On Tax Day this year, about a dozen left-wing millionaires joined with some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress for a Washington, D.C., press conference. The luminaries included Abigail Disney, Walt Disney’s granddaughter, and former BlackRock whiz kid Morris Pearl.
The group argued that it wants to pay more taxes and urged new tax laws with a tax rate as high as 90% for the super-rich due to concerns, it said, about having too much money, which evidently contributes to income inequality.
This “tax me more” coalition calls itself the “Patriotic Millionaires.” Other prominent billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have made the same case that they think they should be paying more taxes.
To that, I say: Be my guest. That would be a patriotic act to help reduce our $31 trillion national debt. And by the way, hundreds of thousands of people do pay more than they owe because they are concerned about the financial condition of our country.
But when I showed up at the Patriotic Millionaires press conference, even though several speakers insisted, “I want to pay more taxes,” when I asked if they would comply with the tax rates as high as 90% voluntarily, there was an embarrassing silence. No one raised their hand.
They claimed that they want to “change the system” to force other rich people to pay more tax. Where is the patriotism in that? I’d argue that’s a very foolish policy.
It should be pretty clear that raising our tax rates to 70% or 80% or 90% would be an economic killer. Jobs, businesses and people would leave, or the rich would stop investing. We know that every time tax rates have been raised that high, as during the Great Depression and in the 1970s, the economy crashed. Economist Arthur Laffer’s book “Taxes Have Consequences” proves this point fairly conclusively.
So, how would flattening the economy help reduce income inequality, other than by making virtually all Americans poorer?
The Patriotic Millionaires reply that they will pay higher taxes if everyone else does. But again, that isn’t patriotism.
It’s hypocrisy. At the time of our founding as a country, the real patriots who fought for our honor and the many who put up the money to help pay for it didn’t say, “I will give up my life and fortune — if the other guy down the road does.” Today, we have a voluntary military, and those who serve are patriots. They are protecting the rest of us thanks to their sense of duty and love of our country.
It turns out the Patriotic Millionaires aren’t touting patriotism of that kind — or any kind. What they are promoting is a far left-wing agenda, not just in terms of raising taxes but in almost every other economic policy they espouse. They want more income redistribution and more social programs and green energy subsidies.
People can disagree about the wisdom of these policies. But what is for sure is that most of the ideas come out of the Bernie Sanders playbook, although even he doesn’t support 90% tax rates.
I love my country, and I’m also solidly against raising tax rates on anyone — rich or poor. There. I said it. What I am for is letting people keep as much of the rewards of their labor as possible. That’s not being greedy or unpatriotic. It’s being smart. And it’s what makes America great.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.