In a New York Times column titled “Everybody’s Business; In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning,” Ben Stein tells the following story about Warren E. Buffet (the second richest person in the world):

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. ”How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. ”How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

”There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, ”but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Stein goes on to consider some of the consequences of  tax policy for the U.S. budget deficit.  Regarding his own position, Stein writes:

People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?

In their series titled Class Matters, the New York Times offered an account of growing income & wealth inequality and the impact of recent tax cuts in this story, “Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind,” by David Cay Johnston. And for a graphic on taxation see the accompanying graphic, “The Wealthiest Benefit More From the Recent Tax Cuts.”

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