George Will's op-ed article "Whose Tax Burden?" {Nov. 1} was a paragon of advanced sophistry. As supposed evidence that the Reagan 1981 tax cuts did not induce the huge federal budget deficits, Will stressed that federal "revenues were $1.1 trillion more in the 1980s (in constant dollars) than they would have been if the 1980 federal tax collections had been changed only to reflect inflation." But that statement is certainly no great revelation; except during severe economic downturns, federal tax revenues almost always rise, fueled by the increased consumption and incomes of a growing population.

Reagan's 1981 tax cuts did help cause the massive deficits by reducing the growth of federal revenues relative to increases in federal spending and the growth of the economy. Federal revenues declined from nearly 21 percent of gross national product in 1981 to an average of roughly 19 percent of GNP by the late '80s; spending as a share of GNP rose, though, with greater defense spending and costlier debt servicing being the primary reasons. The fact that the decline in federal revenues was only a relative decline does not make the policy that engendered it any less irresponsible.

Will also cited figures indicating that the wealthy are now paying a larger share of total federal taxes, which in Will's mind makes invalid the notion that the rich unduly benefited from the tax law changes of the 1980s. Yet he unwittingly undermined his own argument: as figures from the Census Bureau and the Congressional Budget Office show, during the 1980s the wealthy increased their share of both the nation's before- and after-tax income pies -- partially because tax cuts gave them the chance to use that windfall to make even more income. In short, the wealthy have been paying more federal taxes because they have been making more money, not because their tax burden has grown. Meanwhile, the rest of us have either treaded water or sunk. -- Marc Brailov