opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Michael Barone
Michael Barone
27 Nov 2015
Here's Something You Should Be Thankful For: Work

Sure, that sounds counterintuitive. Thanksgiving Thursday is the first day of a (for most of us) four-day weekend,… Read More.

24 Nov 2015
Which Party Will Emerge From Its Gathering Storm?

Each of our two political parties, ancient by world standards, seems to be facing a gathering storm. Part of … Read More.

20 Nov 2015
Obama Gets Really Angry ... at Americans

Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president … Read More.

Why Liberals Like Taxing the Wealthy


I have long been puzzled by the enthusiasm with which many young liberal bloggers cheer on proposals to raise tax rates on high earners. I can understand why they might favor them, but not why they seem to invest so much psychic energy in the issue.

Some of this may just be team ball: You cheer when your side puts up numbers on the scoreboard. So Democratic cheerleaders are rah-rahing what they insist on calling repeal of the Bush tax cuts (which have been in effect now longer than the Clinton tax increases they rolled back).

But the liberal bloggers cannot be entirely ignorant of the knowledge that we have a pretty progressive income tax already. In 2009, the top 1 percent of earners reported 17 percent of adjusted gross income and paid 37 percent of total income tax revenues.

By some measures, the American tax system, including the payroll tax and state and local taxes, is more progressive — in the sense of extracting disproportionate shares of revenue from high earners — than most European tax regimes, which rely heaving on value-added taxes.

Plus, as liberal economist Lane Kenworthy points out, you don't get much income redistribution from higher tax rates.

You get more from transfer payments. But, as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has documented, federal transfers are getting less progressive. Social Security and Medicare increasingly transfer money from young low earners to old people with relatively high incomes and considerable accumulated wealth.

One argument for higher rates is that increased revenues will reduce the federal budget deficit. But do liberal bloggers really care all that much about budget deficits? These same people often rue the fact that the Obama Democrats didn't plow an additional $1 trillion into their stimulus package.

I think the answer to the puzzle can be found in a remark Barack Obama made during the 2008 fall campaign — a remark that seemed to go mostly unnoticed.

ABC's Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama if he would raise capital gains taxes even if, as in the past, that brought in less revenue to the federal government.

Yes, said Obama. "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

Ponder that answer for a moment.

A candidate for president — president now — said he wants to take more money from people who earned it even though doing so would produce less money for the government.

The philosophy that has to be behind that answer is also behind the Obama administration budgets that have proposed capping the charitable deduction for high earners. The clearly intended result would be a massive transfer of money from the voluntary sector of society into government.

Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s identified the voluntary sector as a unique feature of American democracy, one that gave it strength and character. He compared it positively with his own France, where centralized government stifled initiative and innovation.

The cap on charitable deductions has gone nowhere in Congress, where many Democratic members undoubtedly heard protests from their friends and supporters in the voluntary sector. We can see where that proposal leads from the Obama mandate that voluntary-sector organizations must buy health insurance that finances procedures their leaders consider deeply immoral. Centralized government will decide what's moral, and you'll be forced to pay for it.

Higher tax rates on high earners, even if they produce less revenue, are an attempt to centralize power in government and to limit the autonomy and countervailing power of individuals in the voluntary sector.

Which is why the liberal bloggers cheer them on. And why they eagerly join the Obama White House in demonizing the Koch brothers, who donate large sums to conservative causes. (Disclosure: I have spoken at two Koch conferences and was reimbursed for travel expenses.)

The Obama Democrats don't want their funders like George Soros getting competition from the likes of Charles and David Koch.

Similarly, the prospect of Republicans spending as much money as Democrats (unlike 2004 and 2008, when Democrats spent more) led Obama to declare inoperative his denunciations of super PACs and to create his own, with Cabinet members authorized to raise money for it.

This election is a contest between a Democrat who wants to make this country more like Tocqueville's France and Republicans who want to keep it more like Tocqueville's America. The liberal bloggers are rooting for France.

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




1 Comments | Post Comment
For the average American, it sounds pretty good for the government to give you stuff and pay for it by taxing those who have tons of money. Thats why democrats appeal to so many people. But I don't want handouts. I want to keep what I earn and have no interest in money I don't. I don't fall for the false promises of government. That makes me the minority.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Mar 2, 2012 7:12 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Michael Barone
Nov. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 30 Nov 2015
Suzanne Fields
Suzanne FieldsUpdated 27 Nov 2015
Newspaper ContributorsUpdated 27 Nov 2015

27 Sep 2013 New Report Undercuts Global Warming Alarmists

20 Jun 2014 Are the Two Political Parties About to Crack Up?

17 Jan 2014 Population Declining in States With Relatively High Dependence on Government