Millionaires, Small Business Owners Join Estate Tax Supporters

Press Release
For Immediate Release – February 27, 2001
Contacts: Betsy Leondar-Wright, (617) 423-2148 x113
Chuck Collins (617) 423-2148 x11 or (617) 308-4433 (cell, late evenings)

400 Millionaires, Small Business Owners Join Estate Tax Supporters

President Bush Responds, Will Fight for Repeal Despite Growing Opposition

"I feel that there should be reform of the estate tax in order to further protect small business and small farms, but repeal would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. The fact of the matter is that this tax is paid by the top 2 percent of the wealthy people in this country. And so this is a really important way to tax accumulated wealth and provide more opportunity."

– Philadelphia restaurant owner Judy Wicks on ABC’s Nightline, 2/15/01

Over 400 more people personally affected by the estate tax have signed on to Responsible Wealth's "Call to Preserve the Estate Tax," launched two weeks ago by William H. Gates, Sr., and 120 other wealthy people.

Hundreds of the new signers fall in the $700,000 to $5 million range of family wealth. Critics of the statement have implied that only billionaires and centimillionaires, who can easily afford taxes, support preserving the tax. But in fact, most of the signers have small fortunes and think it’s fair that they be taxed on a portion of their wealth. The statement calls for reforms of the current policy, such as raising the exemption level and strengthening the protections for family farms and businesses, instead of repeal.

"I was able to build a successful software company thanks to the support of public schools, public scholarships, public research grants, and public contracts. The last thing I want to do is pull up the ladder behind me so that others can’t get those same kinds of support to succeed," said Syracuse entrepreneur Martin Rothenberg.

President Bush’s Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday, "[The President] is aware of this effort launched by several millionaires and billionaires to keep the estate tax in place. He disagrees."

Chuck Collins, co-director of United for a Fair Economy, responded, "President Bush should not dismiss this as the concern of a small number of ultra-rich people. Opposition to estate tax repeal is widespread among ”˜the millionaires next door’ and people at every income bracket who care more about charitable giving, adequate public services, and the dangers of growing concentrated wealth than about tax cuts for the already wealthy. We are calling for an open debate on tax cut priorities." Mr. Collins is available for interviews after the President’s speech tonight.

For more information, including a complete list of the over 550 signers, visit

Responsible Wealth is a national network of businesspeople, investors and affluent Americans concerned about deepening economic inequality and advocating widespread prosperity.