By MARC McDONALD
I must admit, listening to the current debate over President Obama's tax hike proposal is a surreal experience. It just goes to show you that in the modern era, Americans have memories that stretch back no more than 15 minutes.
During the 1950s, America had a 91 percent high-end tax rate. If the 50s had been a dismal economic decade, then it could stand as "Exhibit A" for the GOP to use in attacking high tax rates today.
But in reality, it was an extremely prosperous decade for America. In fact, it was a prosperous decade for the great majority of Americans (in contrast to the past three decades, which have seen only the Top One Percent prosper). In fact, in many ways, the 1950s was a truly golden decade. While it wasn't, of course, perfect, the 1950s seems like a million miles away from today's Third World-like America.
In the 1950s, American workers made the highest wages in the world. We also enjoyed the best workers' benefits and the longest vacations. Most high-tech products were made in America. I'm not sure what the world's top 10 corporations and top 10 banks were in the 50s. But I'd bet they were all American.
American had a trade SURPLUS in the 50s. The dollar was strong. The U.S. middle class was the envy of the world. The U.S. made the best cars in the world. America's manufacturing base and infrastructure were second to none. U.S. public schools trounced their counterparts worldwide. Nations around the world regularly sent representatives here to study how we did it.
The 1950s was the decade that America became AMERICA, the superpower. We really were No. 1 back in the 50s. Today, we're only No. 1 in the minds of the "Rah Rah U.S.A.!" jingoistic retards of the Tea Party.
And all of this with a high-end 91 percent income tax rate.
Today's Republicans condemn Obama's attempts to raise the tax rate even modestly. They'd have us believe that even a small increase in taxes on billionaires would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.
The GOP, as usual, relies on the ignorance of the American public. I mean, how many people even know that the high-end tax rate was ever as high as 91 percent in the U.S.? I talk to Republicans all the time who're convinced that tax rates today are the highest they've ever been in U.S. history. Credit the Great GOP Noise Network of Fox/Drudge/Rush for dumbing down tens of millions of Americans.
Today's Republicans are always babbling on about "What Would Reagan Do?" (In fact, Reagan himself raised taxes on 11 occasions).
I find it interesting, though, how the Republicans never consider "What Would Eisenhower Do?" I find it interesting how they ignore the wisdom of Eisenhower, a true American hero who won World War II for America and then presided over the booming, prosperous 1950s.
Today's Republicans completely ignore Ike. Instead they worship at the altar of Reagan, a mediocre president, a lousy B-movie actor, and a coward who never set foot outside of Hollywood during World War II.
The GOP worships at the altar of a man who had contempt for international law, who presided over a White House that illegally sold arms to terrorists in Iran and then used the money to fund terrorists in Central America. Oh, and Reagan more than tripled the national deficit, leaving America with the ever-growing multi-trillion dollar deficits that plague the U.S. to this day.
One wonders what Eisenhower would have made of today's GOP. I'd suspect he would be sickened by today's Republicans, who want to roll back the New Deal. In fact, he called those who would abolish Social Security "stupid."
"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
---President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954
14 minutes ago