High Tax Rates and Taxing The Rich Disproportionately Fails Every Time It is Tried
May 17, 2011
Slaves to Words
By Thomas Sowell
We could definitely use another Abraham Lincoln to emancipate us all from being slaves to words. In the midst of a historic financial crisis of unprecedented government spending, and a national debt that outstrips even the debt accumulated by the reckless government spending of previous administration, we are still enthralled by words and ignoring realities.
President Barack Obama’s constant talk about “millionaires and billionaires” needing to pay higher taxes would be a bad joke, if the consequences were not so serious. Even if the income tax rate were raised to 100 percent on millionaires and billionaires, it would still not cover the trillions of dollars the government is spending.
More fundamentally, tax rates– whatever they are– are just words on paper. Only the hard cash that comes in can cover government spending. History has shown repeatedly, under administrations of both political parties, that there is no automatic correlation between tax rates and tax revenues.
When the tax rate on the highest incomes was 73 percent in 1921, that brought in less tax revenue than after the tax rate was cut to 24 percent in 1925. Why? Because high tax rates that people don’t actually pay do not bring in as much hard cash as lower tax rates that they do pay. That’s not rocket science.