There are Millionaires Who Passionately Want to Pay Higher Taxes

Philip Kotler

Most people hate paying taxes. They feel they worked hard to earn their money. They spend hours or days preparing their income tax. They claim that the income tax rate is too high for their earnings.

Then you will be surprised to hear about a small but growing international movement of groups of wealthy taxpayers who want government to increase their taxes! They feel that governments around the world need more money to solve society’s problems. They claim that the tax rates paid by wealthy people are too low.

We will describe three groups of wealthy persons who want to pay higher taxes.

The Patriotic Millionaires

One group is called the Patriotic Millionaires. Their members are deeply disturbed about the growing concentration of wealth and the growing federal deficits. They see deepening inequality to be the root cause of increasing social unrest and unhappiness. The billionaire Nick Hanauer warns “Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks are Coming.” In Brazil, members of the upper classes employ armed guards and worry about their children being kidnapped.

The Patriotic Millionaires believe that if the government doesn’t make the tax system fairer, U.S. democracy will be destroyed. Today most U.S. politicians are supported by rich donors. These politicians must serve their donors’ interests if they hope to get reelected. Rich donors have already spent billions of dollars to influence the 2022 mid-term election. Karen Stewart, a Patriotic Millionaire and Angel Investor, stated her view:

“I don’t want to add to my personal net worth at the expense of my fellow Americans. I can pay more, I should pay more, and I reject the false concept that we wealthy Americans are the job creators who will leave the country with our money if we’re asked to pay our fair share.”

The Patriotic Millionaire group first came together in 2010 to demand an end to the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. They originally operated in Washington and NYC, then opened a California office to reach the wealthy new economy people. The group’s views became a media sensation and captured hundreds of millions of dollars of media attention. The Patriotic Millionaires’ cause has been featured in over 75 countries.

Patriotic Millionaires members include investors and business owners from across the country and they are engaged in a broad array of industries. Prominent members include filmmaker Abigail Disney; technologist Steve Silberstein; and lawyer Roberta Kaplan. Abigail Disney gave away 65 million and her net worth is 140 million. She criticized the giving pledge of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, saying that promising to give away half of their wealth is not enough, since they are still left with too much. Chuck Collins, the Oscar Mayer heir, gave his inheritance away at age 27.

The Patriotic Millionaires speak publicly and meet privately with elected leaders from both parties. Members testify to lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels on issues varying from minimum wage to campaign finance to tax policy. The group has produced TV ads and online videos. In NY, they lobby to close the carried interest tax loophole. They favor a wealth tax. They support the Raise the Wage Act ($15 an hour). The group has published several books:

. This book explores how the rich manipulate the tax code to limit the government’s power.

. This book describes the group’s core values and suggests specific pieces of legislation.

How To Think Like a Patriotic Millionaire. This publication reports how Donald Trump and the Republican party rewrote the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to offer disproportionate advantages to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations.

Millionaires for Humanity

A second group, Millionaires for Humanity, consists of an international network of multimillionaires united to meet growing economic and social challenges. They want to go beyond philanthropy. They urge their respective governments to raise taxes on them to help meet the Covid and climate change problems. Most signatories are found in the US, UK, and Germany.

The Danish Millionaires for Humanity group put up a big, blue elephant in front of the Danish Parliament to remind Danish politicians, government officials and Danes that a 1% wealth tax could make the world a safer and more sustainable society.

Millionaires for Humanity define a millionaire as someone with either $1 million in annual income or $5 million in assets. More information is available by writing to .

Tax Me Now

In Central Europe, a group called Tax Me Now operates. This group is upset about the ease in which countries lower taxes to make the rich even richer. For example, Austria just eliminated its tax inheritance provision. The group sees this as a “tax injustice.”

A wealthy Austrian woman, Marlene Engelhard, just took up the cause of “tax justice”. She will inherit a huge fortune from her family. She doesn’t feel that she has done anything to deserve it. Too many people gain money from inheritance. She rejects becoming a philanthropist because this will give her undue power to influence where money will be spent. She sees a lot of “senseless philanthropy” going into personal aggrandizement. Instead she wants “Tax Me” so that the government gets the badly needed money.

Should We Rely on Philanthropy or Higher Taxes?

To improve living conditions for the huge number of people whose incomes are inadequate, should we rely more on the wealthy showering philanthropy or more on governments to get more taxes and spend them wisely?

Much misspending occurs both with philanthropy and with government. Philanthropists argue that they worked hard for their money and they should be free to spend it as they wish. Further they recite abundant examples of government misspending and corruption. Liberals, on the other hand, point out that billionaires’ fortunes will grow without limit and give them power to shape the society’s whole agenda to serve their interests. As a result, the poor remain poor, the middle class gets smaller, and major economic and social problems remain unaddressed.

The issues are deep and very emotional and warrant serious public discussion. In the meantime, I submit that we need both more philanthropy and higher taxes, rather than only one or the other.

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Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler

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Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (emeritus)