Ask 'The Party of Lincoln' About A Progressive Income Tax

Ask ‘The Party of Lincoln’ About A Progressive Income Tax

Jul 1, 2011

Next time a Republican compares themselves to Abraham Lincoln, ask them about taxing the rich.

AbeLincoln Ask The Party of Lincoln About A Progressive Income Tax

Republicans absolutely love calling their cadre “the Party of Lincoln,” clearly hoping to cash in on the late President’s anti-slavery stance to paint themselves as more progressive than they actually are.

And, yes, they’re technically right: Abraham Lincoln was indeed a member of the Republican Party — back in 1860, long before the GOP and Democrats began drifting into one another’s ideological territory to become the parties we know today.

It’s unclear, then, whether Lincoln would indeed identify as Republican these days.

Regardless of how Honest Abe would vote today, GOP officials still insist he’s one of their own. Just consider current House Speaker John Boehner’s 2009 speech commemorating Lincoln’s 200th birthday:

Abraham Lincoln’s rise to the White House paralleled the mounting tension in America over slavery. And by 1854, the Republican Party was formed to oppose slavery’s advancement in the territories, and by 1858, Lincoln himself warned that a house divided cannot stand.

Fine: if GOP officials and adherents want to claim Lincoln’s politics and policies as their own, what do they have to say about one of Lincoln’s less-celebrated accomplishments, the Revenue Act of 1862, signed 149-years ago today?

The nation’s first progressive income tax, the Revenue Act repealed the flat tax rate to pay for the raging Civil War, and enacted a 3% tax hike for people making between $600 and $10,000 annually, and a 5% for those making over $10,000.

In other words, Lincoln believed that rich Americans should pay more than their less wealthy friends and neighbors.

Today, so many years later, Republicans across the nation endorse tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy, claiming that by letting them keep their money, they’ll prop up the economy.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, for example, walked out of debt ceiling negotiations because he refuses to even entertain the possibility of raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans. And the current crop of Republican presidential candidates want to create more mechanisms that benefit the rich and the corporations they control. Lincoln, I am sure, would not approve.

So next time a politician, particularly a Republican, compares themselves to Abraham Lincoln, ask them if they share the late president’s opinion on taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That will give them a run for their money.

Oh, and while you’re at it, ask them about the Republican Party’s 1860 platform, which declared the group would never, ever fight for changes in citizenship law. How times change.

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