Ari Fleischer – former press secretary to President Bush – has a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the progressive nature of the US income tax system. He focuses especially on the fact that a bare majority of American taxpayers actually pay any income tax at all and that 40% of the population pays 99% of the taxes.

This serves as another reminder of the fact that, while it’s easy to raise taxes on “the rich” it’s nigh impossible to lower them again later – “tax breaks for the rich” being unpalatable to even Republican politicians. So the system becomes ever more skewed in favor of progressive and redistributive taxation, with no end in sight.

It’s not at all obvious how we ever get beyond this situation and move to a more rational future approach to taxation which allows the burden of additional taxation (which is inevitable given the inexorable rise in spending) to be spread more evenly across the population as a whole. Of course, in an ideal world, we would be reducing the overall tax burden by reducing spending, but that seems even less likely than a less progressive tax system.

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