February 29, 2012
By Cheryl Hall
Al Niemi believes the Warren Buffett-inspired debate about whether rich guys should pay more taxes hides a much more threatening problem: America’s middle class, the economic engine of the nation, is getting skewered by the current federal income tax structure.
“The people paying the brunt and the highest tax rates are the middle class because they don’t have tax shelters,” says Niemi, dean of Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. “All they have is wages and salaries being taxed at 25, 28, 33, 35 or soon-to-be 39.6 percent. Those people have no place to hide.”
He and his wife are among “those people.”
“People like us get socked,” Niemi says. “When you look at it at the end of the year, it’s amazing how much taxes you’ll pay. You generate your income through your wages, and you’re subject to withholding. It’s there, and then it’s gone.”
Niemi began to delve into the rich-vs.-middle-class disparity last fall, when Buffett launched his personal assault on federal income taxes. The 81-year-old multibillionaire pointed out that he paid an overall tax rate of 17.4 percent for 2010, a pittance compared with the 33 percent to 44 percent paid by the 20 other people in his Berkshire Hathaway office, including his secretary.
Read the full column.
# # #