The Corner

Has Hoover Gone Wobbly on Progressive Taxation?

A couple days ago on Politico’s Arena blog, Prof. Diane Ravitch, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution Institute called for a 90-percent tax on people earning over $10 million and a 90-percent tax on a person’s savings and investments over $100 million — a shocking class-warfare proposal coming from someone associated with one of the premier conservative public-policy foundations in America. 

Several of the more conservative Arena bloggers, including Rory Cooper of the Heritage Foundation, former Bush White House official Brad Blakeman, and myself responded that such a proposal would drive talent and capital offshore, stifle incentives for entrepreneurship, and prevent the next Google or Microsoft from every being created. Professor Ravitch was unapologetic and stood by her proposal saying: “A person should be able to get by with assets of $100 million plus whatever was left after paying a 90% tax of earnings in excess of $10 million. It is not too great a price to pay in exchange for knowing that there is greater fairness in our nation.”

To be fair, Ravitch did say that her views did not represent the views of Hoover. When I brought this to the attention of a friend at Hoover, his response was “As Milton Friedman taught us, we are all (or should be) free to choose. That’s what makes Hoover a great place.” So under this logic, I suppose any Hoover scholar “free to choose” to say that he or she supports defunding SDI, Al Gore’s global-warming proposals, or affirmative action.

Hoover is indeed “a great place” populated by prominent conservative thinkers such as John Cogan, Michael Boskin, George Shultz, and Alvin Rabuska. But I found Hoover’s nonchalant response to Professor Ravitch’s call for a 90-percent income and wealth tax — something that no one on the extreme left has ever proposed — to be very disappointing. I have no doubt that the Left will use Ravitch’s affiliation with the conservative Hoover Institute to further validate their campaign to use progressive taxation to redistribute income and wealth in America.

 – Cesar Conda is a former economic and domestic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and to Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Cesar Conda — Mr. Conda, formerly assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Cheney, is a founding principal of Navigators Global, a Washington, D.C.–based public-affairs firm.

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