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Some millionaires want to pay more taxes

A number of wealthy Americans have banded together to insist that their tax rates go up.

By Karen Datko Apr 9, 2010 6:20PM

Happy Tax Freedom Day to a group of folks I consider real patriots -- millionaires who want to pay higher taxes.

 

They’re the antithesis of the people (generally not economists) who complain that taxes are way too high but add, “Don’t touch my (Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, or whatever their favorite government program is)."

 

And these noble rich folks are getting their message out there.

  • A group of millionaires held a conference call with reporters explaining why their taxes should go up. "Instead of economic growth, the (Bush) tax cuts have added an additional $2.5 trillion to our mounting national debt now headed for $13 trillion," said millionaire Mike Lapham, co-founder of the Responsible Wealth project.
  • MarketWatch columnist Al Lewis said the millionaires have “signed the ‘Responsible Wealth Tax Fairness Pledge,’ vowing to give at least some of their Bush tax savings to organizations that oppose the Bush tax cuts, or work for social or economic justice.”
  • Wealthy people have signed a petition circulated by Wealth for the Common Good calling for the Bush tax cuts for households with more than $235,000 in taxable income to expire at the end of the year. A new report by the group “details how, over the last half-century, America’s highest earners have seen their tax outlays drop by as much as two-thirds,” its Web site says.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation, posting at NPR, recently reviewed the Wealth for the Common Good report and shared some conclusions about the shift of the tax burden to the middle class. Among them:

That shift is clear just looking at the tax rates paid by the wealthiest Americans. From 1950 to 1963 -- even under that radical Republican President Dwight Eisenhower -- the federal tax rate on personal income over $400,000 never dropped below 91%. Between 1936 and 1980 it never dropped below 70%. But today, the top personal income tax rate after the 2001 Bush tax cut is just 35%, and you can count on one hell of a fight with ConservaDems and the GOP just to let that expire at the end of this year so the rate will return to the modest 39.6% level of the Clinton years. The tax rate on capital gains -- which most benefits those in the highest income brackets -- dropped to 15% in 2003, down from as high as 39.9% in 1977.

Last fall we wrote about how Republican economist Bruce Bartlett argued in Forbes that if we’re going to be fiscally responsible, everyone will have to pay higher taxes. “The idea that we can restore fiscal health only with spending cuts is childish, as I tried to explain last week,” he wrote.

I think he’s right. We’re all going to have to sacrifice. And if the wealthy are ready and willing to pay more, we should graciously thank them.

 

While the majority of Americans oppose higher taxes on the middle class, it appears they'd be OK if the wealthy paid more. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed that 60% favor a tax increase on households earning in excess of $250,000. That percentage rises to 72% for household income exceeding $1 million.  

 

Related reading:

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