The Right Opinion

An Overdue Book

By Thomas Sowell · Nov. 28, 2012

If everyone in America had read Stephen Moore's new book, “Who's The Fairest of Them All?”, Barack Obama would have lost the election in a landslide.

The point here is not to say, “Where was Stephen Moore when we needed him?” A more apt question might be, “Where was the whole economics profession when we needed them?” Where were the media? For that matter, where were the Republicans?

Since “Who's The Fairest of Them All?” was published in October, there was little chance that it would affect this year's election. But this little gem of a book exposes, in plain language and with easily understood facts, the whole house of cards of assumptions, fallacies and falsehoods which constitute the liberal vision of the economy.

Yet that vision triumphed on election day, thanks to misinformation that was artfully presented and seldom challenged. The title “Who's The Fairest of Them All?” is an obvious response to liberals' claim that their policies are aimed at creating “fairness” by, among other things, making sure that “the rich” pay their “fair share” of taxes. If you want a brief but thorough education on that, just read chapter 4, which by itself is well worth the price of the book.

A couple of graphs on pages 104 and 108 are enough to annihilate the argument about “tax cuts for the rich.” These graphs show that, under both Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic President John F. Kennedy, high-income people paid more tax revenues into the federal treasury after tax rates went down than they did before.

There is nothing mysterious about this. At high tax rates, vast sums of money disappear into tax shelters at home or is shipped overseas. At lower tax rates, that money comes out of hiding and goes into the American economy, creating jobs, rising output and rising incomes. Under these conditions, higher tax revenues can be collected by the government, even though tax rates are lower. Indeed, high income people not only end up paying more taxes, but a higher share of all taxes, under these conditions.

This is not just a theory. It is what hard evidence shows happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations, from the days of Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. That hard evidence is presented in clear and unmistakable terms in “Who's The Fairest of Us All?”

Another surprising fact brought out in this book is that the Democrats and Republicans both took positions during the Kennedy administration that were the direct opposite of the positions they take today. As Stephen Moore points out, “the Republicans almost universally opposed and the Democrats almost universally favored” the cuts in tax rates that President Kennedy proposed.

Such Republican Senate stalwarts as Barry Goldwater and Bob Dole voted against reducing the top tax rate from 91% to 70%. Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills led the charge for lower tax rates.

Unlike the Republicans today, John F. Kennedy had an answer when critics tried to portray his tax cut proposal as just a “tax cut for the rich.” President Kennedy argued that it was a tax cut for the economy, that changed incentives meant a faster growing economy and that “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

If Republicans today cannot seem to come up with their own answer when critics cry out “tax cuts for the rich,” maybe they can just go back and read John F. Kennedy's answer.

A truly optimistic person might even hope that media pundits would go back and check out the facts before arguing as if the only way to reduce the deficit is to raise tax rates on “the rich.”

If they are afraid that they would be stigmatized as conservatives if they favored cuts in tax rates, they might take heart from the fact that not only John F. Kennedy, but even John Maynard Keynes as well, argued that cutting tax rates could increase tax revenues and thereby help reduce the deficit.

Because so few people bother to check the facts, Barack Obama can get away with statements about how “tax cuts for the rich” have “cost” the government money that now needs to be recouped. Such statements not only promote class warfare, to Obama's benefit on election day, they also distract attention from his own runaway spending behind unprecedented trillion dollar deficits.



Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

Dr. Sowell, your article should be required reading for all Americans. I will take issue with part of your second paragraph, however, "For that matter, where were the Republicans?" Quite a few Republicans showed up at the polls to vote for Romney/Ryan. I was among them. I see no need to denigrate all Republicans, it serves no useful purpose.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 1:23 AM

Shel in Alaska replied:

I believe what Dr. Sowell is referring is Republican politicians not standing up and refuting the tales the Democrats told re: tax cuts for the rich. I too voted and am a Republican.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 2:37 PM

TruthInAction in TX said:

Regrettably, it really isn't about the what the POTUS did. It's what the citizens who elected him have become.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Texas, I totally agree with you. It's the parasites, the young, minorities, and women who made sure Obama got four more years to really put us on the good old Socialist track. It's my opinion they will be rioting in the streets when the system fails and they can no longer depend on the government to support them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 6:23 AM

Honest Abe in North Carolina replied:

Most Americans will sell their votes for more free stuff from the government. Now that the republic is dead, they want the Democrat (liberals) despots to give them free front row seats for the weekly gladiator fights and other blood sport entertainment at the coliseum 51% of the people will declare Barakus Obamus caesar and the other 49% will be fighting for their lives in the arena.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Doug Perdew in Tumbler Ridge B.C. Canada said:

No one really cares what happens to their kids anymore if they did Obama would have never been elected the first time I am an old man now my wife and I could have no children . I used to feel bad about that .But I really feel sad about what Obama is leaving the children today . May God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Tapdaddy in Indiana said:

"A truly optimistic person might even hope that media pundits would go back and check out the facts before arguing as if the only way to reduce the deficit is to raise tax rates on 'the rich."
Become your own pundit, read to learn and learn to know.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 2:48 PM