TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Forbes: Boehner, Buffett, Obama, and History All Support Millionaire Only Taxes

Forbes:  Strange Bedfellows: Boehner, Buffett and Obama All Support Millionaire Only Taxes, by Janet Novack:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today that if Republicans can’t reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert the fiscal cliff, his “plan B” is to have the House vote on a bill to allow tax rates to go up only for families earning more than $1 million.  Sure, it’s a negotiating and public relations gambit. And yes, the White House, Democrats and even some of his own Conservative members immediately trash-talked this back-up plan. But in asserting that millionaires should be taxed differently than the almost rich, Boehner at least has history on his side.

During the first 60 years of the nearly 100-year-old income tax, the top marginal tax rate was never imposed on couples earning less than $1 million in 2011 dollars, calculations by the Tax Foundation show. The original top rate of 7% in 1913 applied only to income over $500,000—more than $11 million in today’s dollars.  Most famously, points out historian Joseph J. Thorndike, Franklin Roosevelt pushed through a top marginal rate on income over $5 million (more than $80 million today) —a cut-off so high that it applied to just one taxpayer. “They had plenty of (rich) people to hate.  They didn’t need to pick on John D. Rockefeller all by himself,” says Thorndike, whose book, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, is due out next month.

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