There's a strange loophole in the federal tax code. Those Americans who become wealthy thanks to private-equity funds -- hedge-fund managers, vulture capitalists -- get to pay a special, lower tax rate. The result is a tax policy dynamic that's obviously unfair: some millionaires end up paying a lower rate than most of the middle class.
Democrats have proposed closing the loophole with something called the "Buffett Rule," which would require those who make $1 million or more to pay at least a 30% rate, and the Senate is scheduled to act on the proposal today. Is there any chance the measure might pass? Well, no -- Republicans have vowed to kill the proposal with a filibuster when Democrats try to bring it to the floor this afternoon.
When the Senate minority prevents an up-or-down vote today, they'll not only ignore the wishes of most members of the Senate, they'll also ignore the wishes of most of the country -- Gallup reported on Friday that Americans favor the Buffett Rule, 60% to 37%.
As for why Republican lawmakers oppose the Buffett Rule, it's surprisingly tricky to get a coherent explanation out of them. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), an alleged moderate, explained late last week why he'll side with the far right against closing the tax loophole.
"We're in the middle of a three year recession," said Sen. Brown. "To raise taxes on anyone is a jobs killer."
First, we're not "in the middle" of a recession; we're actually at the beginning of a fragile recovery. Second, this isn't raising a tax; it's closing a loophole. And third, if Brown can explain in any depth why millionaire hedge-fund managers paying a lower tax rate than police officers creates jobs, I'd be very impressed.
Remember, this guy is what passes for Republican "centrism" in the 21st century.
As for the media, a variety of pundits have decided not to take today's Buffett Rule showdown seriously, dismissing it as a "gimmick." As others have already explained in detail, these pundits are making a mistake.