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Did Obama Pay a Lower Rate Than His Secretary?

Updated 1:10 pm ET

President Obama paid a total federal tax rate in 2011 on adjusted income of $789,674 that may be lower than that of his secretary, even though she earned substantially less.

Obama has spent the past week touting the Buffett Rule, which calls on those who make $1 million – just a little more than Obama made – to pay at federal tax rate of at least 30 percent. The rule was inspired by Buffett’s comment that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary.

The most recent information about salary regarding Obama’s secretary is for his former secretary, Katie Johnson, who is listed by the White House as having made $90,000 in 2010.

According to Wikipedia, Johnson is 31 years old and now attends Harvard Law School. I don’t know about her personal life or what her deductions would be, so I can’t assume any children or extra deductions.

On a $90,000 salary, she would pay $16,578 in federal taxes, $3,780 to Social Security, and $1,305 in Medicare taxes.

That adds up to a total federal tax burden of $21,663 on $90,000 in adjusted gross income, or a tax rate of 24 percent.

Obama’s federal income tax rate was 20.5 percent. If you include the Medicare and Social Security taxes paid by Obama, his total federal tax liability is 21.8 percent, fully two percent less than that of his secretary even though his adjusted gross income was nearly nine times hers.

292 thoughts on “Did Obama Pay a Lower Rate Than His Secretary?”

  1. Obama is using an untraceable by E-Verify social security number.

    he is paying taxes on some dead person’s id.

    his wife got a raise at U Chicago med center with the $1 milllion earmark her husband sealed as soon as he became a senator.





  2. Like 70% of small businesses, my employers pay the company’s income tax on their own returns. If their taxes go up, the prospect of new hiring or raises goes down. Simple, basic math that leftwing fools can’t grasp. They are so invested in taking shots at the rich that they are blind to the fact that it is the innocent bystander that are wounded and killed. Morons.

    1. Why don’t they incorporate? Oh, right, they pay based on their personal tax rate, because the corporate rate is higher…..why don’t they push for lower corporate rates (which the President supports) and then they can continue to be “job creators”.

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  4. The dollar amounts and percentages not withstanding, the true problem is that we, as a nation are over taxed and our “leaders” overspend. The Obama campaign has on their official web site ( the following two links: – which breaks down how your tax dollars are spent – it is captioned “Your 2011 Federal Taxpayer Receipt”; – captioned, “The Buffett Rule”

    The insidious part of the tax system is the weekly (or bi-weekly) deductions that most workers pay. This was done back when 16th Amendment was passed to keep the unwashed masses from rising up in revolt. Had Americans back then been forced to write a yearly or even quarterly check to the government, the backlash would have been terrifying to the powers that be.

    As it is, most people do not even realize how much of their money is being taken every time they get a check. It has become such a matter of course, that no one truly understands the magnitude of the cost. If you want to effect a change in how we are taxed as a nation, I would propose eliminating the payroll deduction, and force every citizen to write a check annually to the government. Then, let’s see how long the tax and spend crowds stay in power.

  5. @ 70K and four total exemptions I clocked a whole 6% fed tax rate. If you are single they screw you over big time. So Obama probably does pay less in taxes. I pay less than when I was struggling in school… why? because the government gives good breaks to families and people that take care of others. If you are not reproducing and not bringing up a future tax payer you should not get a tax break. Why do the Republicans hate families and want to tax them harder? Every time they want to raise my taxes with their flat tax and their pay as you go or national sales tax. I am raising two future sources of revenue I should get a break for that.

  6. The whole secretary/boss tax debacle is a constuct to push social engineering anyway. I don’t expect it to make any sense.
    I wonder why Obama has to pay Medicare taxes since he has free health care for life as part of his Presidential retirement? Will he also have to purchase health care coverage he doesn’t need to avoid being fined by Obamacare?

  7. Pingback: Did Obama Pay a Lower Rate Than His Secretary? | Politisite

  8. Wow, my husband and I pay over 30%. That must mean we’re filthy stinkin rich since we have oh so much more money that barrack and michelle…..NOT!

    1. @Kathy what it means is you need to go to H&R Block. Somebody doesn’t know how to fill out their taxes correctly or doesn’t understand them

  9. Keith, using your assumptions we could look at it this way: President Obama’s paid at a rate that was only 91% of his secretary, or conversely, his secretary paid at a rate that was 113% of the President’s. The injustice!

    So the question in my mind is, why doesn’t the President send in an additional amount to the Treasury to make sure that he pays at the same rate as is secretary? Hypocrite.

  10. Secretary paid 18.42% compared to Obama’s 20.5. So she paid less fed income tax…percentage wise…than he did. This writer is just trying to stir you up.

    1. Please, my fellow imPoster, Honkeys is 60’s,70’s and so outdated. For your information they like to be called Crackers.

      “You broke my heart, so I busted your jaw.”
      Spooky Tooth

  11. And now we learn that the Obama’s socked away thousands more in charitable ‘gifts’ to their daughter to avoid paying taxes on them?! You can’t make this stuff up.

  12. Unless his secretary gave away nearly 25% of her income to charity, this is a stupid comparison. Obama’s “tax rate” is so low mainly because he gave away a lot of money to charity (yes, conservatives do as well), a deduction that I don’t think even the most big-government liberals want to end.

  13. Pingback: A Review Of President Obama’s 2011 Tax Return « Double Taxation: A Take On All Things Taxes

  14. When Obama and other progressives argue in favor of the Buffett rule, they are implying that there is a finite amount of money available within our economy. They are saying that, in order to be fair to those who earn very little, those who earn large incomes and/or who have amassed wealth are obligated to contribute great sums of money to pay for federal expenses. In essence, they are saying that, in a class of 20 students, those averaging grades of 98 to 100 are somehow taking something away from those who average 60 or 70. Yet, the reality is that any student in this hypothetical classroom can earn good grades by applying effort and/or developing methods to boost their learning skills.

    While some degree of logic exists in the defense of a progressive tax system, our current progressive system is far from a fair system. Regardless of income level, the US military defends all citizens equally. Warren Buffet has no greater freedom of speech than someone who earns only $20K per year. OSHA protects work environments regardless of worker pay. And federal parks do not have specially reserved areas that are permitted to visitors based on individual tax contributions. So where is the fairness, taxation vs. representation? Despite the vast difference in wealth between Buffet and his secretary, both enjoy only one vote per election and are represented by a single Congressman and two Senators (at the federal level). Therefore, why should one person pay millions in federal taxes when that person’s neighbor only pays several thousand?

    Furthermore, if Buffett’s secretary decides to quit her job, how would her decision affect the economy? How much would the federal government lose in terms of revenue because she decides to stop working and she reduces her buying of goods and services? Compare those answers to a scenario whereby Buffett quits his job, and he shuts down all of his businesses, investments, and other interests. How many people would he take down with him? How many salaries would be reduced to $0? How much would the federal government lose in revenue?

    So, shouldn’t a class instructor advocate to his/her students to bring up the grades of those who aren’t earning 98 to 100? Shouldn’t Obama and the rest of our political leaders make the case with all Americans to go out and earn good wages to create wealth? The number of students who can earn 100’s is only limited by the number in a classroom. And the number of citizens who can become millionaires and billionaires is only limited by the number of those who engage in our economy.

    Fairness is when everyone produces to his/her best ability and contributes positively to the economy. This country will be much better served the day that every able person pays taxes (based on a progressive system or a flat system), and no one who is able has to look to his neighbor for a handout. Business leaders and other successful people should be beacons of motivation to those who are just starting out in the work force and to those still reaching for success. Pitting the successful against the less fortunate (or less motivated) is clearly NOT the proper recipe to create wealth and an improved standard of living in this great country.

    1. Love this! Very well said. I have been saying if we were talking about “fair share” of a pie, everyone would expect an equal piece and would be outraged if we dished it up based on how much you paid in taxes. And yet somehow, “fair share” is not considered to be an equal contribution when talking about taxes. We all receive the same services (some less than others) and opportunities from the government, why don’t we all have to pay the same for them?

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  17. Note the shift in the story between the terms “total federal tax rate” and “federal tax burden”.
    Apples to apples, not apples to oranges:
    Obama’s federal income tax rate was 20.5 percent.
    Katie Johnson federal income tax rate was 18.4 percent.
    Katie Johnson paid 2.1 percent less that the Obama’s.
    Social Security Medicare taxes are not federal income taxes However Mr. Koffler had to add them back to Katie Johnson’s “federal tax burden” in order to prove his point.

    Buffett Rule calls on those who make $1 million to pay at federal income tax rate of at least 30 percent and has nothing to do with Medicare and Social Security taxes.

  18. I think that reporting the “effective” tax rate should be clearly explained. The reason that the tax rate for President Obama is lower than his secretary’s is because the social security tax has a cap every year. The maximum income that social security taxed was $106800 for both 2010 and 2011. That amount will rise to 110,100 for 2012. Social security tax is different than federal tax. I don’t think that the average American is aware of the diffrences.

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  20. Oh irony. Obama can’t buy a break. I love how his critics turn his arguments against him. The President who is fighting for the Buffet Rule would gladly pay 30% when the tax plan is enacted, of course, that won’t happen because of Republicans. Vote Red and this stuff will continue to happen.

  21. If Obama’s or Buffet’s secretaries are being taxed at a higher rate than Obama or Buffet, the proper way to address this inequity is *not* to raise Obama’s and Buffet’s tax rates — the proper remedy is to LOWER the secretaries’ tax rate!!!

  22. THE TRUTH: Buffet pays exactly the same tax rate on capital gains as his secretary! Further Buffet pays exactly the same tax rate on normal income as his secretary! They may pay differing amounts, but they pay the same rate! Everything else that Obama or Buffet say about the issue is a bald faced attempt to defraud and confuse the public!

    1. Obama’s income is unearned income, since he doesn’t earn it. Therefore, he qualifies for the same tax rate as Buffet on unearned income.

  23. Yes, Pres. Obama should step up and pay his 30%. If he is going to lead, then lead and do what you say. What I hate about this author’s exercise is
    that he has fallen into the trap of who pays more or less and used a ‘rate’ instead of $$$. Obama’s taxes would be more than $160,000 while the secretary’s taxes were stated at just over $21,000. Now who paid more taxes. This is a game that the Fed. employees like to play. I would not walk across the street to say hello to Obama, but when these people start
    playing this game, they need to show both sides and explain how it hurts every body. The people who earn more, employ more and pay other business related taxes and costs. So if you raise the rate on the bigger earner, it hurts their ability to pay more payroll taxes for employees, so they cut their staff. If you raise the rate on the smaller earner, they don’t have the disposable income to keep the economy going. Higher tax rates for any level of wage earner is not good for the economy. But it is fair to tell everyone how many dollars the bigger earners are paying, not just their rate.

  24. President Obama wants people who make a million dollars per year to pay 30% in taxes.
    In 2010, President Obama made $1,728,096, and paid $453,770 in taxes, which amounts to 26.25%. In other words, don’t do as I do, but do as I say.

  25. Once again Mr. Obuma proves he knows absolutely nothing about what he is trying to say. Or once again he is simply lying to the people. Hopefully he will continue to shooting himself in the foot. Oh How Sweet It Is.

  26. On the tax returns just before Obama became President, his charitable deductions were less than 5%. This is the most he has ever given since I have seen his returns.

    Then there is Gov. Romney who has consistently given money to his church plus other organizations between 15-20%.

  27. When I lived in Canada, I didn’t make a whole lot of money. In fact, not much . . . around $35K. My tax rate there was 35%. Was very glad to get home.

  28. Pingback: Did Obama Pay a Lower Rate Than His Secretary? « Evil of indifference

  29. Keith —
    I don’t agree with your analysis (i.e. apple to an orange)
    They reported Obama’s effective tax rate on FEDERAL INCOME TAX as 20.5%.
    It is not correct than that you compare that to effective FEDERAL INCOME TAX + SOCSEC+MEDICARE combined rate for the secretary!
    The apple to apple comparison is Obama’s effective Federal Income tax rate =20.5% and the secretary’s (with just std deduction, 1 personal exemption, and filing single)
    = $95,000 – $5800 (std ded) -$3700 (exemption) = $85,500 (taxable income)
    then the secretary’s effective FEDERAL INCOME rate is;
    $85,500 / $95,000 = 18.9%. (lower than Obama ‘s 20.5%)
    So this shows Obama is incorrect and playing with numbers for the sake of
    divisive political games.. and he won’t even provide all the data he makes his false claims on.
    Soc Security and Medicare are taxed through payroll but with a lawful contract/promise back to the payee to provide back a defined benefit in retirement.
    They should not be looked at the same.
    Soc Sec is taxed at 4.2% for employees in 2011 on earned income up to $106,800.
    Medicare is taxed at 1.45% in 2011 on all all eraned income.
    Also income on long term capital gains and some dividends (which I am sure Obama has some) are by law taxed at lower rate (i.e. 15% in case of LT capital gains). This is most likely why is effective rate is reduced!
    (but he hasn’t provided those details).
    But with all the detail, to any intelligent citizen his lies would be clear.
    This is the current tax laws (in effect over 10 years), which do need reformed / modernized / simplified, but not per the socialistic agenda of Obama and his minions.
    To date, this is the tax law passed by a large majority of a democratically elected congress. I recall hearing from Obam, that such laws should not be overturned. Oh — I get it, just the ones he likes shouldn’t be!.
    Capital gains should be taxed at lower rates to incentitize investors to take the needed risk on ventures that fuel our free market economy. The money invested here was already taxed at the earned income rates (much higher) when it was initially earned.
    That is America. Most like it this way. Doesn’t mean we cannot modify and improve.
    But Obama’s lies and propoganda is not the cure America needs.
    I hope we change in 2012

  30. Since the Buffett Rule doesn’t kick in until you exceed 1 Million Taxable Income, nothing would change for the Obama / Secretary senario. Obama’s taxablle income did not exceed 1 Million.

  31. This is all a distraction from the real problem, the Deficit. He has to have something for the general populace who don’t know how to do math. This “rule” would barely be a pimple on the behind of the Deficit, but hey, you gotta have something shiny for the “regular folk” to focus on.

  32. At this point, I’m going to have to see some hard data to be convinced that Barack H. Obama is a super genius.

    You know what I mean?

    1. Yes sir, I’ve already seen and heard it. He cannot without the use of his best friend,the Teleprompter, complete any sentence without stammering er, eh, stumbling. bumbling through what he’s saying. Hell I got a sixth grade education and can complete statements without saying er,er, eh, you’ll have to ask Jay Carney

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  34. Once again, to say that Buffett paid less than his secretary is misleading at best. He does not pay the tax rate as his secretary on his “capital gains”! capital Gains is taxed at 15%. Now most people 1 million and above pay about 32% on their income and when the invest their money after taxes they pay another 15% on the gain. This rate was put into place to encourage people to invest. Their are those however who are very wealthy and can live off their capital gains so they have .instead of getting a regular pay check had they get paid with investments, therefore get taxed on the gains. But what is let out about Buffett he is fighting the IRS about what he owes them on his previous income, he owes about three million, and has not paid it yet! Look at all those czars that did not pay their taxes when it became public when Obama first came into office. Count on it, if he does raise taxes on those of a million and over it will be the regular small business people that will be on the hook, those who make much more than that I am sure will be provided with loop wholes such as GE, so they pay NO taxes! So where do you really believe he will get the tax money, it will not matter if he is voted in again if he raises taxes on everyone except the bottom 50%!

  35. Pingback: Obama avoids Taxes by giving their daughters nearly 50,000 dollars | Politisite

  36. Why are they getting a mortgage deduction on a house they don’t own?
    Receipts for charity please. I looked through the tax returns and didn’t see any copies of receipts. Did I just miss them?

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