Walter E. Williams
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Ask the average person which is the correct answer to the following question: Which president gave the biggest tax cuts for the rich -- Reagan or Bush? I would bet the rent money that you would not get the correct response, which is: Presidents have no taxing authority. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution says: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises." I know that many politicians and news media people read my column. How do we characterize them if they continue to speak of presidents cutting or raising taxes?

Another tax question: If there's an imposition of a property tax on your land, who pays the tax? I guarantee you that land does not pay taxes; only people pay taxes. That means a tax on your land is a tax on you. You say, "Williams, that's pretty elementary, isn't it?" But what do you say to a politician or news media people who propose increasing corporate taxes as means to get rich corporations to pay their rightful share of government? They should be told that they speak nonsense because corporations, like land, do not pay taxes; only people pay taxes.

If a tax is levied on a corporation, and if it is to survive, it must raise the price of its product, or lower dividends or lay off workers. In each case, it is people, not some legal fiction called a corporation, who bear the burden of any tax levied on the corporation. An important subject area in economics called tax incidence says that the entity upon whom a tax is levied does not necessarily bear the burden of the tax. Some of the tax burden can be shifted to another party. That's precisely what corporations do and as such they are merely government tax collectors.

Here's another tax question: Which worker receives the higher pay: a worker on a road construction project moving dirt with a shovel or a worker moving dirt atop a giant earthmover? If you said the guy on the earthmover, go to the head of the class. But why? It's not because he's unionized or that employers just love earthmover operators. It's because having more capital (tools) makes him more productive and therefore earn higher wages.

It's not rocket science to conclude that whatever lowers the cost of capital formation enables workers to have more capital to work with and enjoy higher wages. Policies that raise the cost of capital formation such as capital gains taxes, low depreciation allowances and high corporate income taxes, and thereby reducing capital formation, serves neither the interests of workers, investors nor consumers.

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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