Piers Morgan asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) last night about Warren Buffett's calls for tax fairness, and not surprisingly, the Republican governor didn't seem especially receptive to the idea.
"Yeah, well he should just write a check and shut up," Christie said. "Really. And just contribute. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is that I'm tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he's got the ability to write a check. Go ahead and write it."
Greg Sargent explained, "It's kind of remarkable that Republican officials in positions of real influence and responsibility continue to repeat this silly line in public without any apparent sense of embarrassment."
Let's try to walk through this really slowly. The problem that Buffett and other wealthy people are trying to solve by calling for higher taxes on their class isn't simply that they as individuals would like to be contributing more towards the tax burden, but can't. Rather, the problem as they've identified it is a society-wide one: We need a massive boost in revenues to keep society functioning at acceptable levels and to address profound and intractable fiscal problems that threaten the country's future.This problem will not be solved if Warren Buffett writes a check. Buffett's point is that the scale of the problem requires his class as a whole to chip in a bit more to solve it.
Quite right. That this is actually a fairly common GOP talking point -- it was Christie's very first instinct when asked about tax fairness -- is depressing.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), for example, has long championed the same idea: "[A]ll those rich, liberal democrats who are eager to pay higher taxes can do just that. They can write a check to the IRS and make an extra payment on their tax return to pay down the federal debt."
Christie's argument may be nonsense, but it's become routine nonsense.
This really isn't complicated. We're a massive, modern nation with a vast economy, a large debt, and by modern standards, low taxes. We face real challenges, but they're not the kind of challenges individuals can hope to resolve on their own, piecemeal. Whether Christie understands this or not, we need cooperative solutions built around shared action.
Making additional tax contributions voluntarily -- in other words, asking for a little more only from those willing to pay a little more -- is ridiculous. The wealthy can afford modest tax increases, which in turn can help pay down the debt Republicans pretend to care about, while shielding many of those who can least afford to take another hit.
Here's hoping Buffett and others ignore Christie's advice and choose not to "shut up."