Patriotic Millionaires

Prejudices against “those people” tend to be the familiar age-old biases based upon race, religion and the like, but other stereotypes abound and can be equally misleading. (In his teens, my middle son looked askance at  anyone in the “business class”– he felt they all valued profit over people.  When he grew up, he came to recognize the infinite variety of people who own businesses, and adjusted his expectations accordingly.)

Too many Americans these days characterize “the wealthy” as uniformly predatory capitalists with their boots on the necks of the working class–a description every bit as over- inclusive as my son’s earlier stereotype. Just as there are greedy and unattractive folks at the top of the income ladder, there are also good, caring people who are working for economic fairness.

Vox recently reported on a group of millionaires doing just that.

A group of millionaires dedicated to decreasing the influence of money in politics is planning to endorse candidates for the first time, in the 2018 midterm elections.

The only requirements: The candidates it backs have to be running against an incumbent who voted for the Republican tax cuts, and they’ve got to be able to talk about taxes in a way that doesn’t put voters to sleep.

Erica Payne, a progressive strategist, is the president of Patriotic Millionaires, the group making the endorsements.

Patriotic Millionaires is a group of about 200 wealthy Americans who advocate for less income inequality and against the concentration of wealth. It’s a bipartisan group, but it’s opposed to a central Republican idea: that benefits for the wealthy will eventually “trickle down” to the rest. That’s the thinking behind the 2017 tax cut bill, which reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and disproportionately benefits businesses and the wealthy.

The group first came together in 2010 to oppose the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires. Since then, it’s expanded its focus beyond taxes to also include issues such as the minimum wage and campaign finance reform.

It has also expanded its membership to more than 200 people— to join, you have to have an annual income of more than $1 million or assets of more than $5 million. Morris Pearl, a former director at the investment firm BlackRock, chairs the group.

Patriotic Millionaires is a bipartisan organization concerned about the concentration of wealth; it advocates for less income inequality and rejects the argument–parroted by  “policy wonks” like Paul Ryan— that benefits for the wealthy will eventually “trickle down” to the rest of us. “Trickle down” of course, was  the purported justification for the 2017 tax cut bill, which reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

Despite claims that the measure would create jobs, it has disproportionately benefited businesses and the wealthy–while exploding the deficit.

According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the top fifth of earners get 70 percent of the bill’s benefits, and the top 1 percent get 34 percent. The new tax treatment for “pass-through” entities — companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations — will mean an estimated $17 billion in tax savings for millionairesin 2018. American corporations are showering their shareholders with stock buybacks, thanks in part to their tax savings, and have returned nearly $700 billion to investors this year.

As noted above, the 2018 midterms will be the first time Patriotic Millionaires will endorse candidates.

Patriotic Millionaires is currently considering about 60 candidates for potential endorsement, most of whom are Democrats opposing incumbent Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives in competitive districts. The candidates on the list tend to fall into the more moderate, establishment camp, but some, such as Katie Porter in California and Kara Eastman in Nebraska, are avowed progressives.

The group is bipartisan and would therefore theoretically be willing to back a Republican who voted against the tax billthere are 12 of them. I also asked if they were willing to back a democratic socialist candidate, to which Payne, the group’s president, replied that they will consider endorsing any candidate who is running against one of the lawmakers who voted to support the bill. “This tax bill is such a complete abomination that anybody who voted for it should be hurled from office,” she said.

Patriotic Millionaires joins other rich activists–Nick Hanauer and Tom Steyer come to mind–in arguing for economic sanity.

Think about these activists before you diss all rich people.


  1. Despite headlines and the silly bully wonk at 1600, there are compassionate people with significant influence. Kudos and applause for the Patriotic Millionaires. Good post, Sheila.

  2. One of your best, Sheila!
    I wonder if there is fodder for a similar post regarding Fox News. I tend to diss and dismiss the entire network, but I think there might be some few there who are trying to be accurate in a difficult environment. Maybe Shepard Smith? Not sure about Brett Baier. I don’t watch, but maybe there’s something there.
    Anyway, thank you for a great post.

  3. I applaud their efforts to keep capitalism in place but this phrase, “predatory capitalists,” has been around a very long time. Like most people’s we rationalize and justify our excessive behaviors. From Albert’s dictum he writes:

    “But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase, and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.”

    Man against man; dominion over the earth and her resources.

    It’s not a few wicked men…the systems we employ, even revere are at the core of our problem. Think about what the term predator means – here is Webster’s definition:

    “one who injures or exploits others for personal gain or profit.”

    Do you honestly think a group of peasants/farmers developed this system for themselves or do you think a group of capitalists who already owned the means of production developed this system and used very good marketing like “By the people, for the people…”?

    We even teach our kids at an early age there are either owners or laborers. You’ll never become rich being a laborer. When the markets are tight, the sole purpose of a corporation is to “maximize the profitability of owners.”

    I read many publications daily, and one of them is Bloomberg. Their view is, “If it’s good for GDP or NYSE, then it’s good for America.”

    What does that say about our country?

    All the poverty and workers are living check to check means nothing. If the “millionaires” supported Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, I’d say let’s go…

    FDR improved our lives with the New Deal, but he saved capitalism so it could continue inflicting its pain on humanity.

  4. “Too many Americans these days characterize “the wealthy” as uniformly predatory capitalists with their boots on the necks of the working class…”

    You must admit that description perfectly fits those turned loose on this country by Citizens United; Kochs, Mercers, Princes, DeVoses, Trumps and their ilk.

    “The group first came together in 2010 to oppose the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires.”

    I have said repeatedly the greatest mistake President Obama made during his entire eight years in the White House was to extend George W’s tax cuts for millionaires; it has not only continued, it has escalated to ridiculous levels. In his book “The Audacity of Hope” he wrote that, shortly after his inauguration as Senator from Illinois, Warren Buffett scheduled a meeting with him solely to ask why his (Buffett’s) tax rate was lower than his bookkeeper’s? The only reason I could think for President Obama to extend Bush’s tax cut for millionaires was this (and mine) “Audacity of Hope” that compromise would bring both parties together to find solutions. I have only seen three multi- (or mega-) millionaires state publicly that they should be paying a higher tax rate; President Obama, Warren Buffett and Stephen King.

    I do not resent millionaires, nor do I envy them; I do deeply resent the blatant fact that they have bought and paid for our current president, his administration and Congress. “…the 2018 midterms will be the first time Patriotic Millionaires will endorse candidates.” I would find their declarations much easier to believe if they would post the specific candidates they are endorsing; would we find Senator Joe Donnelly’s name on their list? There is much more than Trump’s quickly passed “tax reform” to be considered in their decisions…vital as it is, it is still only about money.

    Here is a question I believe fits here; I’m sure many of you have also received mailings and on-line requests for donations claiming they will double, triple, quadrupal any amount I donate. If they have the money to donate; why do I have to “pay” them to do so from my barely above poverty level income?

  5. Reminds me of the Hitchens/Blair debate on religion in which Blair argued Christians do good acts. To which Hitchens replied, so what? You don’t need “divine permission to know right from wrong”.

  6. JoAnn,

    “I would find their[millionaires] declarations much easier to believe if they would post the specific candidates they are endorsing; would we find Senator Joe Donnelly’s name on their list?

    Probably so. Your suspicions are will founded.

    My vision is helped by having had a MILLIONAIRE FATHER. I’ve always “prayed” that someday something good would come from that experience. You never know.

  7. If those 200 millionaires even thought of doing the right thing, they would end up on some secluded island somewhere, with an “exclusive” golf and country club which, hopefully, would have a few visitors once in a “blue moon,” from the outside world.

  8. Yes, this is the way we should see things. There ARE good and decent rich people in the country, probably more than just the 200 who are pushing back against the Milton Friedman idiocy of “trickle down” economics embraced by similar Republicans and their donors.

    The bad news is there aren’t enough decent rich people doing the right things by their country and the working classes. As long as “free-market” capitalism rules our economy, the predators will be the dominant force. Humanity’s history shows that that is the norm, economically speaking.

    I’m guilty of blanketing the rich with the onus of predation. I suppose I have to agree with Todd that the media seldom reports on the “good guys” who are fighting against the predatory tax activities promoted by Republicanism.

    So, how do those decent millionaires and billionaires get the publicity they deserve to help all of us get our heads straight about our patriotic people trying to reduce wage and economic inequalities? Maybe just mentioning them every day to our friends and audiences is a start. Voting out those predatory Republicans is also the way to begin a different kind of movement.

  9. We need to escape the “fantasy world” that Donald Trump is creating with his opposition, such as the notion that someone representing us is going to be “sitting at the table” with him. No way. That’ll never happen. It would be too obvious that he was the world’s “biggest phony.” He’s dumb, but not that dumb.

  10. Yesterday, I found in on online article a reference to The center-left think tank Third Way. Several articles discuss the Third Way.

    The group, which has close ties to the party’s establishment, is proposing a new social contract for the digital age. A report being published today lays out a dozen policies that Democratic presidential candidates could run on.

    “We came to the realization that, along with everybody else in Democratic politics, we had gotten a lot of things wrong about how Americans were thinking and feeling,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way and an alumnus of Bill Clinton’s White House. (Side Bar – a Clinton crony is not needed)

    >> Third Way is a Democratic Think Tank, that is angling for a voice in the 2020 election.

    Sanders’ wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here’s how they plan to stop it.
    Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement.

    But the first-ever “Opportunity 2020” convention, organized here last week by Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank, gave middle-of-the-road party members a safe space to come together and voice their concerns.

    That anxiety has largely been kept to a whisper among the party’s moderates and big donors, with some of the major fundraisers pressing operatives on what can be done to stop Sanders, I-Vt., if he runs for the White House again.

    The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-cohosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the “millionaires and billionaires” found in Sanders’ stump speech.

    For the left, Third Way represents the Wall Street-wing of the party and everything wrong with the donor-driven wet blanketism they’ve been trying exorcise since 2016. Thom Hartmann, a liberal talk radio host and Sanders friend, once called the group’s warning about Sanders “probably the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard,” before ticking through all the investment bankers on Third Way’s board.
    This group does not support Universal Health Care or Single Payer, free higher education or support of unions. The Corporate Democratic Establishment Apparatus is not going to give up easily, even though the “Centrist” approach has led to electoral disasters on the national and state level since the 1990’s.

    As far as “Patriotic Millionaires” I would leave you with this warning from antiquity – Beware of Greeks, bearing Gifts.

  11. thanks for the info, and,thanks for thier commitment,and stand. since kara eastman was mentioned,and ive watched her site, im sending a hard earned $100 for her campaign…
    let this message about these people,get out more in the light,and the reason why they
    are working to boot out the liars…

  12. Monotonous,

    Thanks for the Intell. It’s just “Bullshit,” after “Bullshit” from both sides. The only difference is that the Republican side smells worse. I guess that’s about as good a reason, for us all, to vote for the Democrats. Right?

  13. Here is a good bit of news:
    ‘Major Victory’: Federal Judge Issues Game-Changing Ruling on Dark Money.
    An ethics watchdog has claimed a “major court victory” after a federal judge issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation that allowed contributors to so-called dark money organizations avoid disclosure.

    “This ruling looks like a major game changer,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “Based on this ruling, the public should know a whole lot more about who is giving money for the purpose of influencing an election, and it will be much harder for donors to anonymously contribute to groups that advertise in elections.”

    “Major donors are now on notice that if they contribute to politically active 501(c)(4) organizations, their contributions will have to be disclosed,” he said, “and if they are not, CREW will pursue enforcement cases with the FEC and, if necessary, in court.”

  14. Monotonous,

    “This ruling looks like a major game changer,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).”

    We need a “major game changer” in the way we, PERSONALLY, deal with Donald Trump. It’s impossible to do it directly. It must be done INDIRECTLY. And there’s only one way you can do that, it is to take away his FOOTING…… the EVANGELICAL RIGHT.

  15. Donald Trump is not the only “rotten bastard” that’s been in the building business. From Wikipedia:


    Levittown is the name of seven large suburban housing developments created in the United States and Puerto Rico by WILLIAM LEVITT and his company Levitt & Sons. Built after World War II for returning veterans and their new families, the communities offered attractive alternatives to cramped central city locations and apartments. The Veterans Administration and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guaranteed builders that qualified veterans could buy housing for a fraction of rental costs.

    Production was modeled on assembly lines in 27 steps with construction workers trained to perform one step. A house could be built in one day when effectively scheduled. This enabled quick and economical production of similar or identical homes with rapid recovery of costs. Standard Levittown houses included a white picket fence, green lawns, and modern appliances. Sales in the original Levittown began in March 1947. 1,400 homes were purchased during the first three hours.


    Levittown, New York – the first Levittown (built 1947–1951)
    Levittown, Pennsylvania – the second Levittown (1952–1958)
    Willingboro Township, New Jersey – originally and colloquially known as Levittown (started 1958)
    Levittown, Puerto Rico (1963)
    Bowie, Maryland (1964)
    Crofton, Maryland (1970)
    Largo, Maryland (1963)

    I dated William Levitt’s adopted daughter when I was in college at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the 50’s. That’s the same university where Trump received his college degree. You have to understand this type of personality. I do. I’ve been ONE on ONE with him. You can’t win with a direct approach. Believe me, I know best from experience.

    Please don’t hold this against me. If WILLIAM LEVITT ever had a clone it was DONALD TRUMP.

  16. question? if apple sees fit to finnally dump alex jones and his merry propaganda machine, will apple dump the republicans propaganda pod casts too?

  17. This is long, but bear with me. I am pleased to hear that there are some of the wealthy who are opposed to the plutocratic Trump-Ryan $1.5 trillion tax cut atrocity of last December (and, I presume, who would oppose Trump’s new plan to give an additional $100 billion of your money and mine to the same people through regulatory tinkering with the basis of stock and other assets subject to capital gain treatment), but I have to admit, having been continuously burned by Republican tax treatment since Reagan, that I question the motivation of the good rich folks who talk of fair and equitable tax treatment of us proles and an end to deficit financing to further enrich the already rich. Perhaps I should welcome any move by anybody to even up tax treatment, but based on experience, I find that hard to do. Prejudiced? Perhaps – but if so, for good reason – experience.
    Speaking of perhaps, perhaps some of the rich folks are motivated to oppose the rush act tax bill of last December (which was passed without a single Democratic vote or a single committee hearing) see what is happening just over the horizon – the sharp left turn of millennials who are, as I am, disgusted with the giant tax breaks to the rich and corporate class via deficit financing of their future and are ready to do something about it. Perhaps the seemingly good move of some of the rich Sheila describes is an attempt to cut such leftward movement off at the pass before it catches fire and cannot be thereafter contained as the millennials go even to the left of Bernie. Perhaps, in a word, these latter day do-gooders are trying to end the millennials’ flirtation with the dreaded world of socialism.
    If so, it’s going to take more than making a principled stand against the giveaway tax treatment to the rich and corporate class by congressional lackeys and Trump; it’s going to take stands against wage inequality, third-world healthcare, third-world infrastructure, religion in government and the like. The millennials with four million new voters every election are our future, and their passion will not be sated with mere tax reform where the rich (finally) pay their just due. They want more from their government than serving the financial sector as ATMs – and justly so.
    I hope I am wrong with such negative ideas and that all parties are acting in good faith and recognize the sea change coming if there is not serious reform not just in taxation but government in general, because as I often write, I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me.

  18. Wealth is not the problem, power is. Those with extraordinary wealth who believe it entitles them to political power are the problem. Oligarchs. Aristocrats.

    I would bet that nobody in today’s world believes that trickle down works. It’s merely a disguise for rewarding donors with more wealth which is to say more power. It reloads their guns.

    Our political problems came because entertainers on pervasive media created right wing extremists in excessive numbers. Those personalities easiest to cult-i-vate are authoritarians, those who feel entitled to rule others. The opposite of liberals. One of the well known dangers of extremism is it’s tendency to create more extremism in response. That’s now evident among some Democrats who have become extreme liberals who believe that they need to dictate to all Democrates the only path to rightousness. Nuance used to be the speciality of liberals and now in response to right wing extremism we see left wing black and white extremism. Not surprising but another obstacle to recovery of what we know works. The middle of the road.

    I’d have to say that my heroes of these times in America are the Obamas and the Gates and Nick Hanauer. I’m sure that there are more but to me they are the most obvious celebrities to use as models for the best we can be.

    I’m glad to hear from Sheila that there are others who are starting to rise to the top of their game and put country first. It’s only regrettable that there are so few in Congress who put their country first. Congratulations on doing that to Bernie, and Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gilabrand, and a few others we will be hearing more from as the decisive year 2020 gets closer.

  19. Gerald,

    “…….as I often write, I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me.”

    One of your best commentaries. What we really have in common, is that we both want to save capitalism. Pete also wants to do that. So does Sheila. All of you are much more articulate on that endeavor than I am.

    I’m a lot better at playing the “bad guy” than the “good guy.”

  20. Marv – I disagree; you are articulate, and some of the quotes you have dug up from the archives are priceless and on point. Keep up the good work.

  21. Back in civilization’s coarser days aristocrats learned often the wrath of the common man sick of doing all of the work for none of the benefits. They came with pitchforks against the armies guarding the oligarchs and in the end lots of lives were lost along with a few royal heads.

    Do oligarchs think of that today? I doubt it’s much of a worry as they are aware that pitchforks have been largely replaced by ballots but I think enough has been speculated about capitalism’s suicide to get people thinking. At least those capable of it which of course excludes the cabal pigging out presently on the US Treasury.

    Certainly lots of business people are smart enough to see the writing on the wall and try to get ahead of the curve. Perhaps they include the Patriotic Millionaires. We can hope so for our sake and theirs.

  22. Marv et al,

    I am not the least bit interested in “saving capitalism”. Saving democracy should be our goal, and and capitalism in it current incarnation is a “sufficient cause” to destroy it.


  23. I maintain a long but not exhaustive list of capitalism’s flaws. Objectionable capitalists (Ayn Rand was their publicist) are those who believe that the word “capitalism,” like the word “god,” ends any discussion. Many of today’s leading capitalists believe it is o.k. to give million- dollar bonuses using public money to the criminals who precipitated the housing crisis. In South Carolina, corporations facing losses demand that we pay, until 2056, a month stipend to the power companies who spent $19.2 billion on a failed nuclear project that they never had a chance of completing – but executives still received multi-million dollar bonuses.

    Most of us have benefited from the capitalist system. Few of us have reached the conclusion that that makes us special and that those who haven’t are beneath us. Today the Republican Party is in a frenzy to destroy democracy before democracy destroys capitalism (they interpret that as meaning that capitalism is being decimated by people who don’t contribute to it, and that democracy is their tool for pillaging). Read Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains” (or watch her videos) for a full explanation of how radical, wealth-based libertarianism took shape and how it reached the advanced stage it occupies today.

    Sheila is correct that having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person. Unfortunately, the Koch brothers’ army of 500 billionaires and near billionaires – all rotten to the core – are better funded and are writing the rules for the burial ceremony of democracy (and have been for decades) so they can live the dream without interference from the unwashed. Are you puzzled about the bizarre behavior of once rational Republican politicians? Ponder this holiest of articles of their faith: Democracy must be destroyed before it can destroy capitalism.

    We’re not as stupid as we appear. With thought and effort we can again make capitalism a workable system as it mostly was from 1940 to 1975. But first the American oligarchs and the congressmen they invested in must be brought down. Maybe an enforceable regulation or two could help. Maybe democracy can be made to work again.

  24. Terry,

    “We’re not as stupid as we appear. With thought and effort we can again make capitalism a workable system as it mostly was from 1940 to 1975. But first the American oligarchs and the congressmen they invested in must be brought down.”

    I think we’re trying to get our true voices today. For me, the above statement is where I’m coming from. We’ve got to maintain some form of EQUILIBRIUM without an ideological change like Socialism. I realize that we might not be able to accomplish that. The SOCIAL CONTRACT might be too frayed at this point in time. So we might be left with either a choice between some type of fascism or socialism. I doubt if we could “keep the peace” with either one of those two options.

    But nothing can change for the better until both Donald Trump and Mike Pence are neutralized. For the present, that’s where I will be directing all my efforts.

  25. Some on this blog are ready to chuck capitalism but I am not on that list, not yet, though I recently published a blog entitled “IS CAPITALISM AS CURRENTLY PRACTICED WORTH SAVING?” I continue to cling to the fleeting hope that these latter day capitalists will succumb to a regulated form of capitalism and finally understand that there are more players in this economy than just the financiers and that their interests should be represented in how their economy is to work. It took a double shock of The Great Depression and WW II to bring Americans rich and poor to work and tax themselves in regulated fashion up to Reagan and his union-busting and trickledown nonsense which ushered wage inequality into existence, and our economy has been underperforming ever since. Capitalism is not working as advertised but I think it could with certain reforms, hence my oft-repeated statement that I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me, and I think their continued resistance to reform may earn them an ism they will regret birthing.

  26. Gerald,

    “Capitalism is not working as advertised but I think it could with certain reforms, hence my oft-repeated statement that I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me, and I think their continued resistance to reform may earn them an ism they will regret birthing.”

    One reason I’ve stayed with capitalism, I believe comes from my background as an attorney. Maybe the same goes for you. An attorney friend once said to me, “I’ve never seen someone exhaust so many remedies before taking legal action.” I guess, I want to EXHAUST ALL REMEDIES before I abandon capitalism. This legal concept has always made a lot of sense to me.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

    The doctrine of exhaustion of remedies prevents a litigant from seeking a remedy in a new court or jurisdiction until all claims or remedies have been exhausted (pursued as fully as possible) in the original one. The doctrine was originally created by case law based on the principles of comity.

    In the United States, exhaustion of remedies is applied extensively in administrative law. Many cases are handled first by independent agencies of the United States government which have primary responsibility for cases involving the statutes or regulations which the agency administers.

    A person’s specific rights and duties depend on the federal statute involved, but here is an outline of how the doctrine works in practice. “Exhaustion of administrative remedies” requires a person to first go to the agency which administers the statute; this process usually involves filing a petition, then going to a hearing, and finally using the agency’s internal appeal process. Once the agency’s own procedures are finished, or “exhausted”, then the aggrieved person can file a complaint in a federal court. But the doctrine of exhaustion of remedies prevents parties from seeking relief in the courts first.

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