Amity Shlaes has a new Bloomberg column up on taxes:
In the 1990s, scholars designed an experiment to see whether people understood the difference between progressive structures, under which rates go up as people earn more, and proportional ones, under which higher earners pay taxes at the same rate as lower earners.
Michael Roberts, Cassie Bradley and Peggy Hite asked college students abstract questions: "Are progressive tax rates more or less fair than flat tax rates?" By a margin of almost 4 to 1, students said they preferred a progressive rate system for society. Next the researchers gave the same students concrete examples of a paired set of two earners with different salaries and possible tax bills for those earners, asking which tax amount the earners should pay. By a margin of 4 to 1, the same students picked tax amounts for the higher earner that corresponded to a flat rate, or even a regressive, system. Remarkably, these subjects were accounting students who had already studied these various systems.
...Lawmakers may want to drag the country into a new higher tax era. But they shouldn't console themselves that there's consensus for such a change, when there may not be.