Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has often voiced his support for increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, arguing that under the current system his cleaning lady forks over a higher percentage of her income to Uncle Sam than he does. The stance has made the world's third-richest man an unlikely ally of the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially since President Obama proposed "The Buffett Rule," which would set a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-class Americans. Obviously, not all of Buffett's Monopoly men peers are so eager to break open their piggy-banks for the greater good. But does that group include Bill Gates?
"Certainly there's a case to be made that taxes should be more progressive," Gates said. "That's being debated by various people."
As the Wall Street Journal notes, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Gates seems to be implying that if there is indeed "a case to be made" for a more progressive tax code, somebody other than him needs to make it.
Asked again, Gates went a step further but still couldn't quite bring himself to endorse Obama's Buffett-inspired proposal. "Clearly, you can't raise the taxes we need just by going after that 1 percent," he said. "Yes, I'm generally in favor of the idea that the rich should pay somewhat more, but to really deal with the deficit gap we're talking about, that alone, just numerically, is not going to be enough."
Gates also prefaced his response by saying he's "not an expert" on taxes. That may be true, but the company he created certainly knows how to juke the IRS. This past year, Microsoft reported $445 million in taxes in the U.S. and other foreign countries, a mere 7 percent of its $6.32 billion in pre-tax haul. The standard U.S. corporate rate is 35 percent, but the software giant -- like many other U.S. Corporations -- channels a substantial portion of its earnings through low-tax havens abroad.
Still, it's tough to knock Gates. He is spending his fortune curing diseases and improving education opportunities for the next generation, not buying a pro football team and an armada of yachts. Even in the ABC interview above, he goes on to describe his to recent efforts persuading first-world governments to continue funding international aid programs. He told a group of University of Washington students earlier this week that, "The rich should give away more of their wealth than they currently do."
Gates didn't campaign for I-1098, his father's proposal to raise taxes on Washington residents earning more than $200,000 annually, but he did reportedly vote in favor of it. Sadly, his wasn't the swing vote. A staggering 64 percent of his fellow Washingtonians voted against the failed ballot initiative, which would have generated about $2 billion in revenue for the state -- roughly the same amount that will likely be cut from the budget by Governor Gregoire, eliminating many services for the poor, elderly, and disabled.