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Avoiding the 'Fiscal Cliff'

Congressional leaders and the Obama administration began budget negotiations soon after the presidential election. They are trying to avoid what is being called "the fiscal cliff," which is a combination of tax increases and budget cuts that could harm the economy.

However, a group of wealthy Americans has formed to try to influence those talks. More than 20 members travelled to Washington recently to call on lawmakers to raise taxes on the richest Americans.

The group calls itself "Patriotic Millionaires." Members have incomes of at least $1 million a year. Their message is simple: "Tax us more. We can take it." They are worried about the growing gap between rich and middle-class Americans.

The group supports President Obama's plan to raise taxes on high-income earners as part of a budget agreement to avoid the "fiscal cliff." If an agreement is not reached by the end of this year, taxes will go up for most Americans, and federal spending will go down sharply.

The Patriotic Millionaires believe their taxes need to be raised. They also do not agree with the idea that increasing taxes on those who create jobs means fewer jobs will be created.

T.J. Zlotnitsky is the head of iControl Systems, a data management company. He is also a member of the group. He says his personal tax rate is not an issue when he decides on hiring workers. The group opposes raising taxes on the middle-class, but not high-earners, noting it would be bad for the economy.

Patriotic Millionaires has more than 200 members across the country. They work in finance, entertainment, technology and other areas.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.