How much should we soak the rich?

Alex Adrianson notes for the Heritage Foundation’s “Insider Online” blog that any plan to “soak the rich” ought to contemplate the following question: How much should they be soaked?

First, we should figure out whether we already are [soaking the rich]. That, as Curtis Dubay notes, is what the CBO recently did:

According to CBO, the top 1 percent of income earners—families earning more than $613,700 in 2010 (the latest year of available data)—paid an effective tax rate on all federal taxes of 29.4 percent. They paid 24.2 percent of all federal taxes while earning just under 15 percent of all income.

The middle class—families earning more than $71,400—paid an effective tax rate of 11.5 percent. They paid 9.1 percent of all federal taxes and earned 14.2 percent of income.

CBO also estimated that the top 1 percent will pay 33.6 percent of their income in federal taxes this year—well above what the Buffett Rule calls for.

As a result of the President’s policies, the top 1 percent of income earners will pay four percentage points more of their income in federal taxes in 2013 than they did in 2010—before the President signed his long-sought tax hikes into law. That is a 14 percent increase in their effective tax rate. [The Foundry, December 12; see also “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010,” The Congressional Budget Office, December 2013]

Two questions for liberals: 1. How much redistribution is enough? Until nobody makes more than the next guy? 2. How much future economic growth are you willing to sacrifice in order to make everybody more equal today? As Dubay notes, using the tax code to redistribute income reduces the incentives to engage in productive activity, which in the long run makes us all poorer.

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