On taxes, let’s be like John F. Kennedy!

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.


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7 thoughts on “On taxes, let’s be like John F. Kennedy!

  1. You miss the point — JFK made a cut to taxes which stimulated the economy. If you were around back then, you and the other liberals would say “JFK only cut taxes for the wealthy,” “JFK is only for millionaires and billionaires,” “how dare he cut taxes for the richest 1% when the poor are starving…” Same ol stuff that you say now.

    Question for you — if tax cuts for the wealthy don’t stimulate the economy (you claim it is just a myth), then why did JFK do it?! He wanted to increase revenues for his programs.

    And regardless if you believe if it spurs the economy or not, a 90% or a 70% tax rate on anyone is immoral. 35% is bad enough. What gives government the right to take that big of a cut from anyone?

    1. No, you miss the point. Kennedy advocating reducing the top marginal tax rate to 65%.

      The current top marginal tax rate is 35%. If tax cuts really stimulate the economy – as I’m sure you believe – then why isn’t our economy booming? After all, federal tax rates are at 50-year lows, so it’s not as if our tax rates are higher than they’ve ever been.

      How low do tax rates have to get without any tangible effect on the economy (besides growing our federal budget deficit even further) before you supply-siders will acknowledge that lowering taxes isn’t as economically stimulative as you want us to believe?

      1. Zach, let me ask you this. Will raising taxes help stimulate the economy, hurt it, or have no effect?

        1. Well, considering that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy did little to stimulate the economy and spur job growth, I fail to see how repealing those tax cuts will somehow send us into an economic freefall.

          However, if you want to keep advocating that taxes for the super-rich need to be really really low so they can buy another private jet or vacation home in the Caribbean, then so be it.

          1. If what you say is true, then I don’t understand why JFK would even bother lower the tax rates at all. What was the point of him doing so? He should have left them where they were and just let the money roll in.

            Ok, let’s see, you believe in government economic stimulus spending but are upset by rich people buying a jet. Are you kidding? Don’t you think buying luxury items stimulates anything? No, better to tax them and they don’t buy that luxury item and put more people out of work.

            They tried that awhile back by putting a new tax on yachts. Guess what, people they decided they didn’t need a yacht at that price and pretty much put everyone who made yachts out of work.

            You really don’t believe taxes affect decisions do you?

            Don’t forget my original point that government has no business confiscating huge sums of money from anyone. It should collect the same % from all of us and let the chips fall where they may.

            1. JFK made it perfectly clear that this was a tax INCREASE. That by closing the loopholes, even by lowering the rates that taxes in this income bracket would go UP!

    2. if tax cuts for the wealthy don’t stimulate the economy (you claim it is just a myth),

      Have you been awake the last 30 years?

      So shockingly FMSN steps in to remind us not to look at the facts; the sky is purple. Just on a different post than I expected.

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