WashPost Publishes Professor Who Wants to Take Class War to an Intergenerational Level

Dalton Conley is a professor at New York University and author of the book “Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask.” With his son – Yo Jeremijenko-Conley, a high school student – he has written a piece for the Sunday Outlook section on punishing good parents if they’re rich.

The article is titled "Were your parents rich? Maybe you should pay more in taxes." Conley, like a good liberal, hates inequality and doesn’t like rich, loving parents passing on advantages to their children – so it should be taxed punitively:

Super-rich parents can more easily extend privileges to their children. In addition to the advantages mentioned above, the super-wealthy can afford all kinds of extracurricular activities; their donations to universities can help their kids get admitted; and afterward they can (and do) hire their own to work in the family business, whether it’s Rolling Stone or Wal-Mart. Magnet schools such as Stuyvesant are not enough to counteract the advantages of extreme wealth.

We need a tax policy that accounts for how economic benefits and disparities are passed down from generation to generation. To do that, we could calculate tax rates based not just on what people earn now — as traditional progressive taxation does — but also on the income their families brought in during their critical childhood years. We shouldn’t tax the first-generation college graduate who makes a half-million dollars at the same 39.6 percent marginal tax rate as we do the heir who had his job handed to him.

Let’s introduce the Great Gatsby tax rebate for upward mobility: Tax the millionaire who comes from great wealth at 42 percent, and allow the entrepreneur who grew up in a lower-middle-class family to pay 37.2 percent. That would be an extra 2.4 percentage points for the lifelong millionaire and a 2.4 percentage point break for the one who grew up poor.


Conley's just crazy enough to claim this will earn support from self-made Republican members of Congress, and that this proposal will encourage the poor toward upward mobility. He seems to resent that not every advantage can be punished -- like taking your kids to museum or teaching them fancy vocabulary:

Of course, income is not the only, or even the main, advantage that someone can grow up with. Parents’ levels of education and household net worth are each better predictors of how their children will fare. And then there are the intangibles: cultural and social capital. This includes being exposed to more vocabulary words, art museums and extracurricular activities — as well as social connections that are helpful in getting internships and other opportunities. (And then there’s getting published with your father, a university professor, in The Washington Post.) These privileges matter a lot, but they are more difficult to assess [read: tax]. And while they are distinct from monetary advantages, they are probably correlated with them.

If the United States wants to remain a place where the son of a single mother can become the leader of the free world, we’d better do something to bend the Great Gatsby curve toward justice. Magnet schools just aren’t enough.

Excuse me, professor, but Obama became president without your newfangled tax, so the "remain" part is lame.

[HT: Dan Gainor]

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis