Obama might even get a few of his liberal millionaire and billionaire friends to go along if he leads by example. Obama supporter Warren Buffett is famous for declaring his taxes are too low. Maybe Buffett would be willing to forego filing all those additional schedules on his tax return and simply take the standard deduction instead. Last year, Buffett claimed he paid an effective rate of 17.7 percent on the $46 million he earned, or roughly $8 million. But if he'd simply taken the standard deduction, he would have paid almost twice that in taxes. No one stopped him from doing so.
And then there's Obama's good friend Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric CEO and chairman of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Mr. Immelt's firm will pay no federal income taxes on the more than $5 billion it earned in the U.S. in 2010. It's all perfectly legal. The company can take net operating losses to offset its tax liabilities, including certain carryovers from previous years. What's more, Immelt has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to take advantage of all tax deductions the company is entitled to.
But there's nothing that stops Immelt from paying additional taxes on his personal income if he chooses to forego deductions. According to GE's annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, GE paid Immelt $7.3 million in cash and perquisites worth almost $400,000, in addition to stock currently worth $7.4 million, which vests over time.
Perhaps Obama should ask Immelt to skip his itemized deductions for the year and fork over $5 million to Uncle Sam. Somehow I don't see that happening. Like most limousine liberals -- who fly private jets to global warming conferences and live in 10,000 square-foot houses -- President Obama talks a great line but lives very differently.
When the president voluntarily gives up his deductions and asks his wealthy donors to do the same, he'll have some moral authority to argue, as he tried to in his speech, that he wants a tax code that "is fair and simple -- so that the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what kind of accountant you can afford." Until then, spare us the hypocrisy, Mr. President.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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