Article in this morning’s WSJ recounts the post-war “cabaret tax” that imposed a 30% surcharge on dancing and singing. It was, Congress insisted, a tax on the rich but instead it killed the big bands, well known and local alike, threw thousands of musicians out of work and killed an entire genre of music. The exact result came about in the 80s, when a “luxury tax” was levied on yachts. It was supposed to punish the rich and again, it raised no revenue (the rich merely changed toys or had their boats built overseas) but did manage to shut down small boat builders from Florida to Maine.
There’s no longer a cabaret tax, nor a luxury tax (a federal luxury tax – some states like Massachusetts still have one, which explains why John Kerry moors his yacht in Rhode Island) but the big bands are gone and the shipyards remain shuttered. Undeterred, congress is busy dreaming up still more ways to use the tax code to punish the wealthy. As Obama says, “it’s not about revenue, it’s about fairness.” How striking at the middle class workers who earn their living producing and selling luxury goods advances Obama’s concept of fairness is unclear, but never mind, it’s the narrative that counts – just ask Dollar Bill.
Of course, if Obama really wants to hit some of the wealthiest Americans, he could always repeal the Hollywood tax cut, but then who would host his fund raisers?