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Buffett's secretary to sit with first lady at State of the Union address

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Billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett’s longtime secretary, Debbie Bosanek, will sit alongside first lady Michelle Obama in her box at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer announced in a tweet.

“President Obama will offer more details on the Buffett Rule,” Mr. Pfeiffer added.

Last fall, President Obama unveiled his plans to pay for deficit reduction through increased taxes on millionaires, which he dubbed the “Buffett Rule” after Mr. Buffett, who publicly has said the nation’s wealthiest Americans like himself should pay more in taxes to help the country balance its books in tough economic times.

Mr. Buffett, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, said he pays a lower tax rate than any other staffer in his office and in August called on Congress to raise taxes on individuals earning $1 million or more a year, with an even higher rate on those earning $10 million or more.

Mr. Obama’s deficit-reduction plan called for $3 in new tax increases for every dollar in additional spending cuts, with most of the new revenue coming from raising taxes on those in the top income brackets who often take advantage of deductions and loopholes in the tax code and end up paying a lower tax rate than many middle-class workers.

The president mentioned Ms. Bosanek in a September speech as an illustration of the disparity in the tax code.

“Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett,” he said. “There’s no justification for it.”

The Buffett Rule already has received plenty of attention from Republicans on the campaign trail. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in September said the president’s plan to raise taxes would have a “crushing impact” on economic growth.

“Higher taxes mean fewer jobs — it’s that simple. This is yet another indication that President Obama has no clue how to bring our economy back,” Mr. Romney said.

Mr. Obama’s return to the Buffett Rule and Ms. Bosanek’s presence during the speech may be designed to capitalize on Mr. Romney’s release of his tax returns Tuesday morning. The returns show that he and his wife, Ann, paid a 13.9 percent tax rate on $21.7 million in income. Mr. Obama paid a 23 percent effective rate during the same year.

Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a debilitating shot to the head last year in an assault in a Tucson, Ariz., parking lot, also will join the first lady in her box for the speech. Mrs. Giffords on Sunday announced plans to resign from Congress this week on the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

Other guests in the first lady’s box will include Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; White House adviser Valerie Jarrett; Adm. William McRaven, commander of the Joint Special Operations Command; and Sgt. Ashleigh Berg, who has served two tours in Iraq and whose husband currently is deployed in Afghanistan on his third combat tour.

Mrs. Obama also has invited Alicia Boler-Davis, manager of General Motors’ Orion assembly plant in Detroit; Jackie Bray, process operator at the Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub in King’s Mountain, N.C.; Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio; Bruce Cochrane, president and CEO of Lincolnton Furniture in Lincolnton, N.C.; Sara Ferguson, a teacher at Columbus Elementary School in Parkside, Pa.; and Hiroyuki Fujita, the founder and president of Quality Electrodynamics in Cleveland.

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at scrabtree@washingtontimes.com.

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