This nugget is from Forbes Magazine:
Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, served as a stage prop for President Obama’s State of the Union speech. She was the president’s chief display of the alleged unfairness of our tax system – a little person paying a higher tax rate than her billionaire boss.
Bosanek’s prominent role in Obama’s “fairness” campaign piqued my curiosity, and I imagine the curiosity of others. How much does her boss pay this downtrodden woman? So far, no one has volunteered this information.
We can get an approximate answer by consulting IRS data on tax rates by adjusted gross income, which would approximate her salary, assuming she does not have significant dividend, interest or capital-gains income (like her boss). I assume Buffett keeps her too busy for her to hold a second job. I also do not know if she is married and filing jointly. If so, it is deceptive for Obama to use her as an example. The higher rate may be due to her husband’s income. So I assume the tax rate Obama refers to is from her own earnings.
Insofar as Buffett (like Mitt Romney) earns income primarily from capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent (and according to Obama need to be raised for reasons of fairness), we need to determine how much income a taxpayer like Bosanek must earn in order to pay an average tax rate above fifteen percent. This is easy to do.
The IRS publishes detailed tax tables by income level. The latest results are for 2009. They show that taxpayers earning an adjusted gross income between $100,000 and $200,000 pay an average rate of twelve percent. This is below Buffett’s rate; so she must earn more than that. Taxpayers earning adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 to $500,000, pay an average tax rate of nineteen percent. Therefore Buffett must pay Debbie Bosanke a salary above two hundred thousand.
We must wait for further details to learn how much more than $200,000 she earns. The tax tables tell us about average ranges. For all we know she earns closer to a half million each year, but that is pure speculation.
I have nothing against Debbie Bosanke earning a half million or even more. Buffett is a major player in the world economy. His secretary deserves good compensation. At her income, however, she is scarcely the symbol of injustice that Obama wishes her to project.