In one of his first acts as president, John F. Kennedy signed into law a bill cutting taxes – including taxes for the wealthy, which were cut by nearly 20%. Kennedy’s actions to cut taxes have drawn praise from Republicans like Speaker of the House John Boehner, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, and for once I actually agree with Republicans, because I’d like to see a return to the tax rates signed into law by President Kennedy, which included a top tax rate of 70% on the nation’s top wage earners.
The tax reform passed after Kennedy’s death cut the top marginal tax rate from 90 percent to 70 percent, twice today’s top rate of 35 percent. Kennedy explicitly called for a top rate of 65 percent, but added that it should be set at 70 percent if certain deductions weren’t phased out at the top of the income scale.
– Kennedy called for U.S. corporations to be taxed on all their profits, earned anywhere in the world, rather than the current system of allowing them to defer taxation until they bring those profits home. “The undesirability of continuing deferral is underscored where deferral has served as a shelter for tax escape through the unjustifiable use of tax havens such as Switzerland,” Kennedy said in 1961. During Kennedy’s time in office, corporate taxes made up more than 20 percent of total revenue. Today, it’s less than ten percent.
– Kennedy called for cutting tax preferences for the oil and gas industries, saying in 1963 that, “while these are complex as well as controversial problems, we cannot shrink from a frank appraisal of governmental policies and tax subsidies in this area.” Republicans have been adamantly opposed to cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies.
– Kennedy called for limiting itemized deductions for the rich, saying that they should receive the same benefit for things like charitable giving “as everyone else,” instead of preferential treatment (which they still receive). President Obama has called for the same system since he came into office, but the GOP has derided Obama’s proposals.
Perhaps Republicans like John Boehner, Jim Demint, and Scott Brown are starting to realize what most reasonable folks have already come to accept – that idea that tax cuts for the wealthy spur the economy and create jobs is a myth, kind of like unicorns, leprechauns, and the tooth fairy.