Patty in the News

Sen. Patty Murray joined President Obama on Wednesday in a Washington-to-Washington campaign to enact the “Buffett Rule” which  would require those earning more than $1 million to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes.

“There is no doubt this is a political issue, but it is a far, far, far deeper issue for me,” Murray said.

The Democrats’ tax fairness campaign has the additional benefit of sideswiping Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney, who reported paying 14 percent in taxes on $21 million in income last year.

As usual in such events, Murray was followed to the podium by a bevy of those she describes as “general, regular average folks” who argued that the middle class should not pay more than billionaires.

“It burns me:  It gets my blood up a little . . . I have a lot of colleagues who are small business owners and none of us earns $1 million,” said Brian Wells, owner of Tougo Coffee, who hosted Murray’s event.

The “Buffett Rule” is named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a friend and political supporter of President Obama, who has pointed out that he pays less percentage of income than his secretary.  Buffett’s secretary was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama at January’s State-of-the-Union speech.

“At a time when the share of national income flowing to the top 1 percent of people in this country has climbed to levels we haven’t seen since the 1920′s, these same folk are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years,” President Obama said in a White House speech Wednesday.

“In fact, one in four millionaires pays a lower tax rate than millions of hard working middle class households.”

The Senate’s Democrats plan to force votes next week on the Buffett Rule.  Murray is part of the Senate Democratic leadership.  Republicans have denounced the campaign as an appeal to “class warfare.”

Murray acknowledged that implementation of the Buffett Rule would put only about $50 billion into federal coffers in the next 10 years.  “That is an incredibly good first step,” she said.

If the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year are allowed to expire in January, the income to the federal treasury would be $800 billion over the next decade.

The federal tax rate for the top .01 percent of the nation’s population has declined from 51 percent to 26 percent during the last half-century.

Curiously, President Obama has spent more of his time on Seattle-area visits with that top .01 percent — multimillionaire contributors — than his predecessors.  The President has held two $35,800-a-couple Medina fundraisers in recent months.

Asked if the President should associate with regular folk during his upcoming May 10 campaign-related visit, Sen. Murray smiled and replied:  “I always encourage all of our folks to spend time on the ground talking to people.  Washington, D.C., is a long ways away . . . Of course I’ll be telling him.”

- The Seattle PI