Un­par­alled growth and a 70 per­ent top tax rate

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - JIM HIGHTOWER OtherWords colum­nist Jim Hightower is a ra­dio com­men­ta­tor, writer, and pub­lic speaker. He’s also ed­i­tor of the pop­ulist news­let­ter, The Hightower Lowdown. Other Words.org.

Once upon a time, there was a place where the pre­vail­ing ethic of the very rich­est peo­ple was that mon­e­tary self-in­dul­gence was tacky. Wealth, they be­lieved, was a mat­ter of good for­tune, car­ry­ing with it an obli­ga­tion to the Com­mon Good.

Be­lieve it or not, that place was the United States. Where did it go?

The pre­vail­ing ethic of to­day’s bil­lion­aire’s club is one of en­ti­tle­ment, su­pe­ri­or­ity, and grandios­ity — in­clud­ing flaunt­ing their wealth like the rob­ber barons of old. For ex­am­ple, a lu­di­crously large “house” is un­der con­struc­tion in Florida for one of our mod­ern-day barons, boast­ing 11 kitchens, five swim­ming pools, and a 30 car garage.

Worse, the bil­lion­aire class is as­sert­ing its sense of plu­to­cratic priv­i­lege by weaponiz­ing their huge for­tunes. They’ve been spend­ing mas­sively (and of­ten se­cretly) to build a cul­ture of in­equal­ity across our land.

To their dis­may, how­ever, Amer­ica’s worka­day ma­jor­ity is re­belling, with newly elected demo­cratic pop­ulists like Alexan­dria OcasioCortez propos­ing a 70 per­cent tax rate on in­comes above $10 mil­lion. “Oh, the hor­ror,” shrieked bil­lion­aires like com­puter mag­nate Michael Dell: “Name a coun­try where that’s worked,” he de­manded dis­mis­sively.

Okay, Michael: How about the United States?

Yes, be­tween the end of World War II in 1945 and Ron­ald Rea­gan’s cod­dle-the-rich gov­ern­ment in 1981, the top tax rate never fell below 70 per­cent — and that was a pe­riod of un­par­al­leled growth and pros­per­ity for Amer­ica’s mid­dle class.

Dell, who lives in a sprawl­ing 33,000-square-foot house with all the charm of a shop­ping mall, con­fuses value with money and has no grasp of the es­sen­tial rich­ness of Amer­i­can egal­i­tar­i­an­ism. We shouldn’t be lis­ten­ing to peo­ple like him (much less be­ing gov­erned by them) just be­cause they are rich.

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