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State of the Union: Obama to double down on taxing the rich

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"It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett," Obama said in a December speech in Osawatomie, Kan. "And by the way, Warren Buffett agrees with me. So do most Americans – Democrats, independents, and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible."

Here's a hint that Americans who tune in Tuesday night will hear something like that again: The long-time secretary of Mr. Buffett, the Nebraska investor and billionaire, is scheduled to be a guest at the State of the Union address.

Between 1995 and 2008, the earnings of America's top 400 income-tax filers went up 276 percent to an average of $164 million in adjusted gross income. Their average tax rate during that same period fell by some 39 percent, to 18.1 percent of income in 2008, according to Internal Revenue Service data culled by journalists at

At the same time, economic progress for the average American has faltered. Adjusted for inflation, the median household income of $49,445 is about $1,000 higher than it was in 1995, but it is down from levels seen between 1997 and 2009, according to the US Census Bureau.

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