Community columnist Steve Paske thinks taxes are not so bad. Of course, some level of taxation is necessary. But his suggestion that high marginal rates of the past had no impact on economic activity because there were times in the past when the economy is good begs for comment.
Steve's suggestion is that there was a time when we were more heavily taxed, but that's really not true. While top marginal rates were much higher before the Reagan-era tax cuts, they were readily avoided. The tax code was much more complex and had many more exemptions and deductions back then. Thus, as this chart shows, even though marginal rates were much higher in the 60s and 70s, income tax collections were not.
He suggests that someone will not choose to skip medical school because the highest marginal tax rate is 50%, rather than 39%. That's probably so but it misses the point about the impact of high marginal rates on economic activity. That difference may have an impact on how much a doctor works. It may have an impact on whether or not his wife goes to work. Marginal tax rates have an impact at the margin. The fact that lowering marginal rates are often followed by higher revenues demonstrates that.
Of course, this doesn't mean that there cannot be a counterproductive tax reduction. But, all things equal, high rates will tend to reduce the incentive to work and invest. Personally, high marginal rates are about to become less of a problem for me than they have benn in the past, but I have had occasion to work with business people who make and invest lots of money. You may wish they did not have tax rates in mind when they make decisions about what to do with their lives and money, but they do.
Steve suggests that we have "falling bridges" (watch out!) and failing schools because we don't pay enough in taxes. At least he didn't trot out Grover Norquist's desire to "starve the beast", i.e., shrink the size of government by denying it revenues.
News flash: Grover Norquist lost that battle. The size of government has not shrunk. It may not have grown as much as some wanted and the uses of the money it receives may have changed, but if it can no longer keep bridges standing or educate kids, the problem is not the lack of revenue.