Over at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein takes issue with me and Dave Freddoso for our criticisms of President Obama's "Buffett Rule" surtax, but I think Ezra misses our point.
Before getting to that, I'll start with an area of partial agreement with Ezra. I think it's a fair criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney that the tax reform in their budget plans does not specify the loopholes that they plan to close to offset their planned rate reductions. I've taken issue with this and have urged Republicans to be more open about what type of favored deductions they'd get rid of, which have become cows as sacred as entitlements. This is something that Jon Huntsman deserves credit for doing in his presidential campaign -- he vowed to eliminate every deduction, even popular ones on employer-based health insurance, mortgage interest and charitable giving.
With that said, I think Ezra misses the point when he compares the "Buffett rule" to the Republican campaign to defund National Public Radio. Generally speaking, Republican calls for defunding NPR have to do with the belief that government simply should not be funding media, especially a news source that suffers from left-wing bias. Though you can find statements of Republicans citing the nation's fiscal state while making the case against funding NPR, you don't generally find them making NPR funding a central part of speeches about the broader debt problem. In fact, if you search Ryan's budget document, you won't find a reference to NPR.
By contrast, Obama brings up the Buffett rule in speech after speech when discussing the deficit. His budget references it repeatedly. And it's a key part of White House messaging on the debt. As Vice President Joe Biden tweeted earlier today, "I’m for the Buffett Rule because it just makes sense. Like the President says—it’s not class warfare. It’s math."
In reality, it raises just $47 billion over a decade, or less than one percent of the $6.4 trillion in projected deficits during the same period under Obama's budget. By pointing out this actual math, all critics of the "Buffett rule" are doing is showing that the proposal is, in fact, more about class warfare.