Until 1963, the richest Americans paid over 90% of their income in taxes – and it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan that it dipped below 70% – which makes the Sanders-Schakowsky proposals very modest, historically speaking. But what’s interesting is if you look at who paid those high tax rates, who constituted as “rich” was well above what $250,000 will get you today. Until 1965, the top tax bracket was for people who made over $400,000 – and during World War II, the 80% tax rates only affected those making over $5 million.
A “millionaire’s tax increase” is politically viable – because the public supports raising taxes, when they understand that they’re not the one who will pay them. That’s why, for example, a tax on oil company profits always polls very well. In 2004, California voters passed Proposition 63 by State Senator Darrell Steinberg – a 1% surcharge on incomes of over $1 million, which was specifically targeted at funding mental health services.
Sanders told The Hill the Obama Administration had not expressed interest in his proposal, but he was “not surprised” about that. “We have not heard the President has indicated that he is interested in coming up with revenue,” he said, “just that he wants to negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts.” Ironically, Jan Schakowsky was an early Obama supporter in his U.S. Senate bid – back when he was a little-known state senator.
Not only would Obama be turning back on his old friends, but not supporting a modest tax increase on millionaires is suicidal politics.