This is rich:

Warren Buffett's Secretary Likely Makes Between $200,000 and $500,000 a year

So it's very likely that President Obama wants to raise her taxes, too.

It speaks well for Mr. Buffett that he compensates Debbie Bosanek generously (and who can beat sitting in the gallery as a guest of the first lady during the State of the Union address as a perk?).

But I fear she is no longer quite as good a symbol of the little person who pays a lower tax rate than millionaires and billionaires. The figures on Ms. Bosanek's probable earnings come from a Forbes magazine piece by Paul Roderick Gregory. (This just in: an item elsewhere has just surfaced that quotes Buffett as having said that his secretary earns considerably less. But I feel certain that the president will find a way to raise taxes on people at this level, too.)

Here is how Gregory arrived at his estimate:

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)..

Insofar as Buffet (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 Buffet'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 Buffet must pay Debbie Bosanke a salary above two hundred thousand.  

As I noted yesterday, if Ms. Bosanek also has earnings from investments this portion of her income would be taxed at a similar rate to Mr. Buffett's.

In a way, the presence of Ms. Bosanek at the SOTU is a metaphor for much of what the president says about taxes: her presence, as we now believe, based on the Forbes story, was misleading, as are the president's claims that the rich, who pay a portion of the nation's tax revenue disproportionate to their numbers, don't pay their "fair share."