that. Taxpayers earning adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $500,000, pay an average tax rate of nineteen percent. Therefore Buffet must pay Debbie Bosanke a salary above two hundred thousand.

We must wait for further details to learn how much more than $200,000 she earns. The tax tables tell us about average ranges. For all we know she earns closer to a half million each year, but that is pure speculation.

We’re not really going to get out the violins for the woman making somewhere between $200K and $500K per year, are we? She just bought a second house, she can’t be doing that bad. Sheesh, I’m thinking “It must be nice!” I’m sure most secretaries and administrative assistants would love to be in her shoes. I’m also sure that most secretaries and administrative assistants pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the likes of Warren Buffett, his secretary, or Barack Obama. Quite a few probably pay no income taxes and receive tax credits. I’m also sure that Obama and Buffett are using this woman – who probably works hard for her money and shouldn’t be disparaged – to stoke anger and envy. It’s really quite disgusting. I’m almost speechless. Luckily, Rush Limbaugh wasn’t speechless today.

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If you ask me, it’s absolutely horrible for politicians to stoke envy. First of all, envy is a sin. Secondly, it’s something that’s part of human nature that most decent people try to resist. I remember graduating college with a big pile of bills and student loans. There were no good jobs and things were pretty bleak. I could have wallowed in misery, turned green with jealousy over those who had more than I, and signed up for food stamps. But I didn’t. I moved. I found a job. I worked hard and smart. I didn’t worry about what others had, I only worried about what I could earn. I appreciated what I had. I was raised to believe that’s the American way. We now have a president telling us what we learned as children is wrong. What a sad time it is in America.