'Income Equality' Advocates Press Wealthy to 'Redirect' Their Tax Breaks

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - They're rich, they're outraged, and they're not going to take it anymore -- their tax refund, that is.

A Boston-based group that wants to close the nation's "wealth gap" announced on Wednesday that its members have agreed to turn down their share of "tax cuts for the wealthy" by signing a "Responsible Tax Pledge."

Individuals who have taken the pledge this year are due an average estimated 2004 tax break of $20,000, the group Responsible Wealth said.

Give your refund to us

Responsible Wealth (a project of United for a Fair Economy) is calling on rich Americans to "redirect their federal tax breaks -- by giving their "unwanted and unneeded 'windfall'" to grassroots organizations that are working for "fairer" taxes.

Those groups include Responsible Wealth; and the Fund for Tax Fairness at the Tides Foundation - the foundation frequently mentioned during the 2004 presidential campaign because it is supported by charitable donations from Teresa Heinz Kerry.

The "Responsible Tax Pledge" offered by Responsible Wealth states that big tax breaks are bad for America.

"It's irresponsible to put America deeper into debt to give tax cuts to millionaires," the pledge says.

"It's wrong to choose tax cuts for millionaires over health care for people who can't make ends meet. It's wrong to give tax cuts to the wealthy instead of investing in education, research, job training, affordable housing, a healthy environment, vaccines and emergency services.

"We call on Congress to reject more tax cuts for wealthy Americans, roll back the existing tax cuts for the very wealthy instead of making them permanent, and support responsible, fair and adequate taxes."


Marta Drury, a liberal activist and member of Responsible Wealth, called it obscene that "Washington is handing out tax breaks to millionaires with one hand and shredding the safety net with the other.

"I want it to stop," she said in a press release, "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."

(Based on data from the Tax Policy Center, Responsible Wealth calculates that people making more than $200,000 received a total of $69 billion in tax breaks in 2004.)

Statements like Drury's produce much eye-rolling from groups and individuals who believe that Americans are over-taxed - and that "refunds" are nothing more than the government allowing Americans who earn money to keep more of it. Those who earn more, keep more.

Groups such as the National Taxpayers Union say a little spending restraint on the part of Congress would go a long way toward reducing the federal budget deficit, but spending restraint does not figure in Responsible Wealth's equation.

"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, co-director of Responsible Wealth.

"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," Klinger added. (Lower spending is not one of the choices.)

To help taxpayers educate themselves about their share of the tax cuts, Responsible Wealth said it has created an automated, online calculator that individuals can use to figure their personal 2004 tax break.

Responsible Wealth describes itself as a national network of business people, investors and affluent Americans who are concerned about the deepening wealth divide in America and who advocate "widespread prosperity." It advocates preservation of the estate tax.

Its parent organization, United for a Fair Economy, says on its website that "concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart. We support and help build social movements for greater equality."

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