Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

We hear a lot of talk about the disappearing middle class. Sometimes this jabber goes so far as to posit that normal folks — say, the “99 percent” — haven’t really experienced any progress since the ’60 or ’70s.

So blame the rich. And their government.

It’s not an implausible case. Wealthy interests do rent politicians at extravagant rates, changing policy in their favor.

But as economist Russ Roberts and Cornell University’s Richard Burkhauser discussed recently, sloppy statistics feed the hand-wringing over middle-class decline. Considering government transfer payments from rich to poor and plotting income by household rather than individually, the basic “stagnation” thesis doesn’t pass the “smell test.”

For the real stink, however, consult the Internet memes, particularly this goofy contention:

In the 1950s and 1960s when the top tax rate was 70-92%, we laid the interstate system, built the Internet, put a man on the moon, defeated Communism, our education system was the envy of the world, our middle class thriving, our economy unparalleled. You want that back? Raise taxes on the rich.

Forget the obvious nonsense (ARPANET was the Internet only in ovo; Communism collapsed in the ’80s), and concentrate on the main points, as Tom Woods has done: tax evasion was rampant back in the alleged “good ol’ days”; public schools have doubled in per capita spending since then, and not improved; and the stagflationary ’70s followed the booming ’60s, almost certainly as a consequence of the policies being touted, here.

Selective memories help in constructing just-so policy “proofs.” The middle class has received some big hits, I grant you. Still, we’ve seen progress, too.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


By: Redactor


  1. Drik says:

    “we have to change our history”_M. Obama.

  2. John says:

    Back in the ’60’s, when I was in school, it was estimated that 5% of Americans cheated on their taxes. Americans were called the most honest tax payers in the world. Going after that last 5% has resulted in today’s tax code.
    A flat tax, with major penalties for that 5%, if they happen to get caught cheating (risk vs. reward), would solve a lot of problems.

  3. Drik says:

    A government worthy of defending, that didn’t lie to its citizens, that did’t mortgage their future, that didn’t blow millions on parties and billions on give-aways to sharia-supporting foreign governments and radicals, would solve a lot of problems. THAT would be a government that held true to the ideals that formed this country, that man can govern himself. THAT would be a govnernment that was worthy of not being lied back to.

  4. BetteRose says:

    People forget what living was like in the 50’s – no microwave, no dishwashers, most of the upper lower class didn’t even have washing machines and a lot of us didn’t have dryers. Computers? No one had them. Televisions? Only the well off poor had them. All these are considered necessities even for the very poor.
    And what came with the standard car? No air conditioning, am radio (maybe), no back windshield wipers and I could go on.
    Do we really want to go back to the 50’s? Sure maybe the rich are far richer but high tide raises all boats. So the next time you think you’re poorer than your parents/grandparents, remember all the things they didn’t have. You have cell phones that do everything because rich people spent a lot of money on the first generation. The same goes for most of the advanced items you own. A calculator that I struggles to raise the money for in 1974 ($85 in ’74 dollars!) now cost about $15 inTODAY’S dollars – 3% of what I originally paid!

  5. I still can’t get my leftist fellow law students to believe that the U.S. ever had a 70-92% tax rate…*sigh*

  6. …i.e. the discussion ends there with them being up in arms shouting “nooo, we’ve never had a tax rate THAT high”

    but yeah, if they listened and looked it up, they’d probably skew it into the glory days…:p

    Sorry for the cynicism btw, great post

  7. Jay says:

    Re: Education.

    Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s (I was in school then; my mother was a teacher), THERE WERE: FEW STUDENTS IN ONE PARENT FAMILIES (especially in the 1950’s and early 1960’s); EVEN FEWER STUDENTS WHO DID NOT SPEAK ENGLISH- that is, there were fewer–MUCH FEWER students who did not know (at least) basic English.

    In the 1950’s and 1960’s, if a student misbehaved, HIS PARENTS MADE SURE THAT IT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN. Contrast that with what happened in Illinois a few weeks ago–a coach ahd a girl do laps for (actually 2 girls do the laps) for something. The father of one came and beat up the coach- making the coach unconscious, and would have done more had another teacher wrestled the father (? animal, in my view, betetr term) off; and a friend of the “father” said the father did the ” right thing”–and, as I recall, said something liek, ” the coach was f——- with hsi daughter, you ahd to protect the child”. (Note, there was NOTHING SEXUAL happening).

    In the 1950’s and 60’s- the CHILD would have ahd the beating.

    Don’t blame the schools and teachers for all that is wrong. Place much of the blame where it belongs–on the aprents who do not give a dman; on a society that rewards mediocrity; and a policy, from the top down, that makes learning English unimportant.

  8. John Illinois says:

    We forget that while the “tax rate” did go up to 90%, there were so many deductions that NOBODY paid the 90% rate. Remember, that top marginal rate was on THE NEXT TAXABLE DOLLAR ABOVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT, not the whole total income. I recall working for a girl friend’s father who was an accountant, working on fairly simple tax returns. Pretty much, if you made under $10,000 a year, (about double the median income), had a wife and 3 or 4 kids, a car payment, a house payment, some charitable donations, your total federal income tax liability might be a couple hundred bucks. There wasn’t any state income tax in Michigan at that time, or city income tax, either, and sales tax, which was deductible, was like 3%.

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