I’ve been listening to Eisenhower in War and Peace. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sometimes reference Eisenhower-era top marginal tax rates as evidence that the U.S. economy can thrive under a similar system. Eisenhower, himself, though, managed to avoid these rates. He was paid roughly $6 million in today’s dollars for writing Crusade in Europe (one thing that Eisenhower did not foresee was the rise of Islam as a military force!). Instead of the deal with the publisher being structured as advance-plus-royalties it was a lump sum for turning over the completed manuscript. Thus it qualified for a roughly 25 percent capital gains tax rate rather than a marginal ordinary income tax rate of 82 percent.
[Note that Eisenhower was generally in favor of trimming government spending, especially military spending (the biggest budget item of the time), so as not to “rob citizens of the fruits of their labors.” But he abhorred deficit spending/government borrowing, the U.S. was heavily indebted following World War II (though not as indebted in the 1950s as now), and therefore did not help Congress deliver on Republican campaign promises to cut tax rates.]
Another tax comparison from the book: A Federal gasoline tax of 4 cents/gallon was imposed in the mid-1950s to pay for building the Interstate Highway System. That works out to 36 cents/gallon in today’s mini-dollars. Current Federal gas tax is 18 cents/gallon, which turns out not to be enough to maintain the system (Heritage). (See “Cost to renovate Longfellow Bridge compared to its construction cost”)