WASHINGTON -- The self-described Patriotic Millionaires who want the government to close its budget gaps with higher taxes on the rich think it's ridiculous to expect wealthy people to just "tax themselves" and donate their extra money to the government.
"The idea that people are just going to send in $1 million or $500,000 or $5 million or something to reduce the national debt is just preposterous on its face," Dennis Mehiel, the founder and chairman of cardboard box manufacturer U.S. Corrugated, said on a conference call with other millionaires this week.
A reporter had asked the millionaires why, if they want the government to take more of their money, don't they just hand it over voluntarily?
"We have a system of compulsory taxation and everybody gets treated the same under the law," Mehiel said. "We disagree with what the law is right now. We think its outcomes are unfair."
Paul Egerman, founder of a medical transcription company called eScription, also scoffed at the suggestion millionaires who advocate for higher taxes should take it upon themselves to send money to the government.
"Running any government is a shared responsibility of its citizens," Egerman said. "Government is not a charity, and you can’t imagine a situation where the Department of Defense runs a bake sale to build an aircraft carrier."
But one Florida man said he didn't mind sending some free cash to Uncle Sam. He thought it was such a good idea that he himself donated $5,000 to the U.S. Treasury this week, according to an email receipt the man shared with HuffPost. The man, who said he does not earn anything near a million dollars a year but is financially quite comfortable, spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating coworkers who might earn less than he does.
Like the Patriotic Millionaires, the man felt he'd benefited unnecessarily from the tax cuts of the early 2000s, which according to left-leaning advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice have added nearly $2.5 trillion to the national debt. He also said he doesn't like the rise in income inequality over the past few decades.
"After a year watching the gap between the richest and the poorest get greater and greater I finally got really cynical about it," the man said. "We're moving back to the way it was when there was a landed gentry and some small percentage of people own everything and everyone else is dirt poor."
To make his donation, the man went to www.Pay.gov and then found the "Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt" page. Making the donation took a couple minutes.
According to the Treasury Department, the government has received $1.7 million worth of donations to relieve the public debt so far this year. In 2009, it received $3 million worth of donations, the most ever.
But even if each of the nearly 200 millionaires who signed a letter demanding congressional Republicans consider tax increases donated $1 million to the government, they wouldn't put a dent in the government's debt, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion. According to CTJ, if the tax cuts are extended beyond their current expiration date of January 2013, they'll add another $5.5 trillion to the debt.
The cuts disproportionately benefit the richest 1 percent of Americans, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.