Argument: Progressive taxes are unfair to the short-lived high earner
Edwin R. A. Seligman. "Progressive taxation in theory and practice". American Economic Association. 1894 - the tax bears down with peculiar cruelty on the erratic earner, who may be compensated in a single high-tax spurt for years of patient effort. An author or a playwright may struggle for a decade to master a technique (or a subject) and then produce a single best-seller. But the gains for which the years have been preparing will not be commensurate with the effort and dedication involved. A doctor spends his young manhood in medical school, internship, and building a practice: then, relatively late in life, his income may hit the stratosphere without leaving him much after taxes for his old age. To gain crude equity for himself, the doctor will, in turn, grade his fees on an “ability to pay” basis, taking more from the rich and less from the poor.
Then there is the case of the public performer whose income is clearly related to the state of his muscular reflexes, or the youthfulness of his (or her) face and figure. Ballplayers are lucky to last in the big leagues (and the big money) after the age of 33 or 34. A Joe Louis may earn millions in a brief heyday as heavyweight champion—and then spend his middle age in .irretrievable hock to the government for back taxes for the mere sin of having depended on altogether-too- sanguine income tax accountants. A Sugar Ray Robinson may be forced back into the prize ring after retirement to recoup a fortune which will prove to be just another mirage when the tax collector is satisfied. In the case of the professional tennis player, a single year in the big money is the most to which the average-good-amateur-turned-pro can aspire. Once the crowds have seen him on one round of the circuit, he is through.
As for movie stars and Broadway performers, they may be able to make the jump from ingenue charm or youthful agility to middle-age character parts. But not every starlet becomes a continuing star—and in such an event the high earnings of youth will never afford the basis for a middle-age income.