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Raise our taxes now, high-income group demands

July 29, 2009 |  2:46 pm

Upper-income earners who actually want to pay higher taxes have launched a public campaign calling for an immediate rollback of the Bush-era tax cuts.

The group, which calls itself Wealth for the Common Good, believes that people who have taxable income of more than $235,000 a year should support restoring their top federal income tax rate to 39.6% from 35% -- and now, not in 2011, when the higher rate is scheduled to return anyway.

From the group's website:

Our country is facing the worst economic challenge since the Great Depression and an urgent need to make a long overdue investment in bringing jobs and stability back to our communities. This investment should be paid for, in part, by repealing the Bush-era tax cuts our country cannot afford.

Those of us with taxable incomes over $235,000 benefited from the upside of the economy during the last decade and profited for eight years from a 2001 tax cut. Now is the time to give back.

We would see a minimal tax increase -- from 35% to 39.6%, a rate still far lower than the one under President Reagan -- but the increased revenue would raise an estimated $43 billion per year.

Chuck_Collins The group’s founders include Chuck Collins, who inherited some of the Oscar Mayer meat fortune and who has long been involved in agitating on income-inequality issues. He may be best known for co-authoring the 2003 book "Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes" with Bill Gates Sr. The book made the case for retaining the federal estate tax.

Wealth for the Common Good on Tuesday sent its request to President Obama and to House and Senate leaders, including a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

Now, getting 1,000 Americans to sign a letter demanding higher tax rates on the well-heeled isn’t exactly a stunning feat. Wealth for the Common Good says 200 of the signatories actually earn more than $235,000, although it concedes it can't independently verify that. "We trust them, and we trust that they don't have a lot of incentive to misrepresent their income level," a spokeswoman said.

The group also is self-aware enough to know that critics could see this as an attempt by financially secure trust-fund babies to tax people who are still in the wealth-building phase. A Q&A on the coalition’s website addresses questions including whether support for a tax hike is aimed at "punishing people for their success" and whether this is just another push toward socialism.

Of course, high-income earners who want to give something back always have the option of writing a check directly to the Treasury on their own. It’s highly unlikely that their money would be turned away.

-- Tom Petruno

Photo: Chuck Collins. Credit: Institute for Policy Studies