My mother, arguing against a progressive tax regime wherein the wealthiest pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than do the poor, often says something like, "Well, if you just take away rich people's money through taxes, there's no incentive for people to become entrepeneurs or take risks to get rich, so nobody will do anything and the economy will collapse."
And that's just stupid. Go up to thirty people and ask them what they'd do for a ho-jillion dollars (a million, a hundred million, whatever bunch of money you want to use). Then ask them what they'd do for half a ho-jillion dollars. See how many of them say, "I'd give my left arm for a ho-jillion dollars, but fuck, I wouldn't get out of bed for half a ho-jillion dollars. If I'm only getting half a ho-jillion dollars, I might as well keep working at Burger King for $6.00 an hour." Or even try a third of a ho-jillion dollars.
Guess what? I don't think there are very many people who would take a risk or try to make it big with a new idea for a ho-jillion dollars who wouldn't do it for a third of a ho-jillion dollars. Sure, they might not be happy about the idea of the government taking two-thirds of the money they earned -- who would? -- but it doesn't alter the basic fact that few would be dissuaded from trying to get rich because they'd only get to keep $1 billion dollars if they managed to earn $3 billion dollars.
Of course, my mother's argument also neglects the fact that the wealthier one is, the more one disproportionately benefits from government compared to those who are poorer. Poor people pay taxes to support police forces who often oppress and abuse them, to pay for services that they can only use if they pay additional fees they can't afford*, and to keep in place a legal system that creates immense barriers when they try to compete with the already established wealthy. Whereas government protects the assets of the rich, provides services from the police and other agencies that poor people can't dream of**, provides corporate welfare for their businesses so they can rake in bigger profits, and gives access to the decision-makers resulting in the system continuing to be gamed in their favor.
No one likes taxes. And I'm not sure that it isn't wrong for the government ever to get to keep more of the money someone earns than they do. But the idea that the rich should shoulder less of a burden for supporting government than poor people who can less afford it and also benefit from it less is just ridiculous. For the reasons outlined above as well as many others.
* Like when they charge entrance fees at National Parks. We all pay for the parks with our taxes, but if you can't afford the fee to get into the park, then you don't get to use what your taxes paid for at all. Or roads, really. Your taxes pay for the roads, but if you can't afford the fees for a driver's license, car registration, and insurance, then you aren't allowed to use roads you paid for.
**For instance, when JFK, Jr.'s plane went down off the coast of Massachusetts, the state and Feds mobilized a massive emergency search-and-rescue operation, a huge cost in terms of both money and manpower. No effort on that scale would have been launched if you or I had been flying that plane, let me tell you. The Coast Guard would search for a few days and then the search would be "called off" and that'd be it. There'd be no way that state emergency management, for instance, would be involved if you or I were in that plane, but state emergency managent went into full operations when JFK, Jr.'s plane went down. (I know this from talking to people I worked with who worked that operation).