09 March, 2009

Damn You, Socialists!

Steve Benen has this chart. I have taken the liberty of modifying it to reflect the opinions of certain of our more conservative lawmakers and "thinkers":

John Cole posted this graph a few days ago. See that column on the far-right edge? That's where Obama proposes the marginal top-rate should be.

It's also the rate conservatives believe is so outrageous, that they're accusing the president of "socialism" and talking openly about the "Going Galt" scenario in which wealthy and industrious Americans would deliberately make less money to spite their country.

It's all quite silly, but the graph adds some helpful context to drive the point home.

Obama is proposing a top rate lower than Reagan's first term, lower than Nixon's, lower than Eisenhower's, and lower than FDR's when he pulled us out of the Great Depression.

So, really, try not to hyperventilate.

But they're so expert at it....

Michael Lind's Salon piece dovetails rather nicely with the above theme, and also makes superb use of the absurd:

Barack Obama's bold, ambitious budget plan proves that he is the true heir of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Consider Obama's Rooseveltian energy plan. In 1939, President Roosevelt decided to mobilize Americans to create a new source of energy: atomic power. Although he was urged to focus on government-funded R&D, FDR chose a different route. He wisely encouraged private capital to invest in atomic energy research by a variety of tax incentives. To make atomic power investment more palatable to private capital, FDR boldly chose to make all other forms of energy in the U.S. uneconomical, by slapping high taxes on kerosene and coal. With the money from the new federal Kerosene Cap and Trade system, President Roosevelt and Congress funded a small-scale federal research program, in the hope of attracting much greater private investment ...

Wait. What's that you say? FDR didn't do that? He poured federal money into the all-public Manhattan Project and created the first atomic bomb in a couple of years? He didn't tax kerosene to make it uneconomical and to encourage private investment in atomic power? [...]

All right, then, forget FDR. He was a socialist, anyway. Let Dwight Eisenhower serve as a model for the Obama administration. President Eisenhower authorized the biggest infrastructure program in American history, when he signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. The interstate highway act created an elaborate system of private tax incentives and public-private partnerships (PPPs) to encourage private corporations to build national highways. To begin with, all U.S. highways were leased to domestic and foreign corporations for a period of decades. Second, all U.S. highways were set up with toll booths, so that American drivers would be forced to repay the corporate owners of the national highways every few dozen miles. Finally, a system of high-speed lanes with higher tolls was created, so that the rich could whiz down the road while middle-class and poor Americans were stuck in traffic jams ...

All right, what now, wise guy? So that's wrong, too? Eisenhower's national highway system wasn't based on tolls, leases to foreign companies, income-based pricing, and tax credits for private corporations? It used gasoline taxes to fund free public highways?

Free highways without toll booths, owned by the public, paid for out of taxes? My God. So the John Birch Society was right after all. Dwight Eisenhower was as much of a socialist as Franklin Delano Roosevelt!
Digby follows up with this astute observation:
The point here is that conservatives have so demonized the concept of the public commons, particularly inside the Beltway, that what is now considered a bold and socialistic policy shift - raising the top marginal tax rates 3-4%, investing in infrastructure with a mix of public and private money, using an individual mandate to keep insurance companies in the health care game, cap and trade - is actually a pre-compromised, market-friendly, neoliberal jumble that fits squarely in the center of the ideological divide. And this is essentially why the Army of Galts screams about socialism, to force the debate further to the right from the center where it is now situated.

And how much will this horrific tax hike cost those poor, soaked rich folk? Digby did the math. I looked up the menu. And it turns out that they'll be forced to pony up the equivalent of a grande latte at a New York Starbucks per day.

That's right. Four bucks. That's how much extra a person making $300,000 will be coughing up.

The poor, poor dears. Socialism is an awful burden to bear, innit?


Cujo359 said...

Any realistic discussion of top tax rates should include the fact that there used to be more tax rate levels than there are today. Those huge tax rates in the middle of the chart occurred at a time when there were several additional tax rates. The top one, IIRC, started somewhere around $1 million.

The best "apples to apples" comparison is probably the rates since the beginning of the Clinton Administration. The number of tax rates has been the same at least that long.

Graduated income tax is easy to figure out, provided you know what the formula is.

Efrique said...

But graphs have a well-known liberal bias.</colbert>