"Patriotic Millionaires": Raise our taxes, please!

Republicans insist that raising taxes on anyone would be catastrophic. But some of the most affluent disagree

Published April 13, 2011 2:19PM (EDT)

Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a group of dozens of the wealthiest Americans that formed last year during the fight over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, is now jumping into the budget battle just as President Obama is expected to call for an end to the Bush cuts on the rich.

"For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000," the group writes in a new letter to Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner. "We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned incomes of $1,000,000 per year or more."

Last year, Obama signed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts after originally proposing that the two highest tax rates return to 36% and 39.6%, up from the Bush tax cut levels of 33% and 35%.

One of the signatories of the new letter, film and television producer Linda Gottlieb, explained her participation to me this morning: "For me to be sitting and hoarding my money is insane," said Gottlieb, whose producer credits include Dirty Dancing and who now teaches at NYU's Tisch school. "We all give to charity, but that's not the same as creating a more equitable society."

Gottlieb said she has been upset by the experience of her grandchildren, who attend a New York City public school where arts education has been cut and parents have had to organize an auction to try to fill the gaps. She added that raising taxes on the wealthiest people would be an important way of reducing the deficit.

"For rich people to moan and groan -- nobody likes to pay increased taxes -- but it's not going to change your life in any important way," she said. "What it can do is help your country."

The millionaires who comprise the group are in the process of reaching out to more of their wealthy peers and may take a trip to Washington at some point down the road, according to Erica Payne of the Agenda Project, the New York-based progressive group that is behind Patriotic Millionaires.

Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that any tax increases are a "nonstarter." So expect a big fight on this ahead.

By Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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