The Rich Anti-Anti-Taxers

April 8, 2010

The Washington Post reports on upper-income taxpayers who are just begging to pay more taxes:

"We're calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us," said paper-mill heir Mike Lapham, "to send the message to Congress and President Obama that it's time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers."

"I would with pleasure sacrifice the income," agreed millionaire entrepreneur Jeffrey Hollender.

"The bottom line is the public is on our side," said Brian Miller, executive director of United for a Fair Economy, which is organizing the anti-anti-tax rebellion. As evidence, he pointed to a Quinnipiac University poll from March that found 60 percent of Americans favored raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000. This is not surprising: Americans generally favor raising taxes on the rich, as long as they are not defined as rich themselves.

Of course, as is noted in the article, it is perfectly alright to send a check to the government (the Treasury Department takes credit cards!).

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic writes:

This story brings to mind the occasional conservative argument that if rich people want to pay higher taxes so badly, why don't they just donate their money to the government? It's true that it is technically legal to write checks to the Treasury, but this is a weak argument. The animating motivation behind paying taxes is not the unalloyed joy of writing checks to the government but rather the knowledge that you are part of a collective system that is funding a government and its policies. One rich family's check might cover two staffers. A higher marginal tax rate helps pay down an entire federal budget.

So, this petition is not really about trying to get the government to tax the petition signers more—it is about getting the government to tax the petition signer's neighbors more. Why don't they just protest for higher taxes? No further action necessary. No need to brag about your income.

It is also interesting that the article gave the impression, to me at least, that some of those protesting for higher taxes were not exactly self-made millionaries.

His donation will, however, ease the sense of guilt that comes with great wealth, described poignantly by the millionaires:

"In 1865, my great-great-grandfather Samuel Pruyn founded a paper mill on the banks of the Hudson River in Glens Falls, New York," Lapham explained.

Judy Pigott, an industrial heiress on the call, added her wish that her income, "mostly unearned income, be taxed at a rate that returns to the common good that I have received by a privilege."

Confessed Hollender, who now runs the Seventh Generation natural products company: "I grew up in Manhattan on Park Avenue in a 10-room apartment."

Dan Mitchell debated someone from this pro-tax movement who happened to be an heir of Oscar-Meyer. Watch him called a limousine liberal here.

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