A Brief History of Progressive Taxation
“Taxation is what we pay for civilized society.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Are taxes really necessary? If they are necessary, should everyone pay the same percentage of their income in taxes? Or should a citizen’s ability to pay taxes be taken into consideration when assessing tax burdens? Should certain citizens be asked to shoulder the lion’s share of the burden? If so, which class of citizens and why?
The Necessity for Government Taxation
We are all in the ‘tax burden’ boat together. We all imagine that we can spend our cash dollars more wisely than any government. We believe we can target our own personal needs better than some distant local, state or federal legislature. We have a sense that government uses our tax money for more distant, abstract purposes. The immediacy of our wants and needs may lead us to resent the notion of higher taxes.
The poor wage earner might think he could afford some new clothes for his children or perhaps go to the dentist. The wealthy wage earner could imagine the luxuries that he would forgo. Perhaps in some affluent cases, it might even be a new yacht or perhaps the million-dollar Monet painting that would look so good in his living room. Regardless of economic class, both rich and poor are capable of sharing a belief that government taxation somehow unfairly deprives them of valued personal resources.
But government taxation was never designed to meet the idiosyncratic needs and wants of the individual citizen. Rather taxation was meant to provide the means for government to take actions that benefit the citizenry on a scope that individual citizens could not possibly hope to provide by themselves.
We have always expected the federal government to protect our borders from outside aggressors, but over the course of history our expectations for the federal role in public welfare have grown. Today, the federal government, as well as local and state governments, use tax money to provide for fundamental societal functions. Prominent examples of government functions that we have come to take for granted are fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and departments of public health and education. (Note: the private sector, while creating jobs and services, is not expected to provide for these fundamental societal functions.)
Although federal revenue plays an important role in promoting the general welfare of the American people, this does not mean that all tax money is well spent. We can all think of examples where our hard-earned money has been spent on wasteful government policies. Such squandered funds certainly justify greater scrutiny and care in the design of federal programs. However, misspending tax revenues should not prevent us from recognizing the compelling needs that only well spent tax revenues can address.
The infrastructure of America as well as the health and retirement of its citizenry depend upon federal taxation. When we discuss the notions of tax burden and tax relief, we must firmly keep in mind the immense societal concerns that our tax system addresses. It is our duty as citizens to contribute to the social support system that protects the quality of life for individual Americans. This contribution represents a sacrifice made by each taxpayer. A responsible citizen should accept this role because we all benefit from government programs that address social needs that far exceed the capacity of citizens acting on their own behalf.
Balancing Necessities vs. Balancing Luxuries
Given the need for taxation to fund essential government functions, how should the tax burden be assessed on the citizenry? Should all citizens be expected to pay an equal percentage of their income in taxes? Do all tax payments represent the same sort of sacrifice for each individual taxpayer? Does the justice of the tax system somehow depend upon the answer to these questions?
We all experience a sense of loss when we pay our taxes. But the consequences of all losses do not represent equal suffering. Although the actual monetary size of a millionaire’s tax payment is far greater, the consequences of that loss do not represent a significant threat to his or her basic subsistence needs. These individuals still have an enormous amount of after-tax disposable income to purchase the finer things in life. These tax payments, although large, never threaten the fundamental wellbeing of any wealthy citizen.
In contrast, the far smaller payments represented by taxpayers at the lower end of the income ladder do represent potential threats to (and tradeoffs among) basic subsistence needs. Families may have to choose between necessities such as education, clothing, food, medical and energy expenses. Medical and dental procedures are all too often postponed or forgone entirely. These sorts of consequences are threatening to the wellbeing of the typical American citizen.
When we compare the consequences of the losses represented by tax payments, we gain a new perspective on the suffering associated with our obligations as tax paying citizens. Clearly most, if not all, taxpayers suffer a sense of loss when they contemplate the payment of their tax ‘burden’. However, for many of those in the lower and middle income tax brackets, this sense of loss is accompanied by real material suffering. For the wealthy, the tradeoffs are between competing wants, while for many lower income Americans the tradeoffs occur between competing needs.
It may be difficult to remove all bias from this statement, but it is probably true that the notion of personal suffering represented by the term ‘tax burden’ is vastly different depending upon one’s location on the income ladder. The kinds of tradeoffs and losses experienced by taxpayers appear to have far greater negative consequences on moderate and low-income citizens. The suffering associated with the loss of luxury items is hardly comparable to the suffering associated with the material consequences of balancing competing necessities.
Early History: Progressive Tax System to fund War
Please recall the 3 types of taxation we have previously examined — progressive, flat and regressive. The example discussed above provides a clear understanding of the shortcomings of a flat tax on income. It is apparent that while a flat tax does provide an equal tax rate, the consequences suffered by taxpayers are in no way equal. If we are looking for a notion of equality that better represents tax justice, we must look beyond the mathematical equality of a flat income tax.
Clearly, if a flat tax falls short of an acceptable definition of a just tax system, regressive taxes add insult to injury. By requiring those who have the least ability to pay to provide a greater percentage of their income in taxes, we do a disservice to that segment of our society. If we are truly concerned with the conception of a fair tax ‘burden’, we must look in the direction of a progressive tax system.
To better understand the function of progressive taxes, let us examine the history of such taxes. In 1798, the British instituted the first progressive income tax in order to finance the growing Napoleonic Wars. There were 2 tax brackets. Those earning between 60 pounds and 200 pounds annually were required to pay about 1% of their income, while those earning over 200 pounds per year paid 10%. Those making less than 60 pounds paid no income taxes.
Ironically, Prime Minister William Pitt, a wealthy conservative, proposed the British Tax Act of 1798. He initially opposed the tax altogether. But when it became evident that the survival of the nation was at stake, he reluctantly changed his viewpoint on government taxation.
Why not a flat tax? It was obvious to all concerned that a flat tax could not raise sufficient funds to support the war effort. Those on the bottom of the income ladder were struggling to make ends meet and had very little to contribute. Those in the middle didn’t have adequate income to make a significant contribution to the war tax.
Only those at the top of the ladder had sufficient resources to fund the growing need for the munitions, soldiers and training necessary to defend the nation from the growing power of republican France. Further, the British aristocracy perceived a direct threat from the ‘radical’ democratic intent of the French Revolution.
Under these circumstances, progressive taxation was an easy sell to the ruling class. And yet Pitt only raised 60% of his desired goal. The tax expired after the war was over as the danger to the prerogatives of the British aristocracy had passed.
In 1862, the US Congress passed the first progressive tax in American history. It was modeled after the British Tax Act of 1798. This new federal tax was instituted during the American Civil War in order to fund the military effort of the North against the rebellious South. Let us examine the process that led to passage of this landmark legislation.
Realizing that the Union Army needed immediate cash flow if it was to defeat the Confederate Army, US President Abraham Lincoln initially called for a flat tax of 3% on income over $800 — the Revenue Act of 1861. When he realized that a simple flat tax could not raise sufficient funds, his Administration called for 2 new taxes.
One, the Excise Tax, was somewhat equivalent to the Sales Tax, in that it was a consumer-based tax on the sale of common items. This tax had a more severe effect upon those at the bottom of the income ladder. Although a flat tax, it had a regressive effect, just like any other consumer-based tax. In modern times, for example, an Excise Tax is levied upon alcohol and tobacco, items that consume a greater percentage of the disposable income of those earning less.
To balance the obvious regressive effect of the Excise Tax, the Lincoln Administration proposed a second tax — a progressive income tax. This progressive tax had 2 income tax brackets. Those whose annual earnings were between $600 ($14K currently) and $10,000 ($230K currently) were required to pay 3% of their income. Those earning over $10,000 were required to pay 5% of their income. Congress obliged the request and passed the Revenue Act of 1862.
When this funding effort also fell short, the Lincoln Administration passed the Revenue Act of 1864, which increased progressivity in order to raise the needed revenue. The Act added an additional bracket and simultaneously raised the tax rates. No taxes were paid on income less than $600($14K); 5% on earned income between $600 and $5000($116K); 7.5% between $5K and $10K($233K); and 10% on earnings above $10K per annum. These income taxes were withheld at the source, possibly due to collection problems experienced under the initial acts (an early example of payroll withholdings).
Perhaps Lincoln felt that this increase in progressivity should be well received by wealthy Northerners. These affluent citizens had the most to lose if the South successfully seceded from the Union. And these same citizens also had the greatest ‘ability to pay’ for the war effort that would save their country and their southern investments. This well-financed war was won in 1865. By 1873, the first progressive tax in US history had expired.
Over the next two decades, the power of the federal government grew, as did its needs for additional tax revenue. To address this issue, the US passed legislation in 1894 to tax the earnings from rental property, interest, and stocks. Congress had come to view these earnings as personal income and therefore taxable under the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court ruled that rents, interest and dividends were all deemed property income, not earned income as defined by Congress in 1894. As such, the Supreme Court ruled that this law was unconstitutional.
The Constitution allowed the Congress to levy ‘head’ taxes, such as income taxes. However, the Constitution prohibited the Federal Government from levying ‘property taxes’ directly. The only Constitutional way that the Federal Government could levy ‘property taxes’ was through an indirect approach. The states could be required to collect these federal taxes, but they had to be based upon a cumbersome census process. Unfortunately this unwieldy process had the effect of functionally eliminating these ‘property taxes’ as a source of federal income.
To circumvent this stipulation, the United States Government persuaded the state legislatures in 1913 to ratify the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution. This amendment gave Congress the power to tax income, no matter what the source. In other words, Congress could now directly tax income from ‘property’, such as rents, dividends and interest earnings, without going through the states and the prohibitive census process. Again the change in the tax system was instigated due to war — the anticipation of a brewing European war (a conflict that would ultimately result in World War I).
Congress took immediate advantage of the 16th Amendment. They introduced legislation the same year to create the 1st permanent progressive income tax. There were 7 brackets starting at 1% and ending at 7%. The top tax bracket targeted income above $500K ($12M currently). In other words, only the wealthiest members of society were required to pay the highest rate on that portion of their income that exceeded the maximum threshold.
Four years later, in 1917, the US entered World War I. The Government needed more cash flow to finance the war effort. Congress obliged by passing legislation designed to raise more funds. They increased the tax percentages. The bottom bracket was now required to pay 2% of their annual income, while any income over $2M ($37M currently) was taxed at a 60% rate.
Congress also increased the number of tax brackets to 21. With a larger number of brackets, the Government was able to generate greater revenue. The multiplicity of tax brackets also distributed the tax sacrifice more equitably. These newly created brackets established a gradation of tax burdens that more accurately reflected the wide range of American prosperity. On a sliding scale, from the bottom to the top of the income brackets, those with a greater ability to pay taxes were required to contribute the most.
It is unlikely that the progressive tax system would have been ratified without the support of wealthy and powerful Americans. The top income tiers were clearly the ones most likely to benefit from a victorious war effort. The borders of the United States were never directly threatened during World War I. However, an unfavorable outcome to the war threatened American overseas investments as well as the enormous war loans made to Great Britain and France.
We can understand why wealthy Americans were willing to pay a high percentage of their income in federal taxes. Although tax rates would take a bigger bite from the incomes of the wealthy, the benefits of a victory in World War I clearly outweighed their objections. In 1925, several years after the war had ended, the tax percentages on wealthy Americans dropped substantially. Income over $100K ($1M currently) was taxed at a 25% rate, down from 60% in the midst of the war.
Up to this point in history, every progressive tax system was a response to the demands of war. Progressive taxes were necessary to generate sufficient funds to create a powerful military force that had the potential to be victorious. The wealthier segments of society were apparently motivated to pay a higher percentage of their income in exchange for protection of their privileges, investments and power-base.
The underlying motivations for taxation all changed with the Great Depression that began in 1929. A huge percentage of the population, peaking at almost a quarter of the work force, lost their source of income. These individuals had very little money to spend. With the money supply dramatically dwindling, most businesses began cutting back or going under. For instance, in order to continue operating his small dry cleaning business in Kansas, my grandfather had to lay off most of his employees. These layoffs, whether big or small, further weakened the ailing US economy and sent it into a downward spiral that had worldwide ramifications. Political turbulence and the potential collapse of the social structure appeared to be on the horizon.
In the preceding post-War decade of the 1920s, the American economy was booming and now it was bust. A ‘boom & bust’ cycle had been a regular characteristic of the US economy ever since the emergence of capitalism in the 1800s. This pendulum-like cycle consisted of 2 interrelated stages. Speculative investment drove prices and profits up. Ultimately, the speculation-driven growth was unsustainable and the market overheated resulting in economic contraction. Further the ‘boom-bust’ cycles had become more and more extreme. The Great Depression provided dramatic testimony to the increasingly harsh effects associated with the ‘bust’ portion of these economic cycles.
The devastating results of the Great Depression raised some challenging questions. Can we rely on unregulated capitalism to adequately address the harms created by the current dramatic economic downturn? Or does the government have a role to play in combating the excessive fluctuations of free market capitalism? If so, what actions must government take to dampen the ‘boom-bust’ cycle and avoid the effects of an even more severe economic downward swing in the future?
A new economic theory emerged in the 1930s that addressed the extreme behavior of the boom-bust cycle. John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) of England played a key role in the development of this new perspective. He wrote a highly technical, yet influential, book on economics entitled General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money that came out in 1935. Many academics and policy makers believe this book to be the most important economics book of the 20th century. Indeed, many economists consider this book to be comparable in importance to Adam Smith’s 18th century work, Wealth of Nations.
Keynes’ seminal book stressed the importance of the consumer. He reasoned that the consumer is the foundation of capitalism. Without a customer, there is no business. Many emerging successful businesses were tapping into the growing prosperity of the working class. For example, Ford Motor Company, Wrigley Chewing Gum and Bank of America had grown rich by targeting the surplus assets of those on the moderate and lower rungs of the economic ladder.
In a ‘bust’ cycle, this segment of society loses the income to purchase goods due to loss of employment. The lack of a viable market negatively affects the profits of nearly all business owners. Once the growth bubble bursts, businesses typically respond to reductions in profits by reducing their workforce. Increases in unemployment further undermine consumer-purchasing power, which further reduces profits. This downward cycle of economic contraction became more extreme as the economy became more dependent on the consumer spending of the working class. This line of reasoning led Keynes to the realization that a large consumer base was of ultimate importance to the business community.
Prior to Keynes, most economic and political leaders embraced a laissez-faire approach to capitalism. There was a strong faith that the laws of supply and demand would ‘naturally’ regulate the economy better than government intervention. Government action was inherently distrusted and a ‘hands off’ philosophy was the standard viewpoint. Keynes began to question the notion that the best policy was necessarily ‘hands off’.
The question facing Keynes became: What sort of actions would assist the citizenry to continue spending money during an economic downturn? It was evident that ‘free market’ capitalism of the private sector, although driven by consumer spending, was unable to protect its own consumer base. Keynes theorized that the public sector had to step in to cushion the all-important consumer during times of economic hardship. Keynes argued that governments needed to take protective actions in an effort to maintain full employment for the good of the overall economy.
Keynes approach was in significant contrast to the ‘hands off’ laissez faire approach to fiscal policy that was in vogue at the time. He proposed a range of methods for government to intervene in the marketplace, including adjusting interest rates and deficit spending. If the problems were not too severe, government could act to lower interest rates. This lending stimulus would presumably provide enough encouragement for business to preserve and/or create jobs.
However, some economic problems were so intransigent that simply adjusting interest rates would not be sufficient. In an extreme case, for instance the Great Depression, the strategy would require the government to run a deficit in order to protect consumer spending. Government borrowing during such a crisis could be critical to adequately funding a ‘social safety net’, protecting government jobs, and in creating new jobs as the employer of last resort.
Keynes’ strategy for government action seems counter-intuitive to those who think that a government budget should behave like a personal budget. When an individual experiences a reduction in income, the typical response is to reduce personal spending. During times of recession, government also experiences a reduction in income as earnings decline and unemployment grows. A typical, if not natural, response to a reduction in tax revenue is to tighten the budget by curbing government spending. Keynes analysis suggests this ‘belt-tightening’ strategy actually undermined economic recovery by cutting government spending at the worst possible time.
The ideas in Keynes’ book were so influential that they transformed the economic policies of virtually all the nations of Western civilization. Due to their importance, this economic strategy is referred to as Keynesian economics. Although the solutions have been refined in recent times, as we shall see, adjusting interest rates and deficit spending are key tools in economic strategy 80 years later. His concepts regarding the importance of full employment and the health of consumer spending continue to successfully inform government policies to this day.
Progressive Taxes to temper Boom & Bust Cycle
In 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and immediately confronted the daunting effects of the Great Depression. Instead of following the ‘hands off’ tenet of laissez capitalism that had proved so unsuccessful for the prior Hoover and Coolidge Administrations, his Administration explored a Keynesian approach to these intractable economic problems. To address unparalleled levels of unemployment and to bolster the purchasing power of the consumer base, FDR increased the federal government’s role in order to protect the economic health of the nation.
The US Government took aim at two classes of citizens: workers and retired people. To protect the working class, Congress passed disability insurance legislation to assist those workers who lost their jobs due to illness or injury. Legislation was also enacted to provide unemployment insurance to those who suffered job loss for reasons other than disability. For those workers who had retired from the work force, Congress also created the Social Security System. These government programs supported the wellbeing of workers and retirees, and thus enabled them to more effectively funnel money back into the system. Although relatively small, this government assistance enhanced the purchasing power of both classes of consumers, even if at a reduced rate.
This government action lessened the extremity of the downward economic cycle and consequently helped keep the economy afloat. If government action can help soften the bottom of the boom-bust cycle, could it also provide a dampening effect upon the over-heated speculation at the top of the cycle? If government programs can help moderate the extreme swings of capitalist economies, how were the proposed social programs to be funded? Fortunately, the same solution answers each of these questions — progressive income taxes.
In times of war, governments have an extreme need for revenue in order to sustain an effective military effort. Several times in recent history, democratic governments have found that the progressive income tax was the key to raising sufficient funds for the war effort. The Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and World War I are all examples of Western democracies turning to progressive taxation in times of great crisis.
By focusing the tax burden on those with the greatest ability to pay, progressive taxation was able to rapidly generate an enormous amount of revenue. This pragmatic approach recognized that the working class lacked adequate taxable resources. Further, it acknowledged that the wealthier sectors of society stood to benefit the most from a successful war effort.
In the case of the Great Depression, the crisis was economic not military. But the solution was the same. Keynes argued that this sort of dramatic economic downturn could only be moderated by government actions. Some of these actions would require government spending in order to counteract the downward spiral. Clearly government could not tax those who were suffering most from the Great Depression in order to fund the social safety net. The proposed government obligations required progressive taxation with its attendant method of targeting those with the ‘greatest ability to pay’.
For Keynes, the health of consumer spending was (and is) at the heart of a successful capitalist economy. The health of the economy cannot depend entirely upon the well being of the wealthy class. Progressive taxation draws funds from those with a greater ability to pay in order to bolster consumer spending among those on the lower rungs of the income ladder. By enhancing consumer spending, business profits and investment income will also ultimately grow.
Although taxes redistribute money from the top of the income ladder to the bottom, it comes back to the top in terms of increased business profits. The wealthy that are truly job creators benefit from an increased consumer base, which is best funded by progressive taxes. This approach is a win-win scenario for society.
Progressive taxation also has a counter-cyclical effect that dampens the extreme effects of the ‘boom-bust’ cycle. As profits grow during a boom cycle, taxes on the upper brackets also experience significant growth. The effect of this approach to taxation is that fewer assets are available for speculation. With comparatively less capital available, wealthy speculators are less capable of driving a boom phase to unsustainable levels.
With less money available for speculation and more money available to spend on goods and services, the boom-bust cycle is less likely to become turbulent and drive the economy into depression. By funding a larger consumer base and draining funds employed for hyper-speculation, progressive taxation effectively moderates both the bottom and top of the economic wave. This proactive approach attempts to supplant the volatile boom-bust cycle by promoting stable economic growth.
With these considerations in mind, the Roosevelt Administration passed legislation in 1932 that increased both the percentages on taxable income and the number of tax brackets. The bottom bracket began at 4%, while the top tax bracket, which only applied to annual income over $1 million dollars ($17M inflation adjusted), was 63%. In other words, only the wealthiest members of society, those most able to pay, had the top portion of their income taxed at the highest rate. To spread the sacrifice of the tax contribution more equitably across the economic spectrum, 55 tax brackets were created.
In 1936, tax legislation increased the tax percentages on the top earners and reduced the number of tax brackets to ‘only’ 31. However, to ease the tax burden on those in the middle of the income ladder, the brackets were spread out. For example, only income over $5 million ($84M modern equivalent) was taxed at the highest rate of 79%. In this fashion, the extremely wealthy paid a substantially higher percentage of their income than the moderately wealthy or the middle class wage earner. (Remember that due to the graduated nature of the tax brackets, the wealthy only paid this high percentage on income exceeding $5 million, not on their entire income.)
Progressive Taxation with Integrity (1946–1979)
Following on the tail of America’s economic crisis came a second world war. Again the US Government needed additional funds to finance the war. In time-honored fashion, they employed the progressive tax system to fund the escalating needs of the military.
The tax percentage for the bottom income bracket reached 2 digits for the first time. To raise an ever-increasing amount of funds as the war intensified, the percentage rate of this lowest tax bracket was raised from 4% to 10% in 1941, then to 19% in 1942, and then 23% in 1944 at the peak of the war. Simultaneously, the percentage rate of the top income bracket rose from 79% to 81%, then to 88%, and finally reached a peak of 94% in 1944.
At first, the top percentage only applied to income over $5 million per annum ($80M currently). In other words, only the tremendously wealthy paid this tax rate and only on that portion that exceeded the $5 million threshold. After the US entry in World War II, the income threshold of the top tax rate was lowered significantly to apply to income over $200K ($3M currently). Reiterating for emphasis, only income above this level was taxed at the top rate. Income below this threshold was taxed at the same rate as those with smaller incomes.
In 1946 after the conclusion of World War II, the tax percentages were reduced, but only slightly. The bottom rate was reduced from 23% to 20%, the top rate from 94% to 91%. Both the number and the income thresholds of the tax brackets remained the same.
Because this tax structure remained unchanged for an unprecedented 18 years (from 1946 to 1964), it would be instructive to examine the details of its organization, as shown in the following table.
The transparency of the organization is striking. The tax structure seems to be designed to spread the tax burden equitably over a broad income spectrum. The first 11 brackets consist of income increments of $2K, then $4K followed by 4 increments of $6K, then 5 at $10K, then 2 at $50K. There is a consistency in how the tax percentages are applied to each income bracket. Most of the percentage increases are either 3% or 4% from bracket to bracket. Only at the very top and bottom does the percentage rise only 1% or 2%. How orderly, how just. Each step up the income bracket ladder reasonably requests the citizenry to pay a little bit more of their additional prosperity in taxes for the general welfare.
Note in the preceding table that the effective tax rate tends to be 10% to 20% lower than the stated rate for each individual bracket. The effective rate is lower because the income earned in each graduated tax bracket is taxed at the specific rate assigned to that particular bracket. The effective tax rate reflects what individuals actually pay on their entire taxable income.
For instance, someone earning $10K in 1954 would pay 20% on the first $2K of taxable income, then 22% of the next $2K of income, 26% on the next $2K, 30% on the next $2K, and 34% on earned income between $8K and $10K. Although this process appears complicated, a simple table calculates an individual’s tax responsibility, which reflects the effective tax rate — 26% in this case, as displayed in the preceding table.
Even though the tax percentages are high, the disposable income for those in the highest tax brackets is still enormous. The disposable income column in the preceding table demonstrates the amount of money a citizen would have available to spend after paying federal income taxes. A citizen earning $200K in 1954 paid an effective rate of 78%. In 2008 dollars, this same individual would be earning the equivalent of $3.7 million, and, if taxed at the same 78% effective rate, would still have over $800K left in disposable income.
In 1964 and 1965 during the Johnson Administration, the tax percentages were reduced substantially for all tax brackets. The upper tax brackets received special consideration. The bottom bracket dropped a few percentage points from 20% to 16% and then to 14%. The top bracket ultimately dropped 21%: from 91% to 77% to 70%. This tax system remained in place for another 16 years utilizing over 20 tax brackets with the top bracket taxed at a 70% rate.
From 1932 to 1981, almost half a century, there were over 20 graduated tax brackets to spread the tax burden relatively equitably across the entire income spectrum. During this period, the percentage on the top tax bracket was 63% or more. Only the very wealthy paid this top percentage. This rate only applied to that portion of annual income that exceeded an amount that would be currently valued at a million dollars. The tax code during this half-century faithfully incorporated the ‘ability to pay’ — one principle that is at the heart of progressive taxation.
Then came the Reagan era.
For more article in this series, check out A Call for Tax Justice.