There’s a new organization on the political scene –the “Patriotic Millionaires.” It sounds like a wealthy branch of the Tea Party, but it’s most assuredly not.
“Dozens of America’s wealthiest taxpayers –including hedge fund legend Michael Steinhardt, super trial lawyer Guy Saperstein and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s fame” have banded together to urge President Obama to raise taxes for people in their bracket.
The “Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strenth” launched a website Thursday that includes the signature of more than 40 very wealthy Americans who believe “fiscal responsibility should begin with those who can best afford it.” They wrote:
We have done very well over the last several years. Now, during our nation’s moment of need, we are eager to do our fair share. We don’t need more tax cuts, and we understand that cutting our taxes will increase the deficit and the debt burden carried by other taxpayers. The country needs to meet its financial obligations in a just and responsible way. Letting tax cuts for incomes over $1,000,000 expire, is an important step in that direction.
Coincidentally, the same day the Patriotic Millionaires campaign appeared, a new study found that half of the members of the House and the Senate are millionaires. In the general populace –you, the voter– fewer than one percent can claim millionaire status.
David Stockman, Robert Reich, Greg Mankiw and Peter Orszag –budget directors for Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama, respectively– all agree that letting all the tax cuts expire would alone balance the budget by 2015.
Is this just theatre? One’s initial reaction might be that no one is stopping them from voluntarily increasing their own taxes. They don’t have to take deductions and they can voluntarily send an extra check to the IRS any time they want. If they’re really that eager to do their “fair share,” they’d be cutting the check and then publishing their tax returns so others would be encouraged to do the same.
Wouldn’t it be better for their cause to just go down to the treasury and cut Uncle Sam a check? Perhaps, but if they did that, you and I know that someone would say that’s political theatre.
But these people aren’t just saying that they themselves are willing to pay higher taxes. They believe all people of such means and wealth should pay higher taxes given that they’ve benefited greatly even in these past few years as the bulk of Americans have suffered greatly.
It would be just fine for them to give money if they felt like it but by making it a “campaign” they actually hope to change the policy; if they just cut the checks, that would be that, barely a drop in the bucket.
I’d argue to go a step further and let all the tax cuts expire –for everyone, not just the wealthy. But that seems untenable because, as I see it, Americans don’t know the meaning of sacrifice anymore. The same people who want to make the tax cuts permanent are the same ones who didn’t want to pay for the war in Iraq. They thought they were doing their part by putting one of those ribbons on the back of their car. That’s not sacrifice. A war tax would’ve been a sacrifice. The security measures everyone rails about –those are sacrifices. We’re too damned selfish to give a damn. Maybe that’s why they want the tax cut for the wealthy to expire. If the tax code returns to its pre-Bush tax cut status, then people have to pay.
And the funny part is, almost half of all American households pay no federal taxes at all. It was 39 percent under Bush; under Obama it’s 47 percent (comprised largely of the wealthiest income earners –making over a million annually– and the very poor –making less than $30k). And we’re complaining? Selfish people tend to do that when they’re asked to pay their fair share.