In response to the polarized political battle stalemating U.S. budget negotiations in the Tea Party era, a group of several dozen of the very wealthiest Americans wrote to ask Congress and President Obama to raise their taxes. Millionaire Republican Senator Orrin Hatch wrote back, dismissing their view of government finances and reminding them that they are free to donate as much money as they want to the government. The Millionaires responded. The correspondence is a pretty good artifact of the ideologically charged Tea Party-era impasse over the budget.
In the April 13 letter that started the recent back and forth, the Patriotic Millionaires– which include the founder of the Princeton Review, philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, Google execs, economist Nouriel Roubini, financial guru Andrew Tobias and actress Edie Falco, for example– argued that the government needs to cut spending, but that politicians must end their dedication to the trickle-down economic experiment that sees tax-breaks for the wealthy as the best answer to budget questions, even in times of war and financial catastrophe.
In his letter in response, Hatch, who is head of the Senate Finance Committee, defended tax breaks and reminded the Millionaires that they are free to donate as much money as they want to the government.
The Millionaires responded Tuesday by fact-checking Hatch’s letter and restating their argument that Hatch’s one-sided budget recipe, which will keep tax rates at historic lows for himself and other millionaires, will fail to solve the budget crisis.
A typical example of the tone of the exchange:
Hatch is dismissive and lightly sarcastic:
While we may disagree with the need for tax increases, I appreciate the Millionaires’ philanthropic desire to share more of their wealth with the federal government, and I want to make certain that you are aware of opportunities to fulfill this noble aspiration. For those who are interested in making voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt, the process is both easy and advantageous.
The Millionaires are earnest and impatient:
“If there were even the remotest chance of making a noticeable dent in the problem by acting alone we would have done it already. But we are a few dozen people in a nation of over 300 million facing a debt measured in the tens of trillions. To suggest that we try to tackle this problem by making individual contributions is, frankly, insulting. It is like suggesting to someone expressing a desire to serve their country by bearing arms that they buy a rifle and a plane ticket to Afghanistan. Some problems are too big to be solved except through collective effort and shared sacrifice, and this is one of them.”