How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

The numbers behind the Buffett Rule

October 20, 2011: 10:11 AM ET

As powerful and provocative women (Gloria Steinem, Chelsea Handler, Rosie O'Donnell...) have been swarming Warren Buffett to boost his so-called Buffett Rule--his pitch to tax the super-rich at higher rates, in line with the middle class--a lot of ordinary people wonder: How much money would this amount to, and what good might it do for America?

At the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) chief executive laid it all out in an interview with my colleague, Carol Loomis. If the billionaire investor has his numbers right (usually he does) and if the Buffett Rule would be enacted, the famed investor says that it "would probably raise about $20 billion annually from about 50,000 people."

And the Buffett Effect, if that money were divvied out as he envisions?  "$20 billion is $1,000 each to 20 million families," Buffett says, adding, "If I've got a choice of getting $1,000 from 20 million families throughout this country that are already struggling, or getting $20 billion by asking people to pay taxes in the range of the 30s just like everybody else is in this country, I'd rather go to the ultra rich."

It's all about "shared sacrifice," as Buffett explains in this clip from his on-stage interview:

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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