Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Party of Lincoln?

In the old days, the Republican party used to believe in using taxes to build infrastructure for prosperity, protect domestic industry, and carry out the work of the nation.

President Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861 to create the first US federal income tax. That program included a higher rate on those living outside the country. Then in 1862, Lincoln topped that with our first progressive rate income tax by signing the Revenue Act of 1862. Each of these were passed by the 37th United States Congress, with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. In 2008 dollars, the higher rate of the 1862 provision applied to those earning the equivalent of around $221 thousand. To collect that revenue, President Lincoln created the office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. That position eventually became the head of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Republicans largely brought about the First Transcontinental Railroad with such measures as the 1862 Pacific Railway Act (and related acts of 1863 through 1866). Among other steps, they issued government bonds to cover the cost. The bonds were repaid with interest by the railroads, rather like the corporate repayment of bailout money seen after the recent Great Recession that in some parts turned a profit for the taxpayer ... except the railroad project of the 1860s did not require an emergency to trigger action.

The Republican Congress and President Lincoln also gave us the land-grant colleges, under the Morrill Act of 1862. The establishment of land-grant colleges represented a major investment in education. This system of colleges still continues to meet the needs of many of today's employers for a wide variety of skills and to usually offer a relatively low cost of tuition compared to other institutions.

"Republicans are for both the man and the dollar, but in case of conflict the man before the dollar." -- Lincoln

Today's GOP placed tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% as their top priority such that they would block everything else -- no matter how that else might help the common man -- until they got that top 2% their extra dollars. It would be hard to be in more direct opposition to President Lincoln's ideals than the Republicans of today.

No comments:

Post a Comment