Patrick Tuohey

In 1971, the band Ten Years After released the song “I’d Love to Change the World” in which they bemoaned society’s troubles and offered some possible solutions, including:

Tax the rich, feed the poor
Till there are no rich no more?

More than 40 years after that song was released, the state of Connecticut is learning a lesson from  policies that heavily tax the rich. According to the Associated Press:

New figures released last week show tax revenue from the state's top 100 highest-paying taxpayers declined 45 percent from 2015 to 2016. The drop adds up to a $200 million revenue loss for the state…

This latest drop in tax revenues paid by the wealthy, a problem for the past several years, has exacerbated Connecticut's current budget woes. The projected deficit for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 has now jumped from about $1.7 billion to $2.3 billion, while the deficit predicted for the second year of the state's two-year budget is now about $2.7 billion. The state's main spending account, the general fund, is roughly about $18 billion annually.

As the headquarters of several hedge funds, Connecticut is especially sensitive to changes in that industry. Recent fund failures have meant that investors have sought to protect themselves from risk, meaning less profit and a double whammy for the Nutmeg State.

The commissioner for the state’s Department of Revenue Services conceded to the AP that “part of revenue decline can also be attributed to ‘a handful’ of wealthy individuals who moved to more tax-friendly states.” Imagine that. If your state levies higher taxes on the wealthy than other states do, the wealthy leave. The AP story also cites a similar example in New Jersey last year.

Soak-the-rich tax policies may seem great on bumper stickers and in song lyrics, but they are no way to run an economy. As we have written, in Missouri and elsewhere governments must compete against one another. Rather than penalize producers to cover for profligate spending, government should only tax what is needed to provide basic services effectively and efficiently.

To their credit, even Ten Years After wasn’t convinced of the merits of their proposal, ending with the refrain,

I'd love to change the world
But I don't know what to do
So I'll leave it up to you

About the Author

Patrick Tuohey
Patrick Tuohey

Patrick Tuohey is the Director of Municipal Policy at the Show-Me Institute.