Business guru and famous super-rich person Warren Buffett made waves last month with an op-ed in The New York Times, "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich," calling for higher taxes for him and other obscenely wealthy Americans. He argued that the nation's very well-off are not sacrificing enough in these hard times and enjoying a tax rate much lower than what's it has been set for the rich in previous decades. There have been a variety of responses to Buffett's piece, some supportive, some not. But today we have a response from the wealthy themselves, and nearly half agree with Buffett's sentiment. 48 percent of those with several million dollars in assets are willing to pay more taxes for the common good, according to a recently released survey.
U.S. Trust, a division of Bank of America, surveyed (PDF) 457 rich Americans and released a comprehensive picture of how these wealthy people think about their wealth. It should be noted it was those with $3 million or more in assets (excluding primary residence) who were surveyed, a group that includes many more people than the super-wealthy group Buffett wrote of. Nevertheless, even among a substantial portion of the merely rich there was a willingness to give more in taxes. 12 percent "strongly agreed" and 36 percent "somewhat agreed" with the statement "I would be willing to pay more in taxes for the common good." An even greater portion of the rich--58 percent--indicated that they would pay more in taxes if they knew the money was going to directly benefit their community. However, that seeming magnanimity is tempered by another finding that about two-thirds of those surveyed believe that higher taxes on the wealthy unfairly penalize the financially successful. So maybe they aren't so open to a higher tax bill after all.