There are a bunch of bargaining chips currently being passed back and forth between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner as they seek to reach a budget deal before the county slides down the much-feared fiscal cliff.
Perhaps the most notable involved tax rates for the wealthy: Generally speaking, Democrats want to raise them; Republicans -- many of whom signed Grover Norquist's pledge to never raise taxes -- don't.
So even though more than 60 percent of Americans say they would support higher taxes on the rich, we remain at an impasse. Some of those 60 percent also happen to be part of the 1 percent. And, this week, nine San Francisco millionaires joined more than 200 rich people nationwide to demand that Congress raise their taxes by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those making more than $1 million a year.
The San Francisco cohort includes Mark Buell, president of the Recreation and Park Commission and chair of the America's Cup Organizing Committee; his wife, Susie Buell; international philanthropist Marta Drury, retired Google software engineer Frank Jernigan; Google engineer Fritz Schneider; Chairman of Mortgage Resolution Partners Steven Gluckstern; real estate executive Ken Morris; housing developer John Stewart; and Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerita of the S.F. Drug Policy Alliance office.
Along with 39 other California millionaires, they joined the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, a national group of wealthy folks who have signed onto a letter asking the president to "Raise our taxes":
Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.
The easiest way to raise taxes on the rich -- or on anybody else -- is to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire. That's because back in July 2011, Norquist told the Washington Post that "Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase." Republicans who had handcuffed themselves to the pledge, internally anguishing over whether letting tax cuts expire technically breaks the vow, were ostensibly set free. And yet, more than a year later, it was still news when Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said of letting the cuts expire, "I don't see that as a violation of my pledge."
The tax cuts, passed during President George W. Bush's first term, lowered rates for everybody. For those in the highest tax bracket -- those making more than $250,000 annually -- rates dipped from 39.6 percent to around 36 percent. The Obama Administration has projected that reverting top earners' rates back to the Clinton era's 39.6 percent would bring in $678 billion in revenue through 2020. But in each of the last two years, Obama was unable to reach a deal with Congressional republicans that would raise taxes on the wealthy without raising taxes on everybody else too. So the full cuts were extended. They are once again set to expire at the end of this year.
In a statement yesterday, Californian millionaires who signed the "Raise our taxes" letter argued that "letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those earning the most will support vital infrastructure and social programs, grow the economy, and ultimately help the system that helps the wealthy."