Home / General / The right wing lie that actual tax rates on the rich weren’t higher during the 1950s

The right wing lie that actual tax rates on the rich weren’t higher during the 1950s


One recurrent piece of propaganda thrown out to the public by the plutocracy and its running dogs in the media is that, despite much higher marginal tax rates, rich people didn’t actually pay more taxes during the Eisenhower administration, because there were so many loopholes. (I guess the moral of this story is supposed to be something like it’s impossible to force rich people to pay taxes so don’t even try).

I’ve heard this asserted countless times over the past few decades, and you can find plenty of examples of it still being repeated today, by the kinds of organizations funded by the Koch brothers etc., that exist primarily to convey the message that taxing the rich is (a) Wrong; and (b) Impossible.

Here are a bunch of numbers from the IRS itself:

In 2015 (the most recent year for which this analysis is available; the numbers would certainly be even worse today, after the Trump administration’s Leave No Billionaire Behind tax “reform”) the richest .001 of taxpayers paid an average federal tax of 23.93%. Note that these 1,412 families paid more than $51 billion in federal taxes in that year, so you can understand why the plutocracy is still so upset about all this communistic expropriation.

Now let’s look back to the Eisenhower administration and make the parallel comparison.

in 1955, everybody who made more than $50,000 per year (a figure that you have to multiply by about ten to adjust for inflation) paid 34.4% in federal taxes. Note that this income level represented at the time the top .25% of taxpayers, so obviously this is a vastly larger group than the .001% in 2015. As we move up the income scale back then we see that the tax rate remained essentially flat when comparing what the very rich paid in comparison to the super rich: In 1955 the richest 20,000 taxpayers paid an average tax of between 35% and 36%, and the richest 267 (the group most statistically comparable to the richest .001% in 2015) paid 35.81%.

It should be unnecessary to emphasize that an effective tax rate of 36% is, in the eyes of the plutocracy, an utter outrage, and more importantly, if it were in force today, would cost them many many billions of dollars more than they were paying in 2015, since it’s 50% higher than the tax rate they were paying six years ago (and again their taxes have gone down since then).

Don’t believe right wing lies, and especially don’t repeat them.

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