Tax the Rich? How’s That Working?

By Steven Malanga
October 7, 2009

When David Paterson became governor of New York after Eliot Spitzer’s hooker escapades, the former state senator from Harlem shocked New Yorkers by declaring that taxes were too high and that he had many friends who had left the state because there were better opportunities elsewhere. New York had to grab control of its spending rather than continue raising taxes, said the former state senator with a long tax-and-spend track record, in what amounted to the equivalent of ideological heresy.

Still, as a political lightweight and accidental governor, Paterson quickly got rolled by the big-government wing of his own party, who passed a budget for this year with $6.1 billion in projected new taxes and fees, led by sharply higher rates starting for those earning more than $200,000 a year. Asked if the budget made sense in the recession an outgunned Paterson said, “None of this makes sense.”

I suppose it is cold comfort to New Yorkers that Paterson is now giving his political enemies the “I told you so” treatment. Speaking to reporters recently in Albany, Paterson noted that revenue from tax increases was running 20 percent below projections and that, in particular, the wealthy were not paying up. So far, the state had only collected about half of an expected $1 billion in income tax revenues from the state’s wealthiest residents. “You heard the mantra, ‘Tax the rich, tax the rich,”‘ Paterson said. “We’ve done that. We’ve probably lost jobs and driven people out of the state.”

In a story about New York’s tax woes, the Associated Press noted that other states that had enacted so-called millionaires’ taxes (most of which, like New York’s, start well under $1 million in annual income) were squirming upon hearing the New York’s numbers. Actually, some of these states have been squirming for a while.

Tax the Rich? continues.

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