I am constantly amazed (and annoyed) when the Right claims that the US has been hijacked by the Left over the past few decades. This is utter nonsense – the actual evidence indicates that we’ve moved far, far to the Right.
Consider the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States (1953-1961), Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II, and a Republican. Funny thing is, by today’s standards, Ike would be a flaming liberal, to the Left of all recent serious contenders for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Ike on Taxes First, a quick definition of earned income vs. capital gains.
Earned income is income made from a job.
Capital gains, in contrast, is money made from the appreciation in value of something one owns (assets such as stocks, property, art, …), rather than money earned from a job.
Average folks gets most of their income from their jobs, and thus the tax rate on earned income is most important to them. Rich people get most of their income from the appreciation of assets, and thus the tax rate on capital gains is more important to them.
Earned Income Tax: Ike’s Time vs. Our Time
The highest tax bracket on earned income today is 35%. During Ike’s administration, the highest tax bracket was 92% in 1953, and 91% thereafter . Yes, taxes on the Rich were almost three times higher under the Republican Eisenhower compared to our current President, or compared to the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton!
Capital Gains Tax: Ike’s Time vs. Our Time
It is considered to be almost the gospel today that capital gains should be taxed at a far lower rate than earned income. Today the maximum capital gains tax rate is a whopping 15% on assets that have been held for at least a year since purchase. This is why the middle class, who are dependant on earned income, effectively pay taxes at a higher rate than do the wealthy.
In Ike’s day, capital gains were not treated differently from earned income, so the rich paid 91% tax on capital gains. From 91% to 15% – another reason why it’s good to be rich!
Note that in 1955, in the middle of Ike’s presidency, the typical (median) family paid less than 20% in all taxes . By 2003, the total of all taxes paid by a typical family had more than doubled, to almost 40% of income.
So in Ike’s day, the rich paid a lot of taxes, the middle-class paid a little taxes, and somehow it all worked out.
But Did Ike Want To Tax The Rich?
You might be curious as to whether Ike actually wanted such a high tax rate on the Rich, or was somehow forced into it by, say, a Democratically-controlled Congress. It turns out that when Ike ascended to the Presidency, both houses of Congress were indeed controlled by a single party – the Republican party. Republicans controlled the Presidency, the House, and the Senate – they could have done anything they wanted. And some in Congress did pressure Ike to roll back taxes on the rich, but he held the line, saying:
“We cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income,until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced.”
Ike on Defense Ike was one tough hombre, the toughest of the tough. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he had led millions of troops to take back Europe from the Nazis, and he got the job done. An astonishing feat, an honest “Mission Accomplished”. Ike was President during the early part of the Cold War – a war where our opponent had actual weapons of mass destruction pointed at us. Let’s see some of the things that Ike had to say about war, the millitary, and… Halliburton. Would Ike’s views be considered to be Liberal or Right-wing today?
On the millitary in general “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.”
On the Iraq War “All of us have heard this term ‘preventative war’ since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time… I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.”
On Halliburton “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Ike on the Labor Movement We’ll let Ike speak for himself on this one:
“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.”
” . . . Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers, and . . . a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”
and while we’re at it:
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Ike and Socialized Medicine
In 1960 Eisenhower signed into law the Kerr-Mills Bill, generally considered to be the forerunner of Medicare. For the first time, Kerr-Mills provided for government payment of medical bills of 70% of citizens aged 65 and older. When was the last time you heard of even a Democrat suggesting an expansion of socialized medicine?
Ike And Unilateralism Eisenhower knew the value of working closely with allies, and specifically of working out problems peaceully through the UN. While the Right would have you believe that the UN is some sort of recent liberal plot to displace the US, the reality is that the UN grew out of the alliance of 26 nations forged to fight the axis powers in WWII. Eisenhower was, in effect, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for the United Nations. For example, when President Truman announced the surrender of Germany he said “General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations”.
Here, again, are Eisenhower’s own words:
“The world must learn to work together, or finally it will not work at all.”
“If the United Nations once admits that international disputes can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the foundation of the organization and our best hope of establishing a world order. ”
“The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give, it to them.”