Upset the federal government recently extended tax cuts for the rich, three professors at Yale and Cornell universities have created a website that encourages wealthy Americans to give their tax savings to charities and send a political message in the process.
The professors started giveitbackforjobs.org to allow Americans "who have the means" to calculate what their tax cut would be and donate that amount to a charity.
"Extending the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans is frankly unconscionable," Yale Law School professor Daniel Markovits said Wednesday. With the website's help, "donors can pledge their money to support the kinds of programs that will help families, create jobs, and set the country moving toward a just prosperity," the professors said in announcing the initiative.
Markovits, Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, and Cornell law professor Robert Hockett started the campaign. Hacker is co-author of "Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class."
The three recommend giving to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Children's Aid Society and Salvation Army that they say promote fairness, economic growth and a strong middle class. They say the contributions could replicate good government policy and, in effect, draft the government as a funding partner when the donation is tax deductible.
"The collective giving together becomes almost a kind of shadow fiscal policy," Markovits said.
Congress approved the tax package and President Barack Obama signed it into law this month. It retains Bush-era tax rates for all taxpayers, including the wealthiest, a provision Obama and congressional liberals opposed. Proponents of the tax cuts argued that raising taxes in a fragile economy would hurt small businesses and job growth.
The professors say other features of the tax package, including a payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits, are acceptable but the overall package does not go far enough to help the middle class and doesn't expect enough of those who can afford to give the most.
Markovits said an earlier effort that encouraged taxpayers to donate their tax cuts to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina resulted in about $250,000 in pledges.