|The legendary investor|
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The White House released an email Thursday that said some 1,470 millionaires paid $0 in federal income tax in 2009. The message highlighted President Barack Obama's "Buffett Rule," which would require all households that earn more than $1 million to pay at least a share similar to middle-class families.
"When it comes to paying down the deficit and investing in our future, should we ask middle-class Americans to pay even more ...
or should we ask some of the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share?" Obama asked in his March 31 weekly White House address. The Buffett Rule is derived from the fact that legendary investor Warren Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanek, said she paid a higher rate than her billionaire boss. There were some 2.9 U.S. millionaires in 2009, according to an annual World Wealth Report from Merill Lynch and Capgemini, which would peg the White House's reported number of those that hadn't paid any taxes at about 0.05% of all millionaires. Fairness, though, has been central to Obama's rhetoric in 2012 as the country prepares to enter a general election in which the president is trying to distinguish himself on economic issues against a likely Republican nominee -- Mitt Romney -- who could be worth as much as $264 million. "He has to believe ... that the fairness argument is going to prevail," said Gary Dorrien, a social ethicist at Columbia University who just finished a book about Obama's first term. "He's running against a guy who's a poster child for the 1% -- someone paying 14% tax rate -- Obama's just going to hammer that home day after day." The president will have to hope that independents -- the voting bloc that will likely decide this election -- swallow this platform and view Romney's private-equity background as a weakness rather than a strength. For now, it appears Obama will rely on Buffett and millionaire rhetoric to his advantage as Americans continue to slug through a moderately improving economy. -- Written by Joe Deaux in New York. >Contact by Email. >Follow Joe Deaux on Twitter. Subscribe on Facebook.