Monday, July 13, 2009

"Because that's where the money is."

"Only Americans can hurt America." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

When Eisenhower took office it was not possible to drive from the east coast to the west coast in the US because at some point you would find there just wasn't a road you could take. It was during Ike's administration that the country's infrastructure was built and the post war economy was set into motion. Take a guess at what the tax rate was back then? 5%? 10%?

During Eisenhower's administration income over $400,000 was taxed at a 92% rate.

You want to build (or rebuild) a country, sacrifices are required.

People with only one home and modest means have been sacrificing like crazy during the past 8 years. They've seen their wages stagnate, their health care cover less, their savings disappear, their mortgages and credit card rates increase; more than a few have sacrificed their children to wars fought in deserts. We have been squeezed dry.

During the 2008 election, conservative commentator and occasional actor, Ben Stein, wrote a piece for the NY Times that was in the form of an open letter to GOP candidate John McCain. You should click on the link above and read it. He explains why tax cuts never work, and advises McCain that raising taxes is an essential part of our way out of the economic problems we currently face. Stein wrote:

But whom to tax? The poor are, well, poor. The middle class is struggling to pay for its middle-class life. That leaves the rich. It would be lovely if we did not have to tax them. Many have worked hard for their money. Many have created useful businesses. Many of them are fine people.

But as Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.” By definition, the truly rich have a lot more money than they need. If they don’t, then they are not rich by my standards. The first step toward putting our house in order, once we are past the seemingly looming recession, is much higher taxes on the truly rich and serious enforcement to prevent offshore tax evasion.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, than the history of the Republicans' reliance on tax cuts to raise income ought to be grounds for committal. Consider this:

Between 1917 and 1924 the top tax rate in the US varied between 76% and 56%. During the administrations of Coolidge and Hoover these rates were lowered to 24%-25% and the country was plunged into the Great Depression. From 1932 until 1987, the top tax rate never dropped below 50% (indeed, between 1936-1981 it never dropped below 70%).

The notion that a high tax rate on great wealth is somehow a foreign and new idea is simply not true. The progress that the US saw in the 20th Century was possible because our leaders were smart enough to see where all the damn money was.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, we've been told the lie that taxing the wealth of the richest Americans is somehow unpatriotic. Like my Uncle Butch used to say, "What a crock."

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