06/01/2004: That was then. This is now....
This generation now has its own monument, the new National World War II Memorial. The 16.1 million Americans in uniform who fought—and won—World War II didn’t win the war alone, the new monument’s creators remind us. They had help from the home front. Housewives pounded rivets. Kids collected aluminum. Families went without staples at the dinner table. During World War II, everyone seemed to be making contributions. Everyone, at some level, seemed to be making sacrifices.It's a pity that those in power can't learn something from history.....
Even the rich. All Americans were asked to pay more in taxes during World War II, and the wealthy were asked to pay the most of all, more in taxes than any Americans had ever before paid. In 1943, America’s most affluent households faced a 93 percent tax rate on all their income over $200,000. The next year, 1944, the nation’s top tax rate would rise even higher, to 94 percent on income over $200,000—the highest rate in American history.
A 94 percent tax? We scan this figure today with no small measure of disbelief. We who live in an era where politicos routinely equate taxes with tyranny cannot imagine a Congress of the United States ever imposing a tax rate so lofty. But here’s the truly incredible part. Back during World War II, many Americans, including the president of the United States, wanted our nation’s top tax rate to rise even higher.
How high? In 1942, only a few months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a 100 percent top marginal tax rate. At a time of “grave national danger,” the president advised that April, “no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year. Roosevelt was proposing, in effect, what amounted to a maximum wage—at an income level that would equal, in our contemporary dollars, about $300,000.
Imagine, for a moment, what would happen today if John Kerry—suddenly inspired by FDR’s bold example—were to propose a 100 percent tax on income over $300,000 to help wage the war against terrorism. Kerry would be hooted off the political stage, maybe even tagged a terrorist himself for trying to disrupt and destroy the American economy.
FDR's 1942 income cap proposal, interestingly, invoked no such feverish reaction. The nation, most Americans agreed, faced an emergency. All Americans needed to do their part. Some Americans were sacrificing their lives to stop fascism. The least the rich could do, as even some rich Americans agreed, was sacrifice some fortune.
"I regret," announced Hollywood starlet Ann Sheridan, “that I have only one salary to give for my country.” [my emphasis, of course --LRC]
Len on 06.01.04 @ 12:48 PM CST