Chart of the Day: Tax Rates on the Rich and the Rest of Us

Over at Slate, Jordan Weissmann notes that the fabled 90 percent top tax rate on the rich back in the 1950s is a bit of a myth. It’s true, he says, that this was the top marginal rate on ordinary income, but the average tax rate on the rich was considerably less. In fact, Scott Greenberg of the conservative Tax Foundation argues that “taxes on the rich were not that much higher” back in the 50s than they are today.

My first thought was: Great. Now you tell us. I guess we never really needed those huge Reagan tax cuts after all.

Bygones. However, something else caught my eye. Greenberg relied on data from Gabriel Zucman, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez on average tax rates over time. Here’s what that looks like:

This chart accounts for all taxes: federal, state, local, income, payroll, etc. Everything. And while it’s true that the rich didn’t pay 90 percent of their entire income in federal taxes back in 1951, it’s also true that their average tax rate has gone steadily down in the entire era since World War II. And this has happened at the same time that their share of total national income has nearly doubled.

Income way up, tax rates way down. Nice work if you can get it.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate