Alan Reynolds is great in explaining the income tax facts of life. Higher tax rates on the rich do not bring in nearly as much revenue as lower tax rates. It’s important to emphasize that tax rates are not the same as tax revenues. Higher rates do not automatically bring higher revenues. In fact, historically, the opposite has happened.
Moreover—and this is what Mr. Reich and his friends always fail to mention—the individual income tax actually brought in less revenue when the highest tax rate was 70% to 91% than it did when the highest tax rate was 28%.
As the nearby chart shows, however, those super-high tax rates at all income levels brought in revenue of only 7.7% of GDP, according to U.S. budget historical data.
President John F. Kennedy's across-the-board tax cuts reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 14% and 70% respectively after 1964, yet revenues (after excluding the 5%-10% surtaxes of 1969-70) rose to 8% of GDP. President Reagan's across-the-board tax cuts further reduced the lowest and highest tax rates to 11% and 50%, yet revenues rose again to 8.3% of GDP. The 1986 tax reform slashed the top tax rate to 28%, yet revenues dipped trivially to 8.1% of GDP.
The rest of the article is chock full of interesting facts on the link between tax rates and tax revenue.
I don’t think it can be repeated nearly often enough: if you want the rich to pay a lot of taxes, you should probably keep their rates low. Ignore what Warren Buffet says in favor of watching what Warren Buffet does. If you raise his tax rates, he’ll probably just shift his money and income around, so that his effective rate of taxation remains nearly the same.
(And, if he really wants to pay more in taxes, he can cut a check to the IRS anytime he wants to.