Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tate still loves America, but he worries

about the implications of America's federal income tax policy:
Since we wrote the Bush tax return article [about Pres. George H.W. Bush' 1991 tax return] the trend of disproportionate tax payments by high income taxpayers has continued. Stephen Moore previews the most recent data in today's Wall Street Journal:
"My contacts at the Treasury Department tell me that for the first time in decades, and perhaps ever,
the richest 1% of tax filers will have paid more than 40% of the income tax burden.

The top 50% will account for 97% of all federal income taxes, while

the bottom 50% will have paid just 3%."
Moore's preview does not include the companion income data.

Given that poorer citizens always outnumber the rich, political philosophers have worried that government based on majority rule could lead to organized theft from the wealthy by the democratic masses. "If the majority distributes among itself the things of a minority, it is evident that it will destroy the city," warned Aristotle.

The founders of the United States were deep students of politics and history, and they shared Aristotle's worry. Up through their time, history had shown all known democracies to be "incompatible with personal security or the rights of property." James Madison and others therefore made it the "first object of government" to protect personal property from unjust confiscation. Numerous provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were included to protect the property rights of citizens. We've fallen off from the spirit of the founders on this issue, but it would be good to recall it in connection with the release of the income tax data previewed in Moore's column.

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