Wicked rich of the west

Back in the early ’80s, there was a heavy metal band by the name of Krokus. One year, they released a catchy tune entitled, “Eat the Rich.” This particular political philosophy, admittedly lacking in complexity or nuance, has been seeming, somehow, more and more attractive lately.

Yes, this is part two of “Taxing Richie Rich’s Rich Little White Ass,” begun here last week. (Remember Richie? A silver spoon-sucking comic book kid?) Here, for historical context and future tax code discussions/ arguments, is a brief look at tax rates for the wealthy in the last 60 years.

- 1951 through ’63: 91 percent on income over 400k. Can you believe that? Sure, there were loopholes, games, dodges and shelters, but still. 91 percent! How did the rich ever buy golf balls, much less boats? Somehow, they muddled through.

- ’64: 77 percent on income over 400k.

- ’65 through ’80: 70 percent on income over 200k. These are the Nixon years, mind you. 70 percent!

- ’80: Richie Rich party time. Mr. Reagan didn’t screw around. From ’82 through ’86, the top tax rate bopped right on down to 50 percent. Granted, to be in that bracket, you didn’t have to make an enormous amount of money. Anywhere from 85k to 175k, depending on the year and the deals being made in Congress. But the inertia was building. ’86 was the last year for a rate of 50 percent.

- ’90: Bush the First was in office and the top tax rate was 28 percent. Just about everybody was getting’ nicked for that rate. An income of only 32.5k got you into the club. But the Fat Cats were startin’ to get way phat … and discovering painkillers.

- ’93: Here comes Bubba. And the top rate, predictably enough, actually went up, to 39.6 percent, inflicted upon those who made between 250 and 288 grand through the 90s. This was a pretty darn good decade—the economy was solid, we weren’t at war (gee, what a concept), and the Republicans weren’t making much financial trouble because they were completely out of their minds about Oval Office Hand Jobs. Mr. Clinton may well go down as the last American president to ever throw a surplus on the federal books, which should make Bill a hero to every Tea Party dipstick currently in Congress! Seriously. Why don’t Boehner, Kantor and DeMint prance around in Clinton hoodies? Federal surplus for fiscal 2000—$230 billion.

- ’03: Bush the Second gets his tax cuts enacted; the top rate drops to its current level of 35 percent.

The point of all this? To remind us that there have been times in this country when the rich were properly taxed and, as a result, well-behaved. When the wealthy are leashed and under control, they’re fine. Hell, they can be even an asset. When they’re allowed to run amok, however, bad things are historically inclined to happen. Like recessions and depressions (top tax rate from ’25-’31: 25 percent).