Responsible Wealth Rallies Support for Tax Reform
30 Millionaires join Obama calling for higher taxes
Friday April 27, 2012 -- Camille Jensen
Responsible Wealth and its network of business leaders were recently invited to the White House in support of President Obama’s call for Congress to pass the “Buffett rule.”
The April 11 event saw approximately 30 millionaires back legislation that would require people who make more than $1 million a year to pay at least the same percentage of income in taxes as middle-class families do.
The legislation is inspired in part by Warren Buffett’s exasperation upon learning that his assistant paid a greater percentage of her income in federal taxes than he did.
“The people who have joined me here today are extremely successful," said Obama. "They’ve created jobs and opportunity for thousands of Americans. They’re rightly proud of their success. They love the country that made their success possible, and most importantly, they want to make sure that the next generation, people coming up behind them, have the same opportunities that they had.
“They understand, though, that for some time now, when compared to the middle class, they haven’t been asked to do their fair share. And they are here because they believe there is something deeply wrong and irresponsible about that.”
Social Venture Network (SVN) member and Responsible Wealth project director Mike Lapham organized the show of support after receiving an invite from the White House. He says his network has business leaders across the country who are using their voice to say “I don’t need another tax break” or “We should have an estate tax.”
“It’s very powerful when wealthy people say ‘I can be taxed more,’” Lapham tells Sustainable Solutions. “These are very rich people who have very high incomes who are saying at the very least the people like us, who are the one per cent, should pay higher taxes.”
The Buffett rule legislation was voted down by the Senate April 16 but Lapham says he hopes the bold statement made by millionaires starts a conversation in the United States about how wealth is created.
It’s a subject Lapham explores in Self-Made Myth, a book he co-authored with Brian Miller that argues it’s false to claim that business success is the result of heroic individual effort with little or no outside help. Government has invested in education, infrastructure and patents enabling the private sector to prosper, says Lapham. The book profiles Microsoft chairman Bill Gates who credits part of his success to the public system and says he should pay it forward.
Lapham adds the Buffett legislation is a small piece of the pie when compared to tax cuts for upper income people made by former U.S. president George W. Bush. He says if the U.S. were to roll back tax cuts for upper income people, the country could generate $800 billion a year. If the government started to tax financial transactions, they could raise $1.5 trillion a year.
“Ultimately, this is the first step for tax reform,” says Lapham. “We’ve sort of given the wealthy a tax holiday; it’s probably time to stop coddling the rich.”