The “Matthew Effect” is a synonym for the well-known colloquialism, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” This Article is about the Matthew Effect in the distribution of incomes in the United States and the failure of the federal tax system to address the problem. There has been a strong Matthew Effect in incomes in the United States over the past few decades, with an increasing concentration of income and wealth in the top one percent. Nevertheless, there has been a continuing trend of enacting disproportionately large tax cuts for those at the top of the income pyramid. Neither economic theory nor empirical evidence supports the argument that these tax cuts increase incentives to save, invest, and work. A growing body of economic literature supports the thesis that economic inequality impedes economic growth instead of fostering it. Furthermore, in a modern industrialized democracy, most of what everyone earns is attributable to infrastructure created by society acting through government. Paradoxically, public concern with increasing economic inequality is not matched by opposition to tax legislation that delivers vastly disproportionate benefits to the super-rich. This Article suggests that future tax legislation ought to mitigate the Matthew Effect rather than enhance it.
Martin J. McMahon, Jr., The Matthew Effect and Federal Taxation, 45 B.C. L. Rev. 993 (2004), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/399