In a 60 Minutes interview this month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income earned above a $10 million threshold. In the moment, interviewer Anderson Cooper described the idea as “radical,” but recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans would support the hike. It isn’t a formal policy proposal yet, but the fact that a tax plan has captured public attention and weathered multiple news cycles indicates the idea isn’t going away. At the very least, it provides fodder for some fascinating thought experiments.
One field with a disproportionate number of high earners is professional sports. Athletes aren’t pharmaceutical execs, though, and their careers rarely last past their mid-30s. What would a 70 percent marginal tax rate do to a league like the NBA?*
To predict what might happen to Stephen Curry’s salary in an America with a much different approach to taxation, I spoke with Matthew Notowidigdo, an associate professor of economics at Northwestern University. Notowidigdo teaches labor economics and has worked with professional sports teams on issues like ticket pricing, revenue sharing, and media rights. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.