The tax-the-rich fairy tale

The idea that national happiness depends on piling higher tax burdens on the wealthy is no more irrational than the notion that lower tax rates on top earners somehow led to devastating declines in funding for schools, public safety, parks, transportation, and other public needs.

Since Ronald Reagan became president and began wielding those menacing scissors to cut tax rates, total education spending per student has nearly doubled. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education spent $14.2 billion in constant dollars when Reagan came to Washington, but the budget rose to $56 billion in 2006 under President George W. Bush. From that point forward, with the reduced Bush tax rates firmly in place, spending soared again to $71 billion in 2011.

The perceived decline in transportation infrastructure, depicted with cracked and potholed streets in the Asner video, also bears less connection to overall funding cuts, which never occurred, than to the futile folly of diverting highway money to wildly impractical mass transit boondoggles. Since the era of Reagan and Bush tax cuts, government at every level has invested lavishly in ill-considered and outrageously expensive train systems in Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, and countless other cities, delivering pointless projects, that have done nothing to relieve traffic or reduce commute times. Now California and the federal government mean to collaborate on a laughably impractical high-speed rail system that could cost $100 billion. A first-stage route will connect an underpopulated corridor between Merced and Bakersfield, with a serious environmental impact on desert toads but no impact whatever on Los Angeles’s clogged freeways.