Is Raising Taxes on the Rich Immoral?

These days, most arguments for extending the Bush tax cuts to the rich rely on economic analysis. But this ignores a more fundamental assertion rarely heard outside Ayn Rand book clubs and libertarian think tanks: aggressively regressive tax codes are simply may sometimes be immoral, because they require the government taking more money from one person than another. That's one of several arguments former National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey  (under George W. Bush) uses to defend extending the tax cuts to wealthier Americans:

Money doesn't just magically appear in the government coffers. A private citizen or firm earns income and the government takes a portion of that income. The money initially belongs to he or she who earned it. Using "we" to refer to the government suggests the funds being spent by the government belong to the government. This matters because if the money belongs to the government, then elected officials should apply their moral principles to figure out who needs or deserves it most. If the money belongs first to he or she who earned it, then elected officials should apply their moral principles to figure out whether they should take it from the earner and spend it on something else or give it to someone else. Those are fundamentally different decisions. The first philosophy ignores the costs (moral and economic) of government taking something from someone who earned it.

Read the full story at Keith Hennessey's blog.