Pro-tax millionaires are pushing back against the anti-tax crowd, some of whom want to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, others of whom squawk about flat taxes or fair taxes, and all of whom worship the myth that tax cuts for the wealthy grow the economy.
James Nowlan, left, and Ralph Martire at the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
USA Today reported that more than 700 wealthy Americans favored the elimination of President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich, which will expire this year unless Congress votes to extend them.
"[T]here are significant numbers of wealthy people who, in fact, support rolling back this tax cut," said one millionaire.
The Washington Post quoted a millionaire, who said, "I'm in favor of higher taxes on people like me." He added that his tax rate was "absurdly low."
A wealthy entrepreneur said, "I would with pleasure sacrifice the income."
The heir to a paper-mill fortune called on other rich taxpayers "to send the message to Congress and President Obama that it's time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers."
The elimination of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would result in their paying greater taxes.
According to a USA Today table, those making between $200,000 and $500,000 would pay $988 more in taxes. Those making between $500,000 and $1 million would see their tax bill increase $15,615, while those who earn more than $1 million would pay $130,563 more in taxes.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of those surveyed thought taxes ought to be raised on those making more than $250,000. Moreover, 64 percent of those making more than $250,000 supported their own increased taxation.
In terms of faith affiliation, 53 percent of born-again evangelicals favored higher taxes on those making more than $250,000, compared to 53 percent of Protestants, 55 percent of Catholics and 77 percent of Jews.
When the poll asked about increasing taxes on those making more than $1 million, 62 percent of born-again evangelicals favored higher taxes on millionaires, compared to 64 percent of Protestants, 72 percent of Catholics and 73 percent of Jews.
Americans clearly favor higher taxes on the wealthy, and some very wealthy Americans recognize their obligation to pay more.
The obligation for the affluent to pay a higher percentage in taxes was underscored in recent EthicsDaily.com interviews with two leaders of the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA), a watchdog think tank for the citizens of Illinois.
Both argued that progressive taxation is fair taxation.
Asked what would be a good tax, James Nowlan, a self-described Republican and CTBA's research director, answered with a twinkle, "A good tax is a tax that you pay and I don't."
He added, "A good tax is one that is broad-based and that does tax in a progressive manner so that those who have benefited more from society pay more in a proportionate way than do those who have not benefited so much from society."
Ralph Martire, CTBA's executive director, contrasted a regressive tax system with a progressive one.
"A regressive tax puts a much greater burden on lower- and middle-income families than affluent families," he said. "Progressive tax is the other way around. Affluent families have the greater tax burden. Low- and middle-income families have a lower tax burden."
Martire, a former corporate lawyer, said, "The reason why that's fair in a capitalistic economy is that over time, upper-income classes get a much greater, in fact a disproportionate share, of income growth and economic growth in the nation than do middle- and low-income families."
Noting that "most low- and middle-income families have seen their total annual income over time decline after inflation," Martire argued that upper-income Americans should pay taxes out of their growing wealth, instead of having lower-income folk pay out of their growing poverty.
When asked about the claim that tax cuts for the wealthy create economic growth, Martire said that such tax-cut rhetoric was highly appealing – but was not supported by the data.
"There is no data to support the stance that the way you grow the economy is to cut taxes on the wealthy and support corporate giveaways. In fact, all the data runs the opposite," said Martire.
"The two worst presidential administrations for job growth since the Great Depression – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush. The two administrations that cut taxes the most since the Great Depression – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush. The greatest growth we've had since the '70s in America – the Clinton-Gore administration, which increased taxes," said Martire, a Catholic, who was the first member of his family to go to college.
Quoting his Italian-speaking grandmother, he said, "Everybody do better when everybody do better."
That kind of wisdom ought to be at the foundation of a fair tax system that requires more of the wealthy in order to help lift up the poor to advance the common good for all.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.