One good reason to read history is to discover that many of the worst aspects of our lives today are very recent inventions. It’s extremely fast today: the time that it takes an innovation of the worst sort to become thought of as the way things have always been.
After WWII incomes over $400,000 were taxed at 91 percent. By stages, this has been reduced to 28 percent. As a result, between 1978 and 1990 the net worth of the Forbes 400 tripled and $70 billion per year was lost in government revenue while the richest one percent of the country gained a trillion dollars.
People who have lived only a small fraction of their lives under the latest system have told me that the 28-percent rate has never been higher and that no one would ever work for 9 percent of their income.
Social Security deductions have increased for salaries up to $42,000, above which amount no deductions are made. Thus, the higher your income, the SMALLER a percentage you pay. It wasn’t always like this.
A Gallup poll found that shortly after WWII, with taxes on the extremely rich at 90 percent, 85 percent of the public thought the federal tax code was “fair.” In 1984 an IRS survey found that 80 percent agreed with the statement “The present tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to the ordinary working man and woman.” In 1999 the rich are far richer than they have ever been before, and the poor in the U.S. suffering more severely, and yet I suspect that less than 80 percent of people would still agree with the above statement.
Campaign finance legalized bribery is another problem that people believe has always existed in more or less the same form. It’s imagined that new radical and risky programs will have to be tried to solve these problems. Yet, in the 1970s Congress passed legislation, and the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo, to encourage the sick system that has since developed.
Plenty of problems have been the same or worse in the past. Plenty of problems arise as the world changes. Why must we legislate new problems and then pretend that they have always been, too?