Who's for higher taxes on the rich? Millionaire lawyer Daniel Berger, head of the Philadelphia law firm Berger & Montague, for one:
"The Bush tax cuts should not be extended. They were never intended to be permanent," Berger, head of the 120-employee (partner and staff) Center City law firm cofounded by his father, class-action pioneer David Berger, told me, after he signed onto a push by liberal activist groups the Agenda Project and Wealth for the Common Good to push President Obama to restore higher tax rates for the 300,000-plus Americans collecting over $1 million in yearly income.
"We are in an emergency situation" in the U.S., Berger added. "We ought to step up and pay our fair share." He says the progressive income tax and other 1900s notions have fallen out of favor as millionaires control a greater percentage of the national wealth and influence Congress. By contrast, "I feel the rich should pay proportionately more than other people," since the rich "disproportionately benefit," with "the biggest stake in the country, in terms of physical and monetary assets."
Won't low taxes translate to higher investment and more jobs? I ask. "Absolutely not true," he said. "In some instances rich people invest in new productive businesses that do create jobs. But mostly they invest in financial assets, which could be in any country. But investment flows to the highest returns. That might not be in the United States. They might be dubious investments, in terms of their productivity."
Since Berger makes his living suing big corporations - "We make a lot of enemies. We're constantly being attacked by the Chamber of Commerce. But we've been successful, and I qualify as an affluent person." - his class interests may not be the same as other wealthy lawyers. But Berger says his position is based on what he sees, not just on where he sits.
What about the honking federal deficit? Berger blames it on failed policies of the George W. Bush administration: "The Bush tax cuts; the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are not wars of necessity, and Medicare Part D, a rip-off and a sell-out to the pharmaceutical industry, which bars the government from negotiating lower drug prices. A total outrage." Not the bank and auto company bail-out? "That's the smallest part of the deficit. But we could go a long way to alleviate the deficit by failing to extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest people in this country."
If rates don't rise, will Berger voluntarily donate part of his own income to Treasury? "That's absurd," he told me. "It won't work if 100 people do it. If 350,000 are forced to, it will make a difference."