Commentary

That Evil One Percent

By Stephen Moore
This essay originally appeared on National Review Online. Copyright 2000 National Review.
Whenever Democrats get really desperate, they trot out their rickety arsenal of class-warfare rhetoric. On the campaign trail, Gore continues to rail against George W.’s tax cut for the wealthiest one percent. Isn’t it strange that the only group that you can legally discriminate against in America today are the wealthiest and most productive of our citizens?

The good news is that the more Vice President. Gore assaults the Bush tax cut, the higher Gov. Bush rises in the polls. If only he would spend the entirety of the last debate reminding voters of how big the Bush tax cut is. It would be the final nail in the coffin.

But class warfare is a cancer cell and the Bush campaign needs to launch a much more effective and vigorous counter-attack against greed and envy politics. First, the Bush team must argue that class warfare is fundamentally un-American. It is subversive to the honored American ideal that success and reward in this nation are interlinked. The vast majority of those in the top one percent of income are there not because of birth right or winning on Regis’s TV show, but because of their talent, thrift, and motivation to excel. More than one of three Americans on the Forbes 400 list are self-made men. Democrats in Washington think that because the rich people they know personally — people like Ted Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller — never worked an honest day’s work in their lives, that somehow that’s the norm for all rich people. It isn’t.

Second, W. should remind Americans who pays taxes. The top one percent make about 17 percent of the money in this economy, but they pay 33 percent of the income taxes. How is that fair? The top five percent make 33 percent of the income, but pay 52 percent of the taxes. The bottom 50 percent pay only five percent of the income taxes.

Finally, a reader recently e-mailed me a wonderful quote from one of history’s greatest economists, Henry George. Here is what George wrote more than 100 years ago:

“Taxes operate upon energy and industry, and skill and thrift, like a fine upon those qualities. If I have worked harder and built myself a good house while you have been contented to live in a hovel, the tax gatherer now comes annually to make me pay a penalty for my energy and industry, by taxing me more than you. If I have saved while you wasted, I am taxed, while you are exempt. If a man builds a ship, we make him pay for his industry as though he has done injury to the state; if a railroad be opened, down comes the tax collector upon it, as tough it were a public nuisance; if a factory be erected, we levy upon it an annual sum that would go far toward making a handsome profit. We say we want capital, but if anyone accumulates it, we charge him for it as though we were giving him a privilege. We punish with a tax the man who covers barren fields with ripening grain, we fine him who builds machinery or drains a swamp.”

Beautiful. Somebody please get this to Gov. Bush!

Stephen Moore, the director of fiscal policy studies, is currently on leave.