Thomas Sowell

If anything, "the rich" have far more options for putting their money beyond the reach of the tax collectors today than they had back in 1921. In addition to being able to put their money into tax-exempt securities, the rich today can easily send millions -- or billions -- of dollars to foreign countries, with the ease of electronic transfers in a globalized economy.

In other words, the genuinely rich are likely to be the least harmed by high tax rates in the top brackets. People who are looking for jobs are likely to be the most harmed, because they cannot equally easily transfer themselves overseas to take the jobs that are being created there by American investments that are fleeing from high tax rates at home.

Small businesses -- hardware stores, gas stations or restaurants for example -- are likewise unable to transfer themselves overseas. So they are far more likely to be unable to escape the higher tax rates that are supposedly being imposed on "millionaires and billionaires," as President Obama puts it. Moreover, small businesses are what create most of the new jobs.

Why then are so many politicians, journalists and others so gung-ho to raise tax rates in the upper brackets?

Aside from sheer ignorance of history and economics, class warfare politics pays off in votes for politicians who can depict their opponents as defenders of the rich and themselves as looking out for working people. It is a great political game that has paid off repeatedly in state, local and federal elections.

As for the 1920s, Mellon eventually got his way, getting Congress to bring the top tax rate down from 73 percent to 24 percent. Vast sums of money that had seemingly vanished into thin air suddenly reappeared in the economy, creating far more jobs and far more tax revenue for the government.

Sometimes sanity eventually prevails. But not always.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate