At Mises.org this week I was a defense attorney. First for Calvin Coolidge:
As far as federal income-tax rates, it’s true that Coolidge took the advice of his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, to cut them. But that was because they had been raised to an absurd level during World War I. As this history shows, even the rate on the lowest bracket jumped from 1 percent in 1913 to 6 percent by 1918. Moreover, someone who made $20,000 in 1913 paid 1 percent in federal income taxes, but because the brackets were redefined, someone earning the same money income in 1918 paid a whopping 20 percent in federal tax. (Note too that from June 1913 to June 1918 the Consumer Price Index rose 50 percent, so that a given money income purchased far less in actual goods and services.)
In contrast to this onerous burden created under Woodrow Wilson, during the Coolidge years the bottom bracket’s tax rate was brought down to 1.5 percent by 1926, while an upper-middle-class (though hardly “filthy rich”) household earning $20,000 saw its tax rate slashed to 9 percent.
As far as fiscal responsibility, Coolidge was superlative, perhaps second only to Andrew Jackson, who literally paid off the national debt (as well as slew the central bank). Coolidge had a much more modest success, in that he ran budget surpluses every year he was in office.
Then today I defend libertarianism from Christopher Beam’s critique:
The standard moral objections to theft and killing don’t magically disappear just because a group of professional liars reclassifies them as “taxation” and “national defense.”