Wealthy Taxpayers Give Away $1.5 million in Tax Breaks

Press Release
For Immediate Release - April 13, 1999
Contact:Betsy Leondar-Wright
(617)423-2148 x13

Wealthy Taxpayers Give Away $1.5 million in Tax Breaks

    "Stop giving us tax breaks! We don't need them and we won't accept them. I plan to give away my windfall from last year's capital gains tax cut. And I plan to speak out against all this year's proposals for more tax cuts for wealthy people like me."

    - Bob Burnett, former VP of CISCO Systems, member of Responsible Wealth

Wealthy taxpayers organized by Responsible Wealth have pledged to give away their windfall from the recent capital gains tax cut, mostly to organizations working for fairer economic policies.

The Tax Break Pledge campaign began in 1998 as a response to the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which benefited primarily wealthy investors. Even though they personally benefited from this change, these well-off taxpayers donated $1.2 million in 1998 to challenge tax policies that favor investors over wage-earners. As of today, 1999 Tax Break Pledges total $1.5 million, from the 76 pledgers who have already calculated their capital gains tax cut. More pledges will be made by April 15 and over the following month.

Responsible Wealth decided to continue the Tax Break Pledge in 1999 to oppose the following bills, which offer tax breaks exclusively or primarily to the richest taxpayers:


  • Repeal of Capital Gains Tax for Individuals (H.R. 106, Knollenberg, R-MI)
    The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 87 percent of all stock owned by households, so this bill would transfer the tax burden from asset owners to wage earners. In 1998, the richest one percent of families got 66 percent of the benefits of the 1997 capital gains cut, an average of $7,680. The bottom 80 percent of US households got an average tax cut of just $6.

  • 10% "across the board" tax cut (H.R. 3, Kasich, R-OH)
    The wealthiest 10 percent of households would get 62 percent of the tax givebacks, an average of $20,700 apiece. The 60 percent of taxpayers who make less than $38,000 a year would get an average of just $99 apiece.

  • Repeal of the Estate Tax (H.R. 107, Knollenberg, R-MI) Only 2 percent of households have estates big enough to owe estate taxes. The minimum estate eligible for estate taxes was raised by the 1997 law from $600,000 in steps up to $1 million, and this bill would eliminate it entirely.

Responsible Wealth is a project of United for a Fair Economy, a national organization that spotlights growing inequality in income and wealth. Responsible Wealth's more than 400 members are all in the top 5% of income or wealth. Responsible Wealth's nine shareholder resolutions challenging excessive CEO pay were profiled in the Wall Street Journal on April 8.

Responsible Wealth Tax Break Pledgers Available for Interviews

Interviews can be arranged through Betsy Leondar-Wright at United for a Fair Economy, 617-423-2148 x13.

Bob Burnett

"I made a lot of money as a Vice President of CISCO. Now I'm starting new businesses and trying to create jobs. Why should we investors get special breaks while others are struggling to make a living? That kind of policy doesn't build a stronger economy."

  • First VP of Engineering at CISCO Systems.
  • Retired at age 50; since retirement, has worked in both for-profit and non-profit sectors to create jobs, including jobs for homeless people and youth.
  • Current business ventures include developing a pollution-free engine and underwriting minority-owned small businesses.
  • Will donate his capital gains savings of over $100,000 to a number of public interest organizations through the Tides Foundation.

Frank Butler

"As a former CEO, I see the growing gap between big investors and average workers as a destructive trend for business and for our society as a whole."

  • Former President of Eastman Gelatine Corporation (a subsidiary of Eastman Kodak).
  • Past President and current board member of Ministry of Money, which deals with money issues from a biblical perspective; past Chairman of the Board of Faith at Work.
  • Pledged his tax cut of $1,200.

Michele McGeoy

"If I'm earning money as my stocks grow, and someone else is working hard as a teacher, why should I pay a lower tax rate than her? I would be ashamed to take such a hand-out."

  • Created a software company in San Francisco, California; sold it in 1993.
  • Currently CEO of RH Solutions, software company.
  • Founder of a non-profit that provides technology and training to high-school students.
  • Interviewed on CBS This Morning on 4/1/98 and numerous other radio and television shows representing Responsible Wealth; her 4/15/98 op-ed appeared in Knight-Ridder newspapers.

Barbara Overby

"At a time of growing economic inequality, budget cuts in public services, high taxes for the working poor and middle class, and national crises in health care and education, why give more money to those who already have enough?"

  • Founded and now runs Lifebridge Foundation in New York City.
  • Daughter and heir of a cable TV pioneer in Connecticut.
  • Has pledged her $20,769 capital gains tax cut to United for a Fair Economy.

Allen Andersson

"My initial investment of $1,500 in Lightspeed International is now worth about $26 million. Like most taxpayers, I try to reduce my taxes. But as a citizen, I'm outraged that people who work hard every day for their money are paying higher tax rates than me. That doesn't seem right."

  • Co-Founder of Lightspeed International, sold to CISCO in March 1998.
  • Earned no capital gains in 1998, so can't take Tax Break Pledge, but plans to sell CISCO stock worth $26 million in coming years and give most of the proceeds away.

George Pillsbury

"The growing domination of our political system by big corporate and individual donors is eroding our sense of democracy and our sense of community."

  • Great grandson of the founder of The Pillsbury Company.
  • Director of Massachusetts Money and Politics Project, a project of the Commonwealth Coalition, based in Boston.

Jenny Ladd

"Iwant to live in a society where we can all walk the streets with less fear, rather than some of us living in gated communities and others behind bars."

  • Philanthropic advisor and donor organizer in Northampton, Massachusetts.
  • Donated her $6,972 tax break to non-profit organizations working for economic fairness.

Mike Lapham

"As a wealthy person, I have benefited financially from the Reagan, Bush and Clinton tax cuts for the wealthy, but I don't believe that shifting the tax burden onto lower and middle class households is in our country's long-term best interest."

  • Stockholder of family-owned paper mill in upstate New York.
  • Project Director of Responsible Wealth.

Chuck Collins

"We're told that the economy is booming, but there's something incongruous about this assertion when wages for the average working person are lower than in 1973."

  • Co-founder and Co-Director of United For a Fair Economy (UFE).
  • Co-author of Shifting Fortunes: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, published two weeks ago by United for a Fair Economy.
  • Has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and CBS This Morning.
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