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I really wish that President Obama was enlisting the likes of Robert Reich instead of those in the Wall Street revolving door on what needs to be done with our tax policies in the United States.
My proposal to raise the marginal tax to 70 percent on incomes over $15 million, to 60 percent on incomes between $5 million and $15 million, and to 50 percent on incomes between $500,000 and $5 million, has generated considerable debate. Some progressives think it’s pie-in-the-sky. Here, for example, is Andrew Leonard, a staff writer for Salon:
A 70 percent tax bracket for the richest Americans is pure fantasy – even suggesting it represents such a fundamental disconnect with the world as it exists today that it is hard to see why it should be taken seriously. I would be deeply worried about the sanity of a Democratic president who proposed such a thing.
Fantasy? I don’t know Mr. Leonard’s age but perhaps he could be forgiven for not recalling that between the late 1940s and 1980 America’s highest marginal rate averaged above 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Not until the 1980s did Ronald Reagan slash it to 28 percent. (Many considered Reagan’s own proposal a “fantasy” before it was enacted.)
Incidentally, during these years the nation’s pre-tax income was far less concentrated at the top than it is now. In the mid-1970s, for example, the top 1 percent got around 9 percent of total income. By 2007, they got 23.5 percent. So if anything, the argument for a higher marginal tax should be even more realistic now than it was during the days when it was taken for granted.
A disconnect with the world as it exists today? That’s exactly the point of proposing it. For years progressives have whined that Democratic presidents (Clinton, followed by Obama) compromise with Republicans while Republican presidents (Reagan through W) stand their ground – with the result that the center of political debate has moved steadily rightward. That’s the reason the world exists the way it does today. Isn’t it about time progressives had the courage of our conviction and got behind what we believe in, in the hope of moving the debate back to where it was?
Would a Democratic president be insane to propose such a thing? Not at all. In fact, polls show an increasing portion of the electorate angry with an insider “establishment” – on Wall Street, in corporate suites, and in Washington – that’s been feathering its nest at the public’s expense. The Tea Party is but one manifestation of a widening perception that the game is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful.
Here's part two of Thom's interview with Robert Reich.
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