Listeners Take Issue With 'Patriotic Millionaires'

Host Michel Martin and producer Veronica Miller comb through listener feedback to conversations from the week. Listeners raise their own questions after hearing about a 200-member group of millionaires asking Obama and Congress to raise their taxes. A former runner also shares her cross country days after listening to a story surronding Teens Run D.C.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

In a few minutes, our Faith Matters Conversation, where we will meet a well known minister in New York who's now taking her message to the international stage. She is the Obama administration's new ambassador for International Religious Freedom. The Reverend Suzan Johnson Cook. We'll have that conversation in just a few minutes.

But, first, it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. With me today is Veronica Miller, a producer here at TELL ME MORE. Welcome, Veronica, thanks for joining us. What do you have for us?

VERONICA MILLER: Well, we received a big response to a story we did on Wednesday, on the so-called Patriotic Millionaires. That's a group of 200 millionaires who sent letters to President Obama and Congress asking for higher taxes on Americans who make over $1 million a year, including themselves. We received more than 300 comments on this, Michel, including one from Eric Knudson(ph), who had this to say: I've always felt that true patriotism is a willingness to do more for your country than simply what is asked of you. In that light, I would like to point out that anyone can make a donation to reduce the national debt at pay.gov.

Whenever I hear of groups like the Patriotic Millionaires, I always wonder why? If they feel like they should contribute more, they just don't donate the additional amount they feel they should pay and then encourage other people to do the same.

MARTIN: Eric, thanks for writing in. we actually did talk to our guest Dennis Mehiel about this as we were getting set up. And he said he found the concept ridiculous. He said nobody's going to go online and give $5 million. But he also told us that doesn't address the principle of fundamental fairness. He said their group is about the principle that all millionaires should be taxed at a higher rate. And that's what he had to say about that.

And then I'm also going to point out that in December, we did an interview with a man named Dennis Ferguson, not a millionaire, who did write a $10,000 check to the state of California. He says, in gratitude for the help he had received when he had been unemployed some decades before. If you want to hear that conversation again, we'll have it on our website. You can go to the TELL ME MORE page at NPR.org and search for Dennis Ferguson.

Veronica, what else do you have for us?

MILLER: Well, earlier this week you covered a story in The Washington Post magazine about an after-school mentoring program called Teens Run D.C. It pairs economically disadvantaged youth with adult long-distance runners in hopes of providing teenagers with a new way of seeing themselves. You talked to the writer of the piece, DeNeen Brown, you talked to Benson Forman, who's the founder of the program and you also talked to Diamond Diggs, who's one of the participating students. And here's what she had to say after you asked her what she's learned from running.

DIAMOND DIGGS: I feel like I can do anything. It was something that I overcame even though I thought that it was something that I couldn't do. And at the end, it was finished, I just felt powerful.

MILLER: Well, one of our listeners, Jane LaPier(ph), told us that the story brought back memories of when she was on her cross-country team in high school. Here's what she had to say.

JANE LAPIER: Cross-country running was not just about the sport. As your story made clear, running is a social activity with the benefit of fitness, plus a huge dose of learning about oneself. I congratulate Diamond Diggs and all her running buds. I'm 55 and still going.

MARTIN: All right, Jane, you go, girl. And thank you for sharing your story.

We also have an update on a story we covered earlier this year, the trial in the 2007 murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. Yesterday, a jury found two men, Yusuf Bey and Antoine Mackey, guilty of first degree murder in that case. They are expected to be sentenced next month. Veronica, anything else?

MILLER: Well, one last update, Michel. A few weeks ago, you talked with Richard Thompson, the cartoonist behind the comic strip "Cul de Sac." At the time, he was nominated for a special award. And now we can report that Mr. Thompson has won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, given by the National Cartoonist Society.

MARTIN: Well, congratulations to Mr. Thompson. And I also need to congratulate you, Veronica. Today is your very last day with us. And we are sad, but we are happy for you and we are excited for you because you are heading off to get a graduate degree in fashion design. We're so excited for you, but we also want to ask you to please remember those of us who are not 25 years old when you were designing pants.

MILLER: Of course.

MARTIN: Or you do that, OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Thank you, Veronica.

MILLER: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends, to tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

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