It's always good to remember that not all rich people are selfish and greedy. Here's a great example of some wealthy people who aren't fixated on "more, more, more": Although Congress has decided to hold off on voting on the fate of the
October 11, 2010


It's always good to remember that not all rich people are selfish and greedy. Here's a great example of some wealthy people who aren't fixated on "more, more, more":

Although Congress has decided to hold off on voting on the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts until after the November election, the delay has not slowed down the efforts of some wealthy millionaires. The 700 or so members of a Massachusetts-based group called the Responsible Wealth Project have spent the last several months courting politicians to make their case, arguing that the country simply cannot afford to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and that, as billionaires and millionaires, they hardly need that cash.

NEWSWEEK’s Nancy Cook recently spoke with one of the group’s members, the cofounder of Seventh Generation, Jeffrey Hollender. Hollender talked about his disdain for the current tax code, the need for more compassion among the wealthy, and the way being rich often seems relative. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: So why do you oppose extending the tax cuts for families that make more than $250,000 a year?

Hollender: This is a time when the wealthiest Americans need to give back to the country. I know this well, as someone who has been financially successful, the vast array of benefits available to me that are not available to other people. It’s a moral question, but it’s also equally economic, because I don’t necessarily need everyone to agree with my morals and my perspectives. We can agree that the country can’t afford the tax cuts. This is the absolute wrong time, because where is that money going to be made up from? It’s going to come from social services. The government will have to reduce expenses, probably by providing fewer benefits for less affluent Americans. I can’t remember the government dealing with economic problems in a way that has inflicted pain on me, but that’s the not the case if you’re living below the poverty level.

What kind of organizing has the group you’re involved with been doing?

As with any kind of legislation, it is hard to maintain the same level of pressure on the government. Politicians’ attention drifts, but a few weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., visiting with senators and congressmen as part of a business group to discuss a broader range of issues. We’ve seen the Republicans back off on continuing the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at the moment, but who knows what happens after the midterm elections if they pick up more seats?

In this climate, with the growing gap between the rich and the poor, do you feel like rich people are afraid to openly talk about their views on the tax cuts, especially after a University of Chicago professor blogged about feeling cash-strapped and was then widely criticized for his views?

I’m an opinionated person on many issues, but there is no issue that stirs greater passion than issues that have to do with money. I got more threatening e-mails than anything I have ever spoken about in my life after speaking out against the tax cuts. There is one group who philosophically say, “The last thing I want to do is to give any more money to the government for any reason.” Those are people who may or may not be affluent or object to big government, but you know, somehow sadly, there is another group of people for whom no matter how much they have, they never think they have enough. They always think they need to have more. It’s a sad state in this country when those of us who are so privileged fight for more rather than fight for those among us who have so little.

People tell me to keep my hand out of their pocket—that they don’t want me giving their money away—but letting the tax cuts expire is a small step to what’s required for a more equitable wealth distribution. Why should I be able to deduct my second mortgage, for instance? If you have two houses, do you need a deduction on your second house? There are so many benefits the wealthy have.

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