It's nearly as common on public university campuses to hear students call for taxing wealthy people at an arbitrarily higher rate as it is to hear professors...well, call for taxing wealthy people at an arbitrarily higher rate. Yes, public universities are not the bastion of diverse thought they claim to be. This economic belief is almost the default position for many college students who want more money diverted to causes they happen to prefer. We want stuff? Get the rich people to pay for it! I remember one student even telling me and the rest of the class that the government should fund more programs by increasing wealthy people's taxes because "they won't notice that their money is gone."
Let's analyze such a position for just a few of its myriad flawed premises.
1) The assumption that wealthy people "don't notice" changes in their income belies how many of them became wealthy in the first place and stay that way over time. The old adage is pretty spot on: "Watch your pennies, and the dollars will follow." Wealthy people aren't stupid--they notice.
2) This assumes people never adjust their behavior when faced with penalty. Trust me, even middle-class folks find ways around paying their maximum tax liability. If even middle-class folks do it, you can be assured that wealthy people do. Incentives matter, especially negative ones. When people see a cost coming, they don't accept it willingly. And when people with important jobs start working less to avoid such penalties, everyone becomes worse off. As someone who has cut his teaching load in certain years to avoid being pushed into higher brackets, students are the ones who get hurt. If Bill Millionaire decides to slow his hiring, production, or innovation, his customers and employees pay the price. Taxes on the wealthy are always passed on to those that they serve.
3) Most importantly, such a view of taxation is contradictory to the ethos of millennials. For a constituency that can't go five minutes without protesting in favor of "equality," to literally hand-pick a group they don't like and punish them is a despicable irony. Here's another way of thinking about it: Asians have the highest household income of any ethnicity, including whites. Progressive taxation is therefore a de facto disproportionate and legally enforced penalty on a particular racial group. How is anyone okay with this? Once more: if you claim that one group can single out another group and, by the use of force, treat them in a way that is not equal to what other groups of people must endure under the law, that is the very definition of discrimination.
Regardless of what we think we want or who should pay for it, we must remember that there are real humans behind those plans. And learning how to treat everyone, even those who have more than we do, is part of a real education. It's important for young people to understand the complete logic of their views, and college is the best place for wrestling with these complicated ideas. We can only hope that such mental exercises are still occurring on campuses today.