TAXES: The Big Bite

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The charts which record this transformation make nostalgic reading for the American of today. When the citizen of 1916 paid his local town or city taxes, he satisfied almost three-fourths of his year's tax bill—the states took 11%, the Federal Government 23%, and the whole shooting match came to only $3 billion. Even as late as 1939 (when, despite New Deal spending, all taxes totaled only $12.3 billion), Washington took little more than a third. In fiscal 1950, the Federal Government gulped up 70% of the $53 billion tax pie. The percentage is still rising. Trying to tag along on the gravy train, 29 states now have income taxes of their own on the books.

On the forms now being made out for 1951 incomes:

¶ 1,526,000 people with incomes under $1,000 a year will pay an average of $25 each.

¶I Nearly 6,000,000 taxpayers between $1,000 and $2,000 will pay $125 each—twice as much as the $10,000-income man under the 1913 law.

¶ The whole group of 33,900,000 taxpayers with incomes under $5,000 will pay more than $8 billion, as much as the whole federal budget in 1938.

¶ Another $5 billion will come from the 6,300,000 taxpayers between $5,000 and $10,000, who will have an average tax of $811.

¶ As for the "millionaires," the 95,000 with incomes over $50,000 a year will kick in only about $4.4 billion.

Most of these, of course, are not millionaires at all, but high-salaried executives who live for a day, like gaudy moths, in the bright light of the tax collector's investigators. Surtaxes consume their substance. They have no more chance of getting rich by saving than a Nebraska hog farmer of Bryan's day had of eating oysters with Ward McAllister.

Taxes, federal, state and local, will take about 32% of all the money made in the U.S. in 1952. The American taxpayer who consoles himself that he is far better off than his British cousin may find it an interesting fact that Britain takes about the same percentage (not counting another 4% for social security). The American income tax provides 45% of all federal revenues. The British income tax amounts to only 30% of current British government revenues.

The British taxpayer feels complete assurance that his tax is honestly collected. The U.S. taxpayer felt the same way until Senator John J. Williams (R., Del.) began looking under logs and finding numerous parasites of the pyramiding public revenues. There is no evidence that graft takes a large part of the tax bill, but the overburdened U.S. taxpayer rightly considers it outrageous that it takes any at all.

But is the American taxpayer justified in his current grumbling about taxes? Shouldn't he agree with the late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society"?* Or with the late Movie Star Carole Lombard, who made $465,000 in 1937, paid state and federal taxes of $397,000, and just loved to do it? Said Carole: "The Government spent it on improvements to the country, and I really think I got my money's worth."†

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