‘Patriotic Millionaires’ ought to spend their own cash for causes

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‘I’ve been lucky enough to live in Silicon Valley for a while, and work for a small startup company quite well. So I’m unemployed by choice,” former Google director of consumer marketing and brand management Doug Edwards told President Barack Obama at a town hall in Mountain View last month.

“My question is: Would you please raise my taxes?” Edwards asked.

It’s not every day that an American citizen asks the president to raise their taxes. But Edwards is not just any American. He is one of more than 100 “Patriotic Millionaires” who have signed a petition asking the federal government to “raise our taxes.”

Unfortunately, it is not just their taxes that they want raised. Every millionaire who has signed the Patriotic Millionaires petition is perfectly free to donate to the Treasury. In 2010, about $316 million was given to the federal government voluntarily.

But that is not what Edwards and his supposedly Patriotic Millionaires want to do. They want to use the federal government to force other millionaires to give more of their money for other people’s priorities.

Here is how Edwards told Obama he would like his extra taxes spent: “I would very much like the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants and infrastructure, and job training programs, that made it possible for me to get to where I am.”

What, exactly, is stopping Edwards from investing his own money in any of these things? Take education for example. Just six miles down the road from the Computer History Museum where Edwards asked for higher taxes to pay for more Pell Grants is the East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy.

Operated by Aspire Public Schools, 93 percent of this charter high school’s students qualify for a free or reduced lunch. And of the 21 seniors in its inaugural 2010 graduating class (the school now has 160 students) all were the first in their families to go to college.

Maybe Edwards does donate to the Phoenix Academy or other educational nonprofits. We don’t know because he has refused to talk to the press since his town hall question.

But thanks to the Center for Responsive Politics, we do know that Edwards has made substantial investments in the Democratic Party. Since 2000, Edwards has voluntarily given almost $300,000 to Democrats.

“The U.S. government is not a charity. It’s how we work together to achieve national aims,” Garrett Grenuer says in a Patriotic Millionaire video. This is half right.

The federal government is not a charity. But neither is it the only way we as a society can work together. Local governments, nonprofits and even corporations are all examples of people working together to achieve goals … all without coercion from the federal government. Instead of asking Obama to take more of other people’s money, maybe Edwards should ask them to give it voluntarily.

Conn Carroll is associate editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.

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