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'Tax us more,' say some rich Americans

I Will Pay Higher Taxes to Invest in My Country
We, the undersigned, call on Congress and President Obama
to immediately reverse the Bush-era tax cuts for those of us
with taxable incomes over $235,000.
The increased revenue, an estimated $43 billion,
should go toward making long overdue investments
in education, health, transportation, infrastructure,
and green energy systems.

Yes, the above petition paragraph does conjure a tax twist on the old Vaudeville joke: Take more of our tax money, please.

But the rich Americans who support the effort by Wealth for the Common Good to increase their taxes say they are not kidding.

Eric Schoenberg, a Columbia University Business School professor, made his personal case for the tax hike during a July 29 appearance on Fox Business News.

Schoenberg, who earned the bulk of his money on Wall Street, other petition supporters are seeking to bump the top income tax rate from the current 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

Eric Schoenberg on Fox Business_rich should pay more taxes May 2011
Eric Schoenberg explains to Neil Cavuto on Fox Business News why he and his rich friends should pay more in taxes.
Click image to watch full interview.

That tax increase, say the petitioners, would affect only about 2.5 percent of the country's taxpayers. Even with a 4.6 hike increase, they still would face a tax rate lower than in the early Reagan era. Meanwhile, the increase would raise much needed money for federal programs. 

During his TV appearance on Fox Business News, Schoenberg elaborated on why he supports the increase. Some of his comments that particularly caught my attention are:

  • There is a moral issue, what do we as a society think is appropriate, and there is a practical issue, at what number do we really start impinging on the incentive to work hard? I suspect it's a lot higher than most people think. Many wealthy people, and others, work because they enjoy what they do.

  • I worked in the first Reagan Administration and am cognizant of government waste, but I have seen a lot in the private sector, too. What we ask the government to do is not as easily measurable as it is in private sector, primarily because of the scope of government programs.

  • I view this effort as enlightened self interest. I have two young daughters and I care about the society they are going to grow up in. 

As for taxes in particular, Schoenberg said he had indeed sometimes paid more taxes than he was required to, but that usually was because the tax system is so complicated that he found it easier to err on the side of overpayment.

And as for the universally hated April 15, Schoenberg would like to rename it Gratitude Day.

"Feelings of gratitude are a like a psychological wonder drug," he told program host Neil Cavuto. "When you feel grateful for what you've been given, it's very hard to feel sorry for yourself and I'm incredibly grateful for what this country has allowed me to do."

If you are feeling as thankful as Schoenberg, Wealth for the Common Good is seeking petition signers, particularly folks who earn at least $250,000.

To date, 1,162 other taxpayers have joined Schoenberg in adding their names to the Wealth for the Common Good document. Among the prominent names are Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer family fortune, and Arul Menezes, a principal architect at Microsoft,

If you want to read or watch more on the effort, Wealth for the Common Good keeps track of media coverage.

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