Could 400 billionaires destroy America?
DownWithTyranny!: 300 Spartan Hoplites Saved Greek Democracy But Will 400 American Billionaires Destroy Ours?
When Eisenhower, the last mainstream Republican president, was in office, the marginal tax rate on incomes over $400,000 was 92% and capital gains was taxed at 25%. In 1954 Eisenhower reduced the marginal rate to something Republicans felt was more fair… 91%. His greatest accomplishment-- aside from keeping the U.S. out of wars-- was the building of the Interstate Highway System, judged so not just by historians but by Eisenhower himself. Although his 1952 landslide gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress, they made no moves to reduce taxes beyond the modest 1% reduction for top payers. While Ike was in the White House the economy expanded and the Dow more than doubled.
JFK kept the top rate but LBJ made the effective top tax rate 75.25%, a gigantic tax cut for the very wealthy and Nixon kept that rate, while raising the capital gains rate to 36.5%. At that time Mitt's father, George Romney, ran for president and released his tax returns, showing a $2,972,923.58 income during 1966 and a total of $1,099,555.18, a very different story than the one his son's taxes told.
Ford's brief presidency saw no changes in the marginal rates but did see capital gains go up to 39.875%, the peak, as it turned out, which helps explain why the rich have gotten much much richer since the end of the Ford presidency. The decrease in capital gains taxes began under Jimmy Carter, decreasing by over 10 points to 28%. This just whetted the appetites and the greed of the very rich for more and bigger cuts. Reagan was glad to oblige. He slashed the top marginal rates from around 70% to just 28%, the seed for economic catastrophe and endlessly unbalanced budgets. George H.W. Bush tried to undo some of the damage Reagan's tax cutting had done and rates increased slightly. Clinton kept the marginal rate for top earners basically the same as Reagan and decreased the capital gains tax by 8 points.
Then came George W. Bush (or, more to the point, Dick Cheney, who was in charge of the economy). The rate for top earners sunk to 15.35% and the capital gains tax was pushed down to 15%, exploding the deficit and sending the U.S. economy careening towards the disaster that ended the 8 catastrophic Bush-Cheney years.