Buying Civilization

Shamus Khan remembers the days when paying higher taxes could be a point of pride for the wealthy:

In 1909, Republican president Teddy Roosevelt argued in favor of income and inheritance taxes, as they would promote, "equality of opportunity."  The programs required a constitutional amendment, and by 1913, 88% of states agreed that it was time to tax the income of its citizens. But not all its citizens — instead the income tax burden fell solely on couples who made over $4,000 (in today’s terms, around $88,000). If you made less, you paid nothing. And the more you made, the more you paid.

For the next 60 years Americans lived under a progressive tax structure. And while elites were not overjoyed to pay higher taxes than other Americans (and some sought ways to avoid them), most understood their tax burden as their civic duty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt argued that, "Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.” Supreme Court Justice (and Boston Brahmin) Oliver Wendell Holmes was known to "enjoy" his taxes. According to Felix Frankfurter’s book Mr. Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court, Justice Holmes told a young law clerk who complained about paying them, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." 

Mitt Romney and Lucille Bluth differ: