Thanks to the lovely folks at the National Archives, we now know a little something about taxation, rich people, and American history that we didn't know before. We've long known that during World War II the marginal tax rates on the richest Americans reached as high as 94% in the last two years of the war. But a new release gives us some enlightening details.
In 1943 the IRS compiled a list of the richest Americans and calculated the percentage of their total income that they paid in taxes, after deductions and all that. The National Archives has just released this list, and here, courtesy of Sam Pizzigati and David Sirota, are a couple of illuminating comparisons:
The CEO of IBM, in 1943: Thomas Watson. Take-home pay (2010 dollars): $7.7 million. Taxed: 69%.
In 2009: Sam Palmisano. Take-home pay: at least $24.3 million. Taxed: about 24.1%.
A defense contractor CEO, 1943: Carl Swebilius of High Standard Manufacturing. Take-home pay (inflation-adjusted): $9.4 million. Taxed: 43%.
2009: Robert Stevens of Lockheed Martin. Take-home pay: $21.6 million. Taxed: a bit more than 20%.
So if we want to reduce the deficit, I say we start by raising these millionaires' taxes by, oh, I don't know, maybe 10%? They'll still be earning vastly more and paying significantly less in taxes than they would have been 60 years ago.
Pizzigati's great post has more comparisons and info about this. Like any good historian I tried to go to the source and look at the data, but neither Pizzigati nor Sirota cited it and the National Archives website doesn't have it. In fact, everything I can find about it on the internet just links back to Pizzigati. Naturally this makes me nervous, but I'm going to try to track down the original source. (Remember your sixth-grade lesson about primary sources and newspaper bias? I do. Examples included the New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Post. Discuss.)