Brodie Farquhar: High-end incomes, wealth should be taxed
February 1, 2019
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." — the late President Dwight Eisenhower in his 1953 speech to American Society of Newspaper Editors
May I suggest a corollary to Ike's powerful sentiment? That every dollar transferred to a 0.1 percent billionaire signifies a theft from those who hunger, are cold, ill-housed, suffer from treatable illnesses or live in hopelessness?
These thoughts occurred to me because of the growing national conversation and debate about whether the uber-wealthy are paying their fair share and what to do about it. We now have greater income and wealth inequality in the United States than at any time since the 1929 market crash that heralded the Great Depression.
Now, as then, the uber-wealthy wielded disproportionate influence in the worlds of finance, the economy and politics. The uber-wealthy and President Hoover were so thoroughly discredited that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress enacted the New Deal and a slew of laws and regulations — among them a top marginal tax rate of 91 percent. As recently as the late 1970s, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent.
During those decades, the nation pulled out of the Great Depression, fought World War II, built the interstate highway system, rescued Europe with the Marshall Plan and built the greatest economy ever seen. We also started making significant progress with civil rights for minorities and women.
Things started changing with the election of Reagan as president. Today, the marginal tax rate has fallen almost by half to 37 percent. Not coincidentally, income and wealth inequality have accelerated while federal, state and local governments struggle to meet expectations regarding infrastructure, education, health care and a fraying safety net.
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Progressive Democrats are now talking about restoring the marginal tax rate of 70 percent — much to the consternation of billionaires and their Republican allies. And public opinion polling shows strong, public support for taxing high-end incomes and wealth.
And any time conservatives state there's no money for Democratic initiatives on health care, infrastructure or addressing climate change, I think we can accurately state, "We know where the money is, and we're going to tax it, for the benefit of the people, not the 0.1 percent."