Column on taxation ignores U.S. history
Dear Editor: The Sept. 13, column by Tom Purcell described a history of taxation in America he described as “regrettable.” But his narrative of “taxes equals bad” — shared by conservative economists and their supporters in the media — consistently ignores history by what he omits:
• From 1873 to 1914, when there was no income tax, there were 11 recessions, including the “Long Depression,” which lasted five years.
• Franklin Roosevelt’s tax increases were the perfect solution for the Great Depression, taxing only the 4 percent wealthiest Americans, with much of the revenue going to infrastructure projects that put people to work. The combination of fewer people on the dole and more people paying into the tax system ended the Depression in only about three years. By 1936, congressional Republicans declared the Depression over and voted to lower taxes again. In 1937, there was another brief recession, after which taxes stayed high on the wealthiest through World War II.
• The highest tax rate did rise to over 90 percent during World War II and stayed there until 1964, but the period from the end of the war until the Vietnam War was the longest and most successful period of economic growth and prosperity in history. Tax revenue was used for education, housing and transportation and ignited an unprecedented boon in jobs during which the middle class grew and unemployment was at historic lows. And, guess what? We still had rich people in this country.
• Ronald Reagan lowered the top rate to 28 percent by 1986, but the stock market crash of 1987 ushered in a recession that cost his successor, President George H.W. Bush, his job and is widely cited for IBM leaving Ulster County in 1995.
Tax increases by Bush and Bill Clinton balanced the budget by 1997 and then created a surplus.
The GOP position that we can strengthen the middle class only by lowering taxes and that high taxes are job killers is simply wrong based on the last 150 years of American history.
Steve Massardo, Saugerties