Some of America’s wealthiest individuals have declined billions of dollars in tax cuts bestowed upon them by President George W. Bush’s administration and have urged others among the country’s richest and most famous to donate their federal tax cuts to campaigns against the Bush package, often described as ”tax breaks for the rich.”
”It’s obscene that Washington is handing out tax breaks to millionaires with one hand and shredding the safety net with the other,” said Marta Drury, a member of Responsible Wealth, a national network of affluent Americans advocating what they term ”widespread prosperity” and concerned that a deepening wealth divide in America is undermining the country’s social and democratic fabric.
”So I’m calculating my 2004 tax cut and donating it to organizations fighting for responsible, fair, and adequate taxes. I don’t believe that people like me with incomes over $200,000 need $69 billion in tax cuts,” Drury added, referring to the total estimated value of 2004 tax cuts granted Americans in her income bracket.
Taxpayers who made more than $1 million received an average federal income tax break of $123,592 in 2004, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution think tanks. This compared to $383, the average tax break in 2004 for the two-thirds of taxpayers who made less than $50,000 per year.
”The next time a politician says we can’t afford to fund something you care about, ask yourself if $69 billion per year would help,” said Scott Klinger, Responsible Wealth’s co-director. ”When you hear that the only choices we have are to cut budgets, increase the deficit or increase your taxes, remember that $69 billion in tax breaks went to people who made more than $200,000 last year.”
Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation–the largest foundation on Earth–and father of the Microsoft Corp. co-founder, has spearheaded Responsible Wealth’s campaign to oppose regressive changes to the tax code and to reform and preserve the estate tax.
The tax is levied against estates of more than $1.5 million where assets are not transferred to a surviving spouse and thus applies to about 2 percent of all inheritance cases, Responsible Wealth said.
Even so, permanently repealing the tax as Bush has proposed would cut federal revenue by $1 trillion over two decades and have the effect of depressing charitable giving by $12-24 billion per year, Responsible Wealth said, citing Congressional Budget Office figures.
The elder Gates for years has argued that individual wealth is a product not only of hard work and smart choices but also of a society that provides economic development, education, health care, and property rights protection. Such an economy’s top dogs benefit the most from tax-funded institutions and programs and therefore should not resent or seek relief from having to pay taxes, he has said.
But, yeah, some rich folks are indeed evil greedy bastards after all.
Facing off against Gates and Responsible Wealth are families including the widow and heirs of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton and influential lobby groups including the National Federation of Independent Business.
Led by Sam Walton’s only daughter, Alice, the family spent $3.2 million on lobbying, conservative causes, and candidates for last year’s federal elections. ”That’s more than double what it spent in the previous two elections combined,” USA Today reported Wednesday, citing public documents.
The Waltons have sought income tax changes and other legislation that could preserve their shareholding in America’s biggest business and the family’s $84 billion fortune, the newspaper said.