WSJ; NOTABLE & QUOTABLE: From Ronald Reagan's 1960 autobiography, "An American Life"


At the peak of my career at Warner Bros., I was in the ninety-four percent tax bracket. That meant that after a certain point, I received only six cents of each dollar I earned and the government got the rest. The IRS took such a big chunk of my earnings that after awhile I began asking myself whether it was worth it to keep on taking work.
 
Something was wrong with a system like that: when you have to give up such a large percentage of your income in taxes,  incentive to work goes down. You don't say, "I've got to do more pictures," you say, "I'm not going to work for six cents on the dollar."
 
If I decided to do one less picture, that meant other people at the studio in lower tax brackets wouldn't work as much either; the effect filtered down, and there were fewer total jobs available. I remember one scene in the Knute Rockne picture that  had only a farmer and a horse in it: Shooting it on location created work for seventy people.
 
The same principle that affected my thinking applied to people in all tax brackets: the more government takes in taxes, the less incentive people have to work. What coal miner or assembly-line worker jumps at the offer of overtime when he knows Uncle Sam is going to take sixty percent or more of his extra pay?