Ben Shapiro: Democrats Are in Love With the Idea of Taxing the Rich More—It's Absurd | Opinion

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U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, leaves a photo opportunity with the female Democratic members of the 116th US House of Representatives outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 4, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It’s frequently stated that the Republican Party has a lot of ideas but only one common priority: lowering taxes. Their legislative record tends to back this depressing assessment–after two years of complete control of Congress and the White House, their main legislative achievement was yet another tax cut. As a fan of tax cuts, I admire that achievement. But the same GOP that promised to defund Planned Parenthood, radically increase border security, remove the regulatory burdens of Obamacare and reform the welfare state hasn’t done much of any that.

If the GOP’s point of commonality is its willingness to cut taxes, the Democratic Party presents the mirror image: a group of disparate interests that coincide only on the topic of raising taxes. Thus, newly-empowered Congressional Democrats have begun competing with one another to promise higher and higher tax rates. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), she of the Fresh Face™ and charming social media, has proposed a top tax rate of 70 percent for those earning over $10 million. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running for president, has approvingly stated that the top tax rate should be above 50 percent, although she says that 90 percent would be “shockingly high.” Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who also wants to run for president, has echoed those words.

Democrats, in other words, are in love with the idea of a tax increase.

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To support their arguments, Democrats generally make two points: first, that the economy worked fine in days past, when the top marginal tax rates were significantly higher than they are now; second, that we need the rich to spend their “fair share” on a bevy of priorities ranging from a “Green New Deal” to free college education.

The first point is mistaking correlation for causation. Yes, the American economy boomed in the 1950s, when the top tax rate was in excess of 70 percent. First off, that top tax rate only applied to people making a family income of more than $2 million. Far more importantly, nobody paid it: in 1963, the effective average tax rate for people earning $1 million was just over 40 percent. As Phillip Magness of the American Institute for Economic Research points out, under Eisenhower, that effective tax rate dropped some 16 percentage points. Why? Because the IRS “standardized and expanded…exemptions, deductions, and tax shelters.”

GettyImages-1077095122 (1) U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, leaves a photo opportunity with the female Democratic members of the 116th US House of Representatives outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 4, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

We already have a pretty solid case example of just what happens when states attempt to confiscate massive amounts of wealth from high income earners: high income earners seek to avoid those confiscations. When France implemented a massive wealth tax, tens of thousands of millionaires simply left France; the prime minister then suggested a repeal of that wealth tax. In 2016 alone, 12,000 millionaires left the country, the “highest outflux in the world,” according to the Daily Mail.

In other words, it’s simply unclear that raising tax rates would result in an increase in tax revenue.

What about the second argument—that the rich aren’t paying their fair share? That’s a simple absurdity, and a demagogic absurdity at that. America has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world: the top 1 percent of income earners paid a 27.1 percent overall individual income tax rate in 2014, over seven times the rate of those in the bottom 50 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. Their share of income was 20.6 percent; their share of federal income taxes was 39.5 percent.

Furthermore, simply taxing the rich won’t pay for the sort of priorities the Democrats have in mind. The Nordic countries they so adore don’t merely tax the hell out of the rich—they tax the hell out of everyone. The top tax rate in Denmark was 60 percent—and it applied to everyone earning more than $54,900 dollars. The top tax rate in Sweden was 57 percent, and applied to those making over $65,500 dollars. It’s the middle class tax rates that pay the bills in social democratic countries.

Sure, the Democratic spending priorities are wrong to begin with—the Green New Deal is a would-be fiasco of epic proportions, necessitating trillions in spending; free college tuition is a terrible idea, given the fact that we already have too many people going to college rather than redirecting their skills toward more profitable ends. But the Democratic addiction to high taxation, is just as wrong, and it isn’t going to solve America’s problems. It’s just going to exacerbate them.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, available on iTunes and syndicated across America.​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​