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Faculty Published in The New York Times

MBA faculty Barry Bennett wrote a letter to The New York Times in response to journalist Robert J. Shiller's article Taxes Needn't Discourage Philanthropy. His letter was published August 4, 2012.

Excerpt from Letters: When Tax Rates Touched the Sky, published in The New York Times, August 4, 2012.

To the Editor:

In "Taxes Needn't Discourage Philanthropy" (Economic View, July 29), Robert J. Shiller noted that, despite the supposed disincentive of high marginal tax rates, economic growth was exceptionally strong when income tax rates were far higher than today's.

This is unsurprising. Incentives affect behavior when people have alternatives. As I teach my business ethics students, if a corporation rewards only bottom-line results, employees will do whatever it takes to make the sale, ethical or not. If the company rewards ethical behavior, that is what it will get.

Similarly, if an industry like finance rewards employees more than one like social work, more people will gravitate to finance.

But higher marginal tax rates affect all income; the alternative to working or investing is not another way to earn rewards. It is not working or not investing. So tax rates simply become part of the economic background within which people try to earn as much as they can. The assertion that higher marginal rates will reduce economic incentives is an excuse to lower taxes on the wealthy.

-Barry Bennett, Marylhurst, Ore., July 29

The writer is an instructor of ethical leadership and decision-making in the Marylhurst University M.B.A. program.

Access the entire Letters section

Read the original article Taxes Needn't Discourage Philanthropy

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