November 22 2010
ABC News is reporting that a group of 45 millionaires have signed a letter to President Obama and lawmakers in Congress, asking that the government raise taxes on millionaires by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for their income bracket. That's right, the group, calling themselves "Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength" are willing to watch their own tax burdens increase for the benefit of their country.
Wow, there's so much to say - where do I begin?
My first concern is with the use of the word "patriotic" to describe what is happening here. To equate paying more in taxes with being patriotic would automatically make the highest earners of America our most patriotic citizens. It would also mean that the middle class is middle-patriotic, and that those who receive more in government subsidies than they pay in taxes are negative in patriotism. Let's please not confuse patriotism - love for one's country - with paying a greater share of taxes. The volunteer nature of this letter does not excuse this misnomer, and I do not believe that these 45 are any more patriotic than other non-signatory millionaires.
In fact, it's likely that among non-signing millionaires there are some who believe that keeping more resources in the private sector (if even in their own hands) is a better service to the country than paying more in taxes.
Actually, the Web site of the "patriotic millionaires," www.fiscalstrength.com, states that there are approximately 375,000 people in the U.S. who are currently earning incomes above one million dollars. So, it's a relatively small group, they say, to hit with this tax increase.
Ironically, I'm willing to bet that several of the signers of the letter no longer fall into this income group of 375,000. Therefore, a tax increase on today's highest earners wouldn't even affect them, because the millions they've earned are already in the bank.
To balance their story, ABC News interviewed a small business owner who did not sign on with the "patriotic millionaires." Mark Muller owns a car dealership in Butler, Mo. The story did not share his annual income, only his thoughts on the matter as a small business owner:
"It's about basic freedom, and we are losing our freedom every day to taxes and the government," said Muller. "If I thought I could give an extra $10,000 a year to solve this country's problems, I would be the first one to write a check. But they're going to squander it and waste it."
Muller said he is "blessed and so thankful" for all he has, but he is concerned about the future tax burdens on his three children in college, if they pursue small businesses of their own.
"I'm going to be fine and I'm going to survive, but how about my kids?" asked Muller, who said the decisions of small business owners are greatly hampered by environmental and property taxes and regulations.
Muller said that further income and small business tax hikes will prevent an employer from hiring a new employee or buying new equipment, already "teetering" on the decision.
Muller hit on my first thought which was, "If these 45 millionaires want to give more money to the government, why don't they just make a donation of their money toward federal revenues?" But Muller is right. He'd be more willing, along with a lot of other Americans, to pay more in taxes if he believed the government was a good steward of that money. But as I wrote earlier today, raising taxes only encourages politicians to spend more.
The 45 letter signers don't want to make a donation. They want whatever political pull or support from like-minded fans they can get from this move. They want to see all 375,000 million-dollar-earners pick up a bigger tab for government spending.
They know that the national debt divided by 45 people is much greater than the debt divided by 375,000 people. Why would so few of them want pay a greater share when others aren't? That's a good question for them to consider.