Col­umn on tax­a­tion ig­nores U.S. his­tory

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION -

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

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