Even more surprising, the majority of millionaires also agree the income tax gap needs to be narrowed. An October survey from the Spectrum Group found that 68 percent of millionaires support increasing taxes on millionaires.

A debate over the federal tax system has been raging across the United States for months now, but recent events have once again catapulted it into the national spotlight.


Following a surprising loss in South Carolina and faced with a growing number of questions over his refusal to release his tax returns, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney finally caved to pressure Jan. 24 and released his 2010 and estimated 2011 tax returns.


And once he did, it was easy to see why he was so reluctant to share this information with the American public; Romney’s 2010 adjusted gross income totaled $21.7 million dollars, but his tax rate — 13.9 percent — was actually lower than a person who earns $50,000 a year. That’s even more depressing when one takes the math one step further and finds Romney’s daily income amounted to $56,986 per day — despite the fact that he had no job, and the money was mostly the result of interest from investments.


So how exactly did Romney manage to pull off this amazing feat? Thanks to a loophole in the U.S. tax code that provides for a tax break on carried interest, it’s perfectly legal ... and, as President Barack Obama pointed out in his State of the Union speech, completely unfair.


During his prime-time address to the nation just hours after Romney’s returns were released, the commander in chief once again called for a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for any American making more than $1 million.


“Now you can call this class warfare all you want,” he said. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”


He’s right. According to an Oct. 5 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 75 percent of Americans — 89 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Independents, 57 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of tea partiers — believe those making more than $1 million a year should pay higher taxes.


Even more surprising, the majority of millionaires also agree the income tax gap needs to be narrowed. An October survey from the Spectrum Group found that 68 percent of millionaires support increasing taxes on millionaires.


Given that it has such widespread bipartisan backing, one might expect legislation to increase the tax the wealthiest Americans pay would sail through Congress. However, many lawmakers clearly aren’t interested in what their constituents want these days, especially when it conflicts with their own self-interest — about 47 percent of Congress members are themselves millionaires, according to The Center for Responsive Politics — or with the bottom line for their biggest contributors, of course.


Yet while GOP presidential frontrunners Romney and Newt Gingrich seem content to rely on trading childish barbs as an example of the leadership each man can offer, it appears Obama is finally willing to relinquish the role of peacemaker to engage in a fight of his own — one aimed at getting things done, despite the rampant obstructionism in Congress. And he urged the country to look to the men and women of the U.S. military — the world’s strongest fighting force — for inspiration.


“At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations,” Obama said. “They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”


I can well imagine the economic prosperity that would be possible if lawmakers would put aside their petty differences and emulate the spirit of teamwork exemplified by the brave members of our armed forces. And I think the urgent need to quickly get our nation back on firm financial footing is something on which we can all agree.


City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com.