FDR had this to say about paying taxes:
"Taxes, after all, are the dues that we pay for the privilege of membership in an organized society. And as society becomes more civilized, Government - national, State and local government - is called on to assume more obligations to its citizens.
"The privileges of membership in a civilized society have vastly increased in modern times. But I am afraid we have many who still do not recognize their advantages and want to avoid paying their dues."
Yes, we definitely do, and in fact FDR continues along those lines here:
"On the one hand, there has been the vast majority of citizens who believed that the benefits of democracy should be extended and who are willing to pay their fair share to extend them. On the other hand, there has been a small, but powerful group which has fought the extension of those benefits, because it did not want to pay a fair share of their cost."
Which is just boiling it down to the essential issue here, which is that FDR wanted to use tax dollars to expand things like Medicare. Well, it wasn't Medicare back then. Social Security, certainly, unemployment insurance, things like that.
And the equivalent of the Koch brothers of that day, the wealthy conservatives of his day were saying, "wait a minute, this is socialism, you're helping people out and they didn't work for the money and they didn't inherit the money and you have to do one or the other, right?"
Right. FDR continues:
"Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle."
This should be fairly straightforward stuff, fairly easy to figure out. And here he is one more time. This is Franklin Roosevelt about taxes:
"We fought the World War; and it cost us twenty-five billion dollars in three years to win it. We borrowed to fight that war. A Democratic Administration provided sufficient taxes to pay off the entire war debt within ten or fifteen years. Those taxes had been levied according to ability to pay. But the succeeding Republican Administration did not believe in that principle, and there was a reason. They had political debts to those who sat at their elbows. To pay those political debts, they reduced the taxes of their friends in the higher brackets and left the national debt to be paid by later generations."
And it was 1936 that Franklin Roosevelt made that speech. He was talking about what happened in the Roaring Twenties. When you consider it, it's really quite extraordinary, the whole story of taxation, and there's almost nothing new here. In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt said Republicans want to cut taxes on rich people because they owe them political debts. Now, what kind of political debt did they owe them? Well, obviously the rich people helped them get elected, gave them power. Here's FDR again:
"They got out from under then, they would get out from under now - if their friends could get back into power and they could get back to the driver's seat. But neither you nor I think that they are going to get back."
They have got back right now. They're essentially running the show, and that's the thing that FDR obviously didn't anticipate. Here's FDR one more time:
"But you would think, to hear some people talk, that those good people who live at the top of our economic pyramid are being taxed into rags and tatters. What is the fact? The fact is that they are much farther away from the poorhouse than they were in 1932. And you and I know that as a matter of personal observation."
In other words FDR had fixed the economy to a large extent. Keep in mind this is 1936, we were arguably still in the Great Depression, but a lot had had resolved. This is just amazing to step into the Wayback Machine and discover that the exact same fight that we're having today, which is Republicans standing up for the interests of rich people and wanting to screw working people, is the exact same fight that Franklin Roosevelt was fighting in 1936. Here he is:
"A number of my friends who belong in the very high upper brackets have suggested to me on several occasions of late, that if I am reelected president, they will have to move to some other Nation because of high taxes here. Now I will miss them very much."
There you go. We're all going to miss them very much.