When Congress debates whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy or let them expire at the end of the year, I hope our elected officials have the courage to let my tax cuts expire. Sure, I would pay less in taxes if Congress extended my tax cuts, but as a citizen and business executive, I think that would be shortsighted and irresponsible.
My family was not affluent. Growing up, I never worried about middle-class basics like a new pair of shoes every year for school or whether we’d have a roof over our heads next month. But luxuries I take for granted today — like taking vacations in Europe— were outlandish things people like us didn’t do.
But my parents, neither of whom went to college, did make one thing clear from as early as I can remember. They were committed to giving their kids the chance to pursue as much education as they wanted at the best possible schools to which they aspired.
I attended an Ivy League university. This laid the groundwork for a successful decade in the technology industry. In my career, I’ve made more money than I or my parents could have ever expected or imagined.
While I worked hard for all my academic and professional achievements, I couldn’t have gotten to square one without my parents’ commitment and federally subsidized student aid. For all their willingness to sacrifice, there just wasn’t enough money in the bank to make college work without Stafford loans and Pell grants.
Back in 2001, Congress voted for President Bush’s tax program, including substantial tax reductions for households with incomes over $250,000.
Letting the tax cuts that apply to only the richest 2.5 percent of taxpayers expire will restore our taxes to the same rate we paid in 2000. It would be an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t notice, but I can guarantee it won’t change my lifestyle one bit. But that change would generate an estimated $700 billion in revenue over the next decade.
That’s money that can be invested in our nation’s future, including infrastructure and education.
Recently, I took a new job as an executive in a consulting company. We compete for clients all over the world. To grow my business, I need new employees with great critical thinking and analytical skills. I want the United States to invest in education and make it possible for every child to receive quality, early childhood education. I want our country to ensure that the same level of federal financial aid that helped me is available to every family working hard and making sacrifices to pursue higher education.
I am appalled that, even though research has clearly shown that hunger impairs a child’s ability to learn in school, millions of American children are living in households that struggle to afford enough nutritious food and less than half of eligible children are receiving school breakfast each day, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
I could tell you my only motivations to insist that Congress let my tax cuts expire are public spirit and compassion. But that wouldn’t be the whole story. I think it’s a competitive necessity in a global market to ensure those of us enjoying tremendous financial prosperity today pay our fair share to make the long overdue investments in our nation’s future.
That’s good for my business. It’s the right thing to do for the next generation. It’s the smart thing to do to grow the U.S. economy. And the good news is–people like me can afford it.
Kirschner is a VP at a global public opinion and strategy consulting firm and a member of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business and civic leaders, wealthy individuals and partners promoting fair and adequate taxation to support public investment in a healthy economy. He lives in Seattle.
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