One principle that all those on the left hold is that taxes constitute more than an economic issue; they are, first and foremost, a moral one. Economists on the left may argue for higher taxes on economic grounds but they and we know that at bottom, higher taxes, especially "taxing the rich," is what they believe morality demands.
For example, there are obviously only two possible ways to reduce government deficits: reduce spending or increase taxes (or some combination of both). The left advocates the later; the right advocates the former. Left-wing spokesmen, such as New York Times economics columnist and Princeton University professor of economics Paul Krugman, may offer economic arguments for raising taxes in order to lower government deficits, but their real motivations are moral: reducing economic inequality (by redistributing income) and expanding government (because government is the most effective way to help all citizens).
Now, as it happens, not only is there is nothing wrong with being animated by moral concerns -- we should all be. The problem with the left's advocacy of higher taxes is not that it is rooted in moral concerns. The problem -- actually the two problems -- are these:
First, higher taxes are rarely morally defensible. In fact, on purely moral grounds -- in other words, even if they did effectively reduce the deficit without paying an economic price for doing so -- they are usually not moral. More on this below.
Second, higher taxes are usually economically counterproductive. This does not matter to the left, however, because economic growth is not what most interests the left. Since Karl Marx, the left has always been far more interested in economic equality than in economic growth. It is true that liberals such as John F. Kennedy were more concerned with economic growth than with economic equality -- which is why he advocated lowering taxes -- but for much of the last century, unlike today, there was a major difference between liberal and left.
Now to return to the moral arguments, my difference with the left is not that I oppose morality dictating economic policy. I believe, in fact, that virtually all social policies should be rooted in moral concerns. My difference with the left is that I am convinced that moral considerations dictate lower, not higher, taxes.
It is too bad that libertarians and conservatives rarely take on the left on moral grounds because the left's moral foundations are as weak as their economic foundations.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”