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Brookline Millionaire Says "Tax Me"

BROOKLINE (CBS) -- Brookline's Robert Bowditch is rich. So rich, he can confidently sign an open-letter to President Obama in which he calls for an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

The letter's co-signers call themselves "Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength," and they tell the president that in the name of the "fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens" the Obama administration should "allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled."

"When that letter got presented to me," said Bowditch, "I read it, looked it over, and said, 'I'll sign.' I think especially now the country really needs it."

WBZ-TV's Jim Armstrong reports.

Now retired, Bowditch made his fortune as a real estate developer. But over the past few decades he says he has watched the American middle class get squeezed while the rich, as they say, kept getting richer. He thinks the U.S. tax code bears a lot of the blame for an ever-growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots.

"It seemed that these tax cuts for the rich were out of line, and needed to be remedied," he explained. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be successful are simply not paying a fair share."

The letter started with just a few millionaires, but more are joining every week. Those who sign on believe that they have made their fortunes here only because America allowed it.

As Bowditch explains, "opportunity only comes in a framework, in a country that provides the infrastructure, the background, the laws, and the kind of government that lets you take an opportunity and be successful. And you have to support that. And taxes are the way we all do."

You probably won't recognize many of the other names on this list of signatories. There's Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's ice cream fame. The musician Moby has also agreed. But most of the people signing up are the rich, not the famous.

The events of the past few days in Washington D.C. have not exactly encouraged the letter's co-signers, but Bowditch, for one, hopes the movement will at least start a dialogue about what he perceives as Congressional Republicans' favoritism of the super-wealthy at the expense of the working class.

He and other people in his financial position readily admit that $100,000 in a tax cut means less to them than a $2,000 break means to a working-class family. Bowditch says that is exactly why he should have to pay more money. He's willing to take the hit so that people who make less than him don't have to; he says that is one step towards reinvigorating the middle class.

While the very wealthy can choose to write big checks to various charities if they are so inclined, Bowditch tells WBZ that's beside the point of this discussion.

"Supporting the government is not a charitable activity," explains Bowditch. "Paying your taxes is a civic duty. It's what makes you a citizen, in part."

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