Return to the “Good Old Days?” Be careful what you wish for.

I receive a lot of emails, mostly from my conservative friends, of the “Remember When?” variety.  Of course, they focus on the “Leave it to Beaver” days of the 1950 and 60s.  A recent one started me wondering why we look back on those days so fondly. 

After all, the 50s were pre-civil rights and pre-feminism.  They were also the days of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and impending doom from Soviet H-bombs.  And the 60s revolved around the Vietnam War.

So why do we remember those days so fondly?  I’m sure part of the reason is that we were kids and teens who didn’t worry about politics and the ills of the world.  In addition, there was a black and white honesty to those days when right and wrong seemed more clearly defined.  But I submit that one very big reason is that there was less disparity in income.  Around the small town where I grew up, it was more difficult to tell the “haves” from the “have-nots.” 

That was partly due to generational modesty – it just wasn’t polite to show-off. 

It also had a good deal to do with tax codes.  It might surprise you to learn that, during the Republican Eisenhower administration, the income tax rate for the top bracket was 91-92 percent.  In contrast, the tax rate for the bottom bracket was 22 percent.  By 1971, the top rate had dropped to 70 percent while the bottom rate dropped to 14 percent.  And today, the top rate is 35 percent while the bottom bracket is 10 percent.  

Given the fact that income taxes have dropped dramatically since 1951, you would think that most of us would be feeling pretty good about our taxes and government.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing anger as evidenced by the “tea-baggers” and “anti-health care reformists” who shout slogans and carry signs demanding their country back. 

Hmmm…I wonder how those people would feel about bringing back the tax structure of the “good old days?”

Those people seem to forget that many of the things we enjoy and take for granted were created by government and subsidized by taxes:  Education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, V.A., the G.I. Bill, the interstate highway system and the national park system to name just a few. 

The truth is we have more than any of the generations before us.  In general, we keep a greater percentage of our earnings than before.  We have more time for recreation than ever before.  And in comparison to the days of McCarthyism and Jim Crow laws, there’s less government intrusion in our lives.  So why do conservatives think the 50s and early 60s were so wonderful?

My theory is that, we didn’t have people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck ranting about how bad our government is and trying to pit one faction of our population against another.