Saturday rewind: we used to tax the shit out of the wealthy
and I remember what that was like
note: the following piece was originally published on December 6, 2022, when our little substack community was much smaller than it is today. readership here is about ten times what it was back in December, so I’m reposting this today in order to put it in front of that larger audience. have a great Saturday, everyone. — jeff t.
Sam Pizzigati has a great piece up at inequality.org:
Once upon a time, the United States seriously taxed the nation’s rich. You remember that time? Probably not. To have a personal memory of that tax-the-rich era, you now have to be well into your seventies.
I was born in 1957, when the top tax rate was 90%. I have no memory of that, of course, but I do remember what things were like in the 1960s, when the top margin was 70%, which brings me to the point I want to make.
most Americans alive today don’t know what it’s like to live in a country where the rich pay their fair share of taxes. I do. construction projects were everywhere. everything was brand new. the grade school I attended was brand new. my middle school was brand new. Route 80 came through town, cutting an hour off the 60-mile drive to New York City. communication satellites. moon rockets. the earliest iterations of what would become the internet. all paid for with tax dollars paid by our country’s wealthiest.
beginning with Reagan, 50 years of wingnut propaganda have convinced two generations of Americans that government that does fuck-all to help its citizens is normal.
let me assure you, it’s not normal. every other wealthy country looks at us and wonders why we’re so fucking nuts.
wealth doesn’t voluntarily trickle down. wealth has had 50 years to trickle down, and it hasn’t yet and it isn’t going to magically start any time soon.
here’s what I find most troublesome: my generation will die off in a couple of decades and if things don’t change, there will be no one alive who remembers the possibilities of a fully-funded government.
an America with crumbling infrastructure and uncaring government will be the permanent norm.
I’m just a loudmouth on the internet. I don’t have a solution to this. but I hope to fuck that someone somewhere does
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note: yes, I am well aware that my experiences as a child were filtered through the lens of being a middle class white kid and I know that racist urban planner fuckfaces like Robert Moses were deliberately working to make sure that minorities were denied any piece of the pie. fuck them and fuck their rotting legacies. but perhaps some day we can all live in a world where the rich pay their fair share and this time, everyone benefits.