The well-to-do members of a group called Responsible Wealth have a message for the Republican Congress: Please raise our taxes!
The group, which has about 700 members, made a splash in the East Coast media by announcing it will send a letter to Congress this week opposing tax cuts and tax reform. These Thurston Howell types, the Washington Post reports, “say the GOP is making a mistake by reducing taxes on the richest families at a time when the nation’s debt is high and inequality is back to its worst level since the 1920s.”
In fact, Responsible Wealth is, with some exceptions, a club for rich progressives who have great faith in the government’s power to impose “social and economic justice.” As the Post points out, most of those who signed the letter live in deep blue states such as California, New York or Massachusetts.
It’s telling that the folks at Responsible Wealth raise concerns about the debt and deficit but fail to advocate for spending restraint. In addition, most members of Responsible Wealth no doubt employ an army of accountants and attorneys to navigate the tax code and minimize their obligations. Perhaps these comfortable members of the 1 Percent Club would have more credibility if they voluntarily dashed off massive checks to the federal treasury each year to assuage their concerns about being undertaxed.
Those who have endorsed the letter seem particularly concerned about GOP plans to eliminate the death tax. “Repealing the estate tax alone would lose an estimated $269 billion over 10 years,” the missive from Responsible Wealth argues, “more than we would spend on the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.” Oh, my!
Of course, these multimillionaires and billionaires are certainly free to advocate that the accumulation of wealth is bad and that federal bureaucrats have a greater right to an estate’s private property than the family of the deceased. But, again, nothing is stopping members of Responsible Wealth from leaving the vast majority of their assets to the federal government upon their demise — regardless of whether the estate tax exists or not.
All this brings to mind former Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. A stalwart liberal, Sen. Metzenbaum was a reliable vote for big government and higher taxes. He railed against the rich and was a cheerleader for the regulatory state. He was also the co-founder of Avis, the car rental company, and became quite wealthy.
But soon after Sen. Metzenbaum retired in 1995, he left his home state for the warmer climes of Florida, a state that levies no income or estate taxes. The move saved the former senator and his family millions of dollars, particularly because it allowed him to avoid Ohio’s death tax, which was then among the most aggressive in the country.
The letter from Responsible Wealth has already generated considerable attention. In the end, however, it might be more instructive from a policy perspective to watch what the progressive uber-rich do, not what they say.