Two wealthy men, Stephen Prince and Eric Schoenberg, this week participated in an unusual lobbying campaign in the nation’s capital by advocating a $15 an hour minimum wage for all American fulltime workers.
As two leaders of the non-partisan group “Patriotic Millionaires,” the two described in an interview with the Justice Integrity Project why they support the organization and its goals to reduce income inequality and otherwise foster a better society. The interview took place at one of the long bare tables at the Dirksen Senate Office Building cafeteria. They and a half dozen colleagues and staffers from the Washington, DC-based group were taking a lunch break from their visits to elected representatives.
“We know there’s going to be a tax cut in the next Congress,” said Prince, shown at right, the vice-chair of Patriotic Millionaires and a Tennessee businessman who founded in 1993 National Business Products, now known as Card Marketing Services. ”But we want to make sure there’s a benefit also for the middle class and the lower-class.”
An increase in the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is the simplest and otherwise best way to ensure that goal, Prince continued.
More generally, he said the economy will improve if ordinary Americans have stronger buying power for low-priced store goods and items like used pickups. He said his experience goes against “trickle down” economic theory that helping the rich benefits lower classes in an efficient manner.
Tax laws already are adequate to enable him to create new businesses successfully as he has in the past, he said. So, he does not expect windfalls from the next Congress in reduced taxes to prompt significant changes in CEOs’ business strategies and personal spending beyond increasing inequality.
Schoenberg, chairman CampusWorks, Inc., a provider of technology leadership services to universities and colleges, echoed Prince’s goals and conclusions. Schoenberg (shown at left) holds a doctoral degree and also teaches about “family wealth” as an adjunct associate professor at the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
He said his perspective comes in part from observing economic inequality in South America as a State Department Foreign Service Officer early in his career. The wealthy could not enjoy their riches in comfort and safety surrounded by so many poor, he observed. Therefore, many of them moved to Florida. He fears the same pattern is occurring here and now, and must be changed for the sake of his children and those of others.