Being a thoughtful and kind person, I offered some advice last year to Barack Obama. I cited some powerful IRS data from the 1980s to demonstrate that there is not a simplistic linear relationship between tax rates and tax revenue.
In other words, just as a restaurant owner knows that a 20-percent increase in prices doesn’t translate into a 20-percent increase in revenue because of lost sales, politicians should understand that higher tax rates don’t mean an automatic and concomitant increase in tax revenue.
This is the infamous Laffer Curve, and it’s simply the common-sense recognition that you should include changes in taxable income in your calculations when trying to measure the impact of higher or lower tax rates on tax revenues.
No, it doesn’t mean lower tax rates “pay for themselves” or that higher tax rates lead to less revenue. That only happens in unusual circumstances. But it does mean that lawmakers should exercise some prudence and judgment when deciding tax policy.