You Want To See “Big Government?” Go Back to 1971!

Kevin Drum notes today that all the overheated Republican rhetoric about the president’s tax proposal, suggesting capitalism is on the very edge of disappearing, is a bout of hysteria over a relatively small amount of money for the wealthy:

I just want everyone to be absolutely clear on what this “narrative of aggrievement” is all about. It’s about Obama’s proposal that the marginal tax rate on income over $400,000 should rise from 35% to 39.6%.

That’s your aggrievement. That’s your entitlement. That’s your socialism. That’s your class warfare. An increase in the top marginal tax rate of 4.6 percentage points.

Four. Point. Six.

This is what America’s most prosperous citizens are up in arms about. This is why Barack Obama is an enemy of capitalism. These are the spiteful shackles he proposes to use to subjugate America’s engines of job creation. It’s the reason America’s wealthiest citizens are so frightened about the future of their country.

4.6 percentage points. Just let that sink in.

Add in the fact that Obama is simply trying to restore the top tax rate under which the most rapid accumulation of private wealth in human history–in the late 1990s–occurred, and the insanity of the “socialism” talk becomes especially apparent.

Look, folks, I’m not that old, and I can remember the time a Republican president unilaterally created a policy that was vastly more disruptive of the private-sector economy than anything Barack Obama has even dreamed of: Richard Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls in 1971. Top tax rates were much higher then, too. Somehow or other, liberty survived.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.