The Rich Say: Tax Us More to Fight COVID-19

More than 80 wealthy individuals are petitioning for higher taxes on the rich to help pay for the billions in new government programs made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is petition is disingenuous at best.

If the wealthy want to pay more to help fight COVID-19, they can choose to do so themselves. They don’t need government to force them.

Many wealthy individuals already have pledged to devote more than half their wealth to charitable activities, without government force. What this petition actually asks is that government tax other people, who don’t share the values of the petitioners.

It’s their money to allocate as they want. If they want to allocate it to others, that’s their choice, although as I document in my book Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America, sometimes the results are not as desirable as the intentions.

In my book, I note that Henry Ford was notoriously uncharitable during his lifetime, saying that the best thing he could do with his money was to reinvest it in the Ford Motor Company to give people good jobs and affordable automobiles. Was he wrong? Regardless, it was his money and his choice to make.

There are two other troubling aspects to this petition. One is the presumption that the best way to fight the virus pandemic is to give the government more money. On the contrary, governments may not be the best organizations to fight diseases. Moreover, COVID-19, while raging right now, is a temporary problem and there are already aggressive initiatives underway to quickly develop a vaccine. It is unlikely at this point that sending more money to government will hasten the end to the pandemic.

A second issue—the most disingenuous part—is that the petition calls for a permanent increase in taxes to address a temporary problem. The petitioners are using the current pandemic as a cover to further their pro-government agenda.

Their real motive has nothing to do with addressing the pandemic, and everything to do with raising taxes to make government a bigger part of your life. If they succeed, the costs will fall not only on rich taxpayers but on everyone, because our liberty will be a bit more compromised.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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