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Meet The Millionaires Who Are Trying To Force Washington Into Raising Their Taxes

Dollars Cash Money

Earlier this month, a group of millionaires proposing higher taxes on themselves and other high-earning Americans met with senior White House officials, congressional Republican staffers, and Democratic congresspeople to discuss their agenda in light of the looming fiscal cliff.

This organization, Patriotic Millionaires For Fiscal Strength, has attracted over 200 millionaires who endorse raising the highest tax rate to help reverse the nation’s growing burden of debt.

Members of this organization casually refer to themselves as the 1%, but their primary policy priority is to contribute more in taxes for the country’s sake.

Here’s a list of the Patriotic Millionaires’ other preferred policy outcomes, from the Agenda Project:

  • Tax capital gains at 20-28%
  • Tax dividends as regular income
  • Limit total deductions either by dollar amount or percentage of income
  • Increase the inheritance tax

Patriotic Millionaires understand that their involvement might be bad for business, or as one entrepreneur put it, “My accountant hates that I’m here.” But they don’t believe that raising the highest tax rate will cause businesses to cut back on hiring. Rather, they insist that tax rates have never factored into any of their hiring decisions. Their rationale is that entrepreneurs about worry about effective rates going up by 13% – they’re going for triples and homers, and don’t mind striking out once in a while. The risk of an enterprise’s failure far exceeds employee costs.

The group also offered a rebuttal to the most common criticism it receives: that there’s nothing to stop anyone who wants to from paying more to the Treasury. The Patriotic Millionaires’ stance is that the tax debate is not a matter of personal virtue, but rather of societal choices. Reliance on voluntary tax payments would be unrealistic, and far from prudent policy.

The organization’s members realize that the nation’s budget can’t be balanced on their backs, but as one Patriotic Millionaire declared, “If we’re not including higher tax rates on upper incomes in the discussion, it’s crazy.”

Tal Zlotnitsky, CEO of iControl Systems

Tal Zlotnitsky Ceo Of Icontrol Systems

Zlotnitsky, a venture capitalist who started a $100 million business in his basement, calls his story ‘uniquely American.’ He immigrated to the U.S. illegally at the age of 12 without knowing a word of English, and credits his development to his ESL teacher, Ms. Nunez.

He believes that raising taxes on millionaires is a no-brainer:

“If the question is whether I have an extra $20,000 in my bank account or if there’s another teacher in the classroom in Philly, then what is the question?”



David Watson, entrepreneur and former Google software engineer

David Watson Entrepreneur And Former Google Software Engineer

David sees a direct connection between his journey from the middle class to the 1% and America’s unparalleled social infrastructure.

He is involved because he wants millionaires to have a “voice for ourselves” in the ongoing tax debate – a voice that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the Republican Party’s stance on the interests of the wealthy.



Garrett Gruener, founder of Ask.com

Garrett Gruener Founder Of Askcom

Gruener wrote an op-ed in September 2010 titled “I’m Rich; Tax Me More.” He believes that those fortunate enough to benefit from the U.S. socioeconomic infrastructure should give back, and says that in his experience as a venture capitalist, tax rates have never played any role in his decision-making process.



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Goldman Sachs Is Bullish On Basketball Shoes (FL)

Spike Lee Nike Shoes

Goldman Sachs analysts Taposh Bari and Chad Sutherland have a new research note out explaining how to invest in the U.S. footwear cycle.

One of their favorite stocks in the shoe industry is Foot Locker (FL) which they rate as 'Buy' with a $39 price target.

And a big part of their investment thesis is the comeback of the basketball shoe business.

"Basketball, in particular, appears to be a resurging athletic trend that should extend the cyclically robust same-store sales growth at FL and, to a lesser extent, FINL," they write.

They see three reasons for this:

  1. NBA Ratings: "Renewed interest in the league presumably stems from LeBron James' joining the Miami Heat and the "super-team trend that has ensued."
  2. Fashion Trends: "We view basketball's hightop silhouette as the male version of a bootie or short boot. The skinny denim silhouette, adopted by women in 2008/2009 and men more recently, creates a more tapered leg opening and accommodates a taller footwear silhouette (like basketball shoes)."
  3. Vendor Innovation: Retro Jordan sneakers are launching more frequently and non-Nike brands are becoming more successful at selling products above the $100 price point.

The offer some charts to support this:

Basketball Shoes

Basketball Shoes

Basketball Shoes

SEE ALSO: CREDIT SUISSE: Here Are The 29 Best Growth Stocks In America

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What It Was Like Trying To Raise Money The Day Lehman Brothers Collapsed

Roman Stanek

One of the essential ingredients for a startup is timing.

GoodData CEO Roman Stanek knows that particularly well, having started his first major company just as the Internet bubble started, and sold it in 1999. 

But when it came to his most recent company, the timing was slightly less auspicious, at least at first. Stanek arrived in New York to ask for funding on the very day that Lehman Brothers collapsed. "So for GoodData, I landed in New York on September 15, 2008 and I came here to raise money, I came from Boston, I opened a newspaper and it said 'Lehman Brothers failed' and I was like, 'OK, here it comes.'"

That began a period for the company where it was all but impossible to get funding. "I went to VCs and they said, 'we are not funding anybody,'" Stanek says, "and here's the reason why. Imagine that as a VC, let's say you have $100 million, you have ten companies and each one of them needs $20 million. But you can assume that you will syndicate, so $100 million plus $100 million from somebody else will get you into a good place."

Then came the financial crisis. Stanek says, "What happened in 2008 is that the whole notion of syndication went away, everybody was trying to protect their own portfolio. So now you have $100 million and 10 companies, those companies need $200 million so what do you do? You have to eliminate half of your portfolio. ...That's the moment I showed up."

It was not a hugely receptive audience; they had bigger problems at the time. "These people, they don't know where their money is," Stanek says. "It could be parked with Lehman Brothers, so they don't even know where it is."

The result was a seven-month "VC no," a phenomenon where funds, rather than telling you "no" outright and burning a bridge, just never get back to you.

Stanek and GoodData got a different stall tactic. "The other way VCs delay their decision is, and that's what happened to us, is they ask you to do technical due diligence," Stanek says. "They take you through six months of testing and they essentially do it just to delay the decision, they know they've made the decision from day one."

But admitting failure wasn't an option, Stanek argues. "For me, to go back to my team and my existing investors and say, we're accepting defeat, we're not raising money because it's impossible, that means that you have a problem and you may lose employees and so on. ... I kept going, I kept trying."

Eventually, Stanek succeeded, getting investors like Mark Andreesen and Ben Horowitz on board.

He argues that the process actually made his company stronger in the long run, that the timing was actually right on. "It was very painful, but what it also did, it allowed us to start at a time when nobody else was starting," Stanek says. "I would hate to start today when, every day, Y-Combinator and 500 kinds of seed companies are spitting out startups, you have no differentiation. It's much harder today." 

NOW READ: This Photo Illustrates How Hard It Is For A Startup To Succeed

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