A group of millionaires has a message for our government, and especially Republicans in Congress: ‘Raise our taxes, raise the minimum wage, and let’s get money out of politics!’ Currently, 25 percent of millionaires pay less in taxes than the middle class. This includes 94,500 of them who paid a lower rate than much of the middle class, and about 7,000 who paid no federal income tax at all.
While these “Patriotic Millionaires” may not be popular with the those of their brethren who wish to continue taking advantage of our system of taxation in an effort to avoid contributing to society, the growing coalition of 225+ members is working for change. On the group’s web site, they note that:
Over the last four years, the Patriotic Millionaires have stormed Washington, DC with their tax message, debated anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, slammed self-interested politicians on tax-policies harmful to the middle class, delivered a press conference with the President, and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the White House to pass the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act.
“The Patriotic Millionaires will continue to dominate major media markets and renew pressure on Congress to reform the current tax system for the economic well-being of regular Americans,” the group promises. “In addition, they will drive public attention toward issue-specific tax policies yet to be repaired, including: eliminating the carried interest loophole for hedge fund managers, limiting the total amount wealthy individuals can accumulate in tax protected IRAs and other retirement funds, and eliminating the mortgage interest tax deductions for second homes. The Patriotic Millionaires will also turn their attention to addressing inequality more broadly, including raising the minimum wage and trade.”
“Rich people are not the cause of a robust economy; they are the result of a robust economy,” investor Ron Garrett says in a video on the group’s web site, in which members urge the government to tax them — and other wealthy individuals — at higher rates to ensure they are giving back to a society that has done so much for them.
The group issued an open letter to those in Washington, DC, urging politicians to put “our country ahead of politics”:
Dear Mr. President,
Hon. Harry Reid, and Hon. John Boehner,
We are writing to urge you to put our country ahead of politics. For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000. We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.
Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.
Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have. Please do the right thing for our country.
Raise our taxes.
“I think of political and economic inequality as twin cancers,” explained Morris Pearl, who resigned as managing director of BlackRock Inc. to chair the coalition of millionaires. “A tiny number of people are using their money to increase their political power and using their political power to increase their wealth, and it is killing the country.”
The small, yet growing, group recently merged with Wealth for Common Good, “a network of business leaders, high-income individuals and partners working together to promote shared prosperity and fair taxation” whose membership includes entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, engineers and elected officials of all backgrounds and from all over the country. “We are “the 1 percent” that wants an economy that works for everyone,” Wealth for Common Good states on its web site.
Pearl has very ambitious goals for the Patriotic Millionaires. He says that in the next few months, he hopes to double the group’s membership. He says the group plans to spend several million dollars in late spring 2015 on television and internet advertising calling for an increase in the minimum wage, as well as a lobbying campaign aimed at gaining support for the Patriotic Millionaires’ agenda.
“We recognize we aren’t making a lot of progress with this Supreme Court and the current Congress, but we’re still keeping up the fight and moving it in the right direction,” said Pearl. “We’re in this for the long game.”
AFL-CIO policy director Damon Silvers views the millionaires as allies in the struggle to end class warfare in America. “They really undercut the notion that somehow the wealthy contributing their fair share to the country is a divisive issue,” he said. “The Patriotic Millionaires I’ve met are really Mr. Smith goes to Washington, except with money.”
While the group is adamant in its goals, it may encounter difficulties in convincing the wealthy to willingly contribute to society. “They thought I had a mental problem,” Pearl said of his former Wall Street colleagues.
Watch a video from the Patriotic Millionaires, below, in which they urge our government to end the insanity:
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.