Pendred Noyce is president of Tumblehome Learning, Inc., and a member of Wealth for Common Good, a network of business and civic leaders promoting fair and adequate taxation. Her father, Robert Noyce, was co-inventor of the microchip and co-founder of Intel Corporation. She wrote this for this newspaper.
In his speech to the joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama reminded us of Warren Buffett’s call for America’s wealthiest citizens to step up and accept responsibility to pay the expenses of our government. As a wealthy business person, that makes sense to me.
My father started Intel, and although both he and my mother elected to leave the vast majority of their wealth to charitable foundations, they left plenty for their kids and grandkids. My husband and I can pay for health care, for our children’s college educations, for a nice house, a lovely vacation house and travel. We have the freedom to choose work that is meaningful without much regard to how well it pays.
We’ve chosen to build new enterprises — a biotech seeking a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and now Tumblehome Learning, which is creating science-related adventure books, biographies and hands-on kits for children. In other words, we are job creators.
Some years, we have a negative income. Most years, we fall into the category of high-income individuals who have benefited from the Bush tax cuts. I wouldn’t stop doing the work I love — generating ideas and hiring people to help carry them out — if income and capital gains taxes were higher.
My father taught me that luck and good timing played significant roles in his success. I would add that the government’s investments in transistors and later in computers and the Internet supported my father’s discoveries, allowing him, our family and society to prosper.
I’ve been privileged to grow up with a strong national economy that taxes helped to create: good public schools and roads; top research universities; talented classmates enriching my life because they could get government loans; and medical research pushing advances against the asthma that would otherwise have killed me.
Like most people, I sometimes wish my tax dollars would be used for what I think are the most important things. But most of those who have been fortunate also recognize that we have a duty to give back, to help support the infrastructure and the social compact that has made this a great country.
I’m willing to pay more taxes, and paying more taxes isn’t going to slow me down from creating jobs.
Buffett calls for tax increases on the more than 235,000 American individuals and families that report more than $1 million in taxable income each year, ensuring that “shared sacrifice” does not exempt the wealthiest. And his way of cutting the deficit essentially will have no negative effect on growth. As Buffett points out, the super-rich don’t decide to hold back on investment because of slightly higher tax rates. They have to put the money somewhere.
The major problem with Buffett’s proposal is that it doesn’t go far enough. At the least, individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 should see their marginal tax rates restored to the levels in effect when President George W. Bush took office. In addition, I support the rate increases called for by Buffett on the nation’s 236,883 millionaire households and an additional tax surcharge on the more than 8,000 households reporting more than $10 million in annual income.
I’m not in Buffett’s million-a-year category, but I know I could afford to pay more in taxes, and I’m willing to do so. After all, I’ve been fortunate.
Since 2001, a large group of us has been willing to sacrifice to build and protect the country we love. But, instead, we’ve been pandered to and coddled, as though if anyone asked us to help, we would take all our toys and go home.