Editorial: Pay Up Like Buffett Wants Or Watch Your Mercedes Burn

The headline to a New York Times editorial Saturday sounds like a conservative parody of liberal sanctimony: 'The Enlightened Want to Be Taxed.' The content is no better, another boost of the paper's favorite multi-billionaire Warren 'tax me more' Buffett, whose crusade was launched on the Times opinion page August 15, while offensively crediting the left-wing threat of property destruction as a reasonable response to 'cuts to social welfare programs' in Europe.

Some of the world's wealthiest people are calling for higher taxes on the rich. They seem to recognize that the burden of the economic downturn cannot be borne entirely by the poor and middle class.

After the American billionaire investor Warren Buffett urged Congress last month to raise taxes on millionaires, the call echoed across Europe. Sixteen of France's wealthiest individuals urged the government to raise their taxes. The Italian Formula One magnate Luca di Montezemolo publicly backed Mr. Buffett's idea 'for reasons of fairness and solidarity.' About 50 of Germany's richest people have been campaigning for a higher top tax rate since 2009.


But altruism does not fully explain why members of the global elite are suddenly keen to prevent the deep budget reductions that will occur if governments don't raise more money. They are also moved by what some might call enlightened self-interest.

Their walls may be high, but the wealthy live in the same world as the poor and the middle class, who have been walloped by unemployment and cuts to social welfare programs. When Mercedes-Benzes burned in Berlin and riots broke out on London's streets, the rich were watching on TV.

If the editorial board consulted its own coverage of the Berlin riots, they could have read Nicholas Kulish's August 25 report noting the rioters didn't even have the false justification of tarageting 'the rich.'

In past years, the arson emerged in predictable patterns. There was an obvious emphasis on luxury sedans and SUVs, and fast-gentrifying neighborhoods like Friedrichshain, a former punk holdout, were hit particularly hard. But now, the attacks seem to have spread to every corner of the city and to include passenger cars of every sort.

On Kappenstrasse, in the neighborhood of Rudow, a nondescript Mitsubishi Carisma went up in flames on Tuesday morning, leaving the entire front end burned out, the engine blackened and one hubcap melted to the curb. Rudow is not hip like the central Mitte district. It is not the chic, well-heeled Charlottenburg, nor is it the gentrified post-Communist Prenzlauer Berg. It is a normal residential neighborhood, far from the city center at the end of a subway line.