There has been a great deal of attention paid to the efforts led by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates to their pledge to give awway at least half of their fotunres to philanthropy. This so-called "Giving Pledge" has garnered the support of 58 billionares, each of whom has signed up publicly to the pledge.
I am no billionare and will never be one, but today's news that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will be approved by the Senate has got me thinking that perhaps it's time for a "Millionare's Pledge". The form of this pledge might go as follows:
I promise to give away to charity the incremental tax break I will receive from the extension of the Bush tax cuts.
Philanthropy is a central part of our family's life. We try to be very supportive to a range of non-profits, including our synagogue, Facing History and Ourselves (teacher-training organization), Progressive Business Leaders Network (progressive policy), Endeavor (promoting global entrepreneurship) and many others. I know of many other families like me who are philanthropically oriented and have very mixed feelings about the tax cut exension.
The simple calculus, as I understand it, is to take 5% of your annual income (upper income tax rates would have gone back to 39.6%, up from 35%). So if you make $200,000, that's $10,000 in incremental savings that you would direct to charity in 2011 and 2012 (and perhaps beyond!). I know it's not nearly that simple with capital gains changes, estate changes, deductions, etc. But let's keep it simple to make it easy for everyone.
At this point, it doesn't matter whether you are for or against the extension of the tax cuts, the reality is that they will become law, so what should progressive, philanthropically-minded individuals do now that they have an unexpected windfall?
There are 371 billionares in the US, but 3 million millionares and 6 million taxpayers with income greater than $200,000. Now that would be a movement.