Sanders, Buffett influence Democratic platform

He’s not expected to appear at the Democratic National Convention, but Warren Buffett did attend a town hall rally last December in Omaha. Steve Pope/Getty Images

Be on the lookout in Philadelphia this week for two well-known older guys, Bernie Sanders and Warren Buffett. Both played big roles in the tax planks of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform.

I’ll save you some spotting time.

Sanders will be there, at least on the day he delivers a speech to the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in the City of Brotherly Love. And he’ll be there on much better terms than expected.

Bernie’s platform consolation prizes

After losing the party’s presidential primary battle to Hillary Clinton, Sanders had threatened to take his fight all the way to the nominating convention floor. But Clinton and Democratic officials staved that scene off by incorporating some of Sanders’ policy positions in the Party’s official principles document.

In fact, the taxes section reads like it came directly from one of Sanders’ fiery campaign trail speeches: “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we believe the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.”

To accomplish that, the platform proposes ending tax breaks from companies that ship jobs overseas, as well as eliminating oil and gas company tax breaks and cracking down on inversions that allow companies to technically relocate to lower-taxed countries.

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A bit of Bernie

Elsewhere, the Democrats call for some taxes that Sanders supported, but not to the degree he advocated.

For example, the Democratic document is in favor of a financial transactions tax “to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading.” Basically, this would be a tax on folks for certain financial instrument trades.

But the wording indicates it would be a tax favored by Clinton, targeting high frequency trades, rather than nearly all financial transactions that Sanders had wanted.

Sanders’ call for expanding Social Security also got a nod in the tax area. The platform wants to ensure the government retirement plan’s benefits “continue for generations to come by asking those at the top to pay more.”

To accomplish that, the Democratic Platform calls for taxing some of the income of people above $250,000. Exactly how much is covered under “some” is not clear, but it’s not as far as Sanders’ proposal to lift the cap so that everyone who makes over $250,000 a year pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security.

Buffett there in name, not in person

Don’t, however, waste your time looking for Buffett. Although the avuncular billionaire investor endorsed Clinton, he’s not a party regular.

Still, Buffett has made it into the last 2 Democratic platforms.

In 2012, he was cited as the namesake of the Buffett Rule, a proposed tax code change that would ensure “no millionaire pays a smaller share of his or her income in taxes than middle class families do.” The proposal arose out of Buffett’s declaration that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary because most of his earnings were from lower-taxed capital gains.

In the current party platform, Buffett isn’t specifically mentioned, but the tax proposal he inspired is there. It calls for the closing of “egregious loopholes” ensuring that “millionaires can no longer pay a lower rate than their secretaries.”

Short on specifics

Taxes might get more attention at the Democratic National Convention than they did at last week’s Republican gathering, but don’t count on it.

These nominating events are more pep rallies than policy conclaves. But the platforms at least give you an idea of the general direction each party would like to take on taxes.

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