Millionaires to Congress: Tax Us!

For Immediate Release: April 6, 2010


Millionaires to Congress: Tax Us!

Wealthy Americans Use Personal Tax Breaks to End Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich in 2010

Boston, MA -- With Congress poised to act this year on the Bush tax cuts, a group of American millionaires is calling for an end to the tax breaks that have benefited them – but left the rest of the country with a crippling debt and dwindling budgets for education, health and other vital services at the state and Federal levels. 

These millionaires are among the 700 bsusiness leaders and individuals in the top 5% of wealth and income who make up the Responsible Wealth network, which has been instrumental in, among other things, preventing the permanent repeal of the estate tax which President Bush had vowed to eliminate. They are asking other wealthy Americans to join them in their efforts to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy once and for all by taking the Tax Fairness Pledge and directing their tax breaks to fight for tax policies that benefit all Americans.

The growing list of Pledge signers includes:

Judy Pigott, an author and co-founder of Personal Safety Nets who lives in Seattle, Washington and is the daughter of the late Formula One race car driver Pat Pigott.  Her family wealth comes from manufacturing Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks.

Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder of Seventh Generation natural products, he lives in Vermont.  He is a self-made millionaire, author and entrepreneur who is a leader in the socially responsible business movement.

Eric Schoenberg, a behavioral economist at Columbia University’s School of Business who lives in New Jersey.  He was a successful investment banker, after a stint with the State Department, and built his wealth on the fortune his father amassed in the computer and telecoms industries.

Marnie Thompson, an education consultant and co-founder of the Fund for Democratic Communities in Greensboro, NC where she lives. She accepted her inheritance from her father, an Ohio businessman, on the condition that she could give it away to charity.

Mike Lapham, director of United for a FairEconomy’s Responsible Wealth project and an inheritor of family wealth from a paper mill business in upstate New York. He lives in Boston.

In taking the Pledge, each of these individuals agrees to donate some or all of their tax savings under the Bush tax cuts to support tax fairness organizing and/or other economic justice efforts. An online Tax Break Calculator allows anyone to plug in their 2009 income and other assets and quickly estimate their individual share of the Bush tax cuts.

“We want citizens and lawmakers alike to see the link between the continuing Bush tax cuts and the growing deficit,” said Brian Miller, executive director of United for a Fair Economy.  “Wealthy citizens rejecting the cuts and demanding their taxes be raised is a great way to get people’s attention.” With recent polls showing public concern about the national deficit at a 20-year high and a majority opposing cuts to government services at this time of historic unemployment, Responsible Wealth will also be making its case to Congress that restoring the pre-2001 tax rates for the wealthiest Americans is one obvious solution to America’s fiscal crisis.

“These tax cuts were irresponsible when they were passed in 2001 and 2003.  In the midst of a deep recession, they are downright inexcusable,” said Mike Lapham, director of the Responsible Wealth project and one of the millionaire signers of the Pledge.  “To be clear,” he added, “low- and middle-income households only received a small portion of the Bush tax cuts.  The overwhelming share of the income, capital gains and dividend cuts went to wealthy taxpayers.” A report by Citizens for Tax Justice shows that nearly half of the Bush tax cuts went to the top 5% of income-earners, while the bottom 60% of income-earners received less than 15% of the Bush tax cuts. Responsible Wealth seeks to reverse the Bush era-cuts, the total cost of which will reach $2.5 trillion by the end of 2010.

“Members of Responsible Wealth recognize that their own prosperity and success would not be possible without the foundation of a strong public education system, an effective transportation network, a strong legal system and more,” notes Lapham. “Those are the kinds of foundational building blocks that we get through our tax system. Responsible Wealth members are more than happy to pay their share to support those public investments that they have benefited so greatly from.”

Responsible Wealth, a project of United for a Fair Economy, has been working for equitable tax policies that create widespread prosperity since 1997. In addition to preserving the estate tax, to which fewer than one percent of families are subject and which has generated $1 trillion in revenues over the last ten years, the business leaders and high net worth members of Responsible Wealth have also been actively engaged in shareholder action.  They have filed more than 80 shareholder resolutions on CEO pay and other corporate accountability issues and have often transferred their proxies to lower-income stakeholders, providing them access to corporate boardrooms.




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