National Affairs: Breathing Spell

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"I think we can safely disregard the skeptics. . . .

"We can also disregard those who are actuated by a spirit of political partisanship or by a willingness to gain or retain personal profit at the expense of, and detriment to, their neighbors. . . .

"But there are critics who are honest and nonpartisan and who are willing to discuss and to learn. I believe we owe, therefore, a positive duty to clarify our purposes, to describe our methods and to reiterate our ideals. . . .

"The tax program of which you speak is based upon a broad and just social and economic purpose. Such a purpose, it goes without saying, is not to destroy wealth, but to create a broader range of opportunity, to restrain the growth of unwholesome accumulations and to lay the burdens of government where they can best be carried.

"This law affects only those individual people who have incomes over $50,000 a year and individual estates of decedents who leave over $40,000.

"Moreover, it gives recognition to the generally accepted fact that larger corporations enjoying the advantages of size over smaller corporations possess relatively greater capacity to pay. Consequently the act changes the rate of tax on net earnings from a flat 13¾% to a differential ranging from 12½% to 15%.

"No reasonable person thinks that this is going to destroy competent corporations or impair business as a whole. Taxes on 95% of our corporations are actually reduced by the new tax law. . . .

"Congress declined to broaden the tax base because it was recognized that the tax base had already been broadened to a very considerable extent during the past five years.

"I am aware of the sound arguments advanced in favor of making every citizen pay an income tax, however small his income. England is cited as an example. But it should be recalled that, despite complaints about higher taxes, our interest payments on all public debts, including local governments, require only 3% of our national income as compared with 7% in England.

"The broadening of our tax base in the past few years has been very real. What is known as consumers' taxes, namely, the invisible taxes paid by people in every walk of life, fall relatively much more heavily upon the poor man than on the rich man.

"In 1929 consumers' taxes represented only 30% of the national revenue. Today they are 60%, and even with the passage of the recent Tax Bill the proportion of these consumers' taxes will drop only 5%.

"This Administration came into power pledged to a very considerable legislative program. . . .

"It seemed to Congress and to me better to achieve these objectives as expeditiously as possible in order that not only business, but the public generally might know those modifications in the conditions and rules of economic enterprise which were involved in our program.

"This basic program, however, has now reached substantial completion, and the breathing spell of which you speak is here —very decidedly so."

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