Jewish Journal

The Lonely Cry of the Jewish Millionaires

by Pini Herman

December 12, 2011 | 2:41 pm

The Lonely Cry of the Millionaires

It’s not lost on the anti-tax forces that Jews are disproportionately involved among the Occupy-sympathetic one-percenters.  Much media attention has been given to the million-dollar-a-year earners who in the spirit of Warren Buffet have organized as a group to lobby for higher taxes, the Patriotic Millionaires.

For his part anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist  has even tailored his message to the Jewish high earners., Norquist said he was ready for the group with a tongue-in-cheek Torah lesson: Maimonides and his “eight degrees of charity.” That’s what Norquist says the million-a-year earners are essentially proposing with their tax-me-more pitch. Perhaps there should be a ninth, Norquist suggested.

“Nobody’s holding them back” from donating money to the federal government, he said as he prepared for the group’s arrival. “They’re saying, `Gee, I’d sure like to write a big check to the federal government, if someone would just stop stopping me.

Even President Obama with his “Freudian slip” when he misspoke saying: “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew — as a janitor….” was probably channeling his impression of the Patriotic Millionaires high concentration of Jews.

A simple of surname analysis of the Patriotic Millionaires listed as the 128 public signers of the millionaire’s “tax us” petition, over a third (39 percent) have distinctive Jewish surnames.  That is twenty times the expected rate for Jews in the U.S. population and almost seven times their rate among all U.S. million-a-year earners.  Their message, as high earners, want to share the burden as responsible loyal citizens and are fighting for taxation with representation rather than looking for giving opportunities.

Jewish millionaires are still a small minority in terms of absolute numbers of the total number of American million-dollar earners.  Its estimated only 375,000 Americans have yearly incomes of over $1,000,000, resulting in an estimated twenty-three hundred American Jewish high earners, an estimated 6 percent of American top earners as compared to 94 percent non-Jewish million-dollar earners.  That may be why Jewish million dollar earners are not indicative of a groundswell among all top earners, but are somewhat still a lonely voice in the wilderness that continues to be derided and ignored by anti-tax Republicans.

My curiosity as to the Jewish activism of these Jewish patriotic millionaires was satisfied when I took a random sample of nine of the 49 Jewish millionaire signers.  All of the Jewish millionaire sample had donated to a Jewish cause, with eight of the nine to a synagogue, mostly Conservative synagogues and the minority to Reform synagogues.  From this I infer that this group of Jewish millionaire activists has a very high synagogue affiliation rate, at least double that of the general Jewish population.

Pini Herman is immediate past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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