Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Curb Greed

When I ask people to name the best decade, the 50s are the most popular—the age of Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet. I graduated from high school in 1956 and I certainly wouldn’t argue with that choice. What made it so good—family values, families with just one-wage earner, low taxes, low unemployment. One of the reasons I propose is not true. Family values is a subjective judgment though I suspect most would agree that “family values” were higher in the 50s than now. I can’t find statistics to back up my belief that the percentage of single-wage-earner households was higher in the 50s but it certainly was on television. There was low unemployment--the lowest average unemployment for the decade than any decade since (4.5%). The one that isn’t true is low taxes, at least for the wealthy. The highest tax bracket throughout the 50s was 91%. In fact, in all the years Americans have been taxed there were only two years, 1944 and 45, when there was a higher tax bracket.

I believe there is a direct correlation. The incentive to make millions of dollars when you are only allowed to keep 9% is much less than if you get to keep 65% as currently. Some corporate CEO who might today have gotten a 17 million dollar bonus, might, in the 50s, have said, “Never mind. A million is enough.” Where would the other $16,000,000 have gone? Maybe to share holders. Maybe to consumers of the produce the corporation produced. Either way it would spread the wealth around and make greed less likely.

There is no rational reason for making more than $1 million a year. Bring back the 91% tax on income over $1 million. For those who say that would slow recovery from the recession I suggest you go back to the unemployment table. The decade with the highest rate of unemployment was….can you guess? The 80s, of course. The average for the 80s was 7.27%. I guess there wasn’t enough trickling down. The most recent decade was 5.54%.