Raise My Taxes, Please, Say Rich People Upset Over Breaks for Millionaires

PHOTO Morris Pearl, a managing director at Black Rock, is shown at a White House reception in this undated photo.PlayCourtesy Morris Pearl
WATCH Obama: Tax Debate Will Determine Economy

While the wealthiest taxpayers will gain financially if Republicans and the president successfully extend the Bush-era tax cuts in Congress, a group of millionaires and business owners said they will be disheartened if they pay less taxes next year.

Members of the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a group of 89 millionaires, petitioned President Obama to allow tax cuts on incomes greater than $1 million to expire at the end of the year, as scheduled.

Morris Pearl, a managing director with BlackRock and a petition signatory, said he was "sad" rather than angry at President Obama for agreeing to the proposed tax cuts.

"I don't care if the rate is this or that," said Pearl, who added he was not speaking on behalf of his employer. "But I feel that just by changing his mind, it gives people the feeling that he'll change his mind about anything."

Pearl also expressed concern over the possibility that Social Security premiums eventually may be affected, because the president's debt commission proposed reducing Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age to 68 by 2050.

Other members of the Patriotic Millionaires have expressed a wide range of emotions, according to Erica Payne, who helps coordinate the organization.

"There is a lot of general frustration that the White House couldn't get a better deal and didn't lay the groundwork for a better deal," said Payne, a founder of the political strategy group, the Agenda Project. "A few people are resigned. Several of them are pretty mad."

"I think it's a terrible deal for Democrats," said Guy Saperstein, founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires and a former civil rights attorney. "It's terrible on many levels but the most important one is the tax cuts for the rich."

Adding to the Budget Deficit

Saperstein said the tax cuts for the rich and the estate tax would have helped to lower the national debt instead of costing the government $700 billion or more over the next several years.

Saperstein also was disappointed by the reinstatement of the estate tax at 35 percent for two years starting next year with an exemption of $5 million of one's estate. If the tax breaks expire as scheduled at the end of this year, the estate tax would be 55 percent, with a $1 million exemption.

"It would benefit only the top less-than-1-percent, a huge benefit for them," said Saperstein. "I happen to be in that category, but it's still a bad deal for the public. If this deal goes down, the Republicans are going to demand that those deficits be corrected in some way. The public and working class people will end up paying for those deficits."

Saperstein maintains that President Obama acted "like a lone ranger," without the support of his party.

"I'm surprised that Obama is agreeing to them at all," said Saperstein. "The cornerstone of his campaign was that he would repeal Bush tax cuts for the rich. He has the power to do that today. He has the veto."

Saperstein said he and his wife were staunch supporters of President Obama, donating the maximum legal amounts to his campaign since the Democratic primaries. Saperstein also wrote an editorial in support of Obama in late 2007 for The Huffington Post, when Obama was falling behind Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Now, Saperstein said Obama has been a "gigantic disappointment and the weakest president in my lifetime of either party."

Other groups also expressed their disappointment at the tax cuts.

Lee Farris, estate tax policy coordinator for the organizationUnited for a Fair Economy, said the tax proposal was "outrageous."

"The deal would make the estate tax even weaker than it was under President Bush, the weakest it's been in more than seven decades," said Farris, whose organization is comprised of business owners and farmers across the country.

Estate Tax Giveaway

Farris said the deal was "unacceptable" because it "gives away too much and gets too little in return," via the extension of unemployment benefits and low-income tax credits.

"The people who already have the most money have said, 'We're going to have a weaker estate tax or you can forget about unemployment.' And to me, that's an immoral position," said Farris. "They're saying that's more important than [helping] someone who has lost their job through no fault of their own."

Dave Eiffert, a small business owner who has worked with United for a Fair Economy, said he hoped for a higher estate tax ceiling and deeper tax cuts for the middle class instead of tax cuts for those making $200,000 and more.

Eiffert, co-owner of Snoqualmie Brewery in Snoqualmie, Wash., said he is below the $200,000 income level and is opposed to the notion that tax cuts to the wealthiest will trickle down to create jobs for others.

But Eiffert said it is not too late for the public to speak its mind on the various tax issues before the year comes to a close.

"I always hold out hope until it is a done deal," said Eiffert. "I urge people to contact their legislators and tell them what they want done. And I hope there will be something better than what has been proposed."