Happy birthday Abraham Lincoln!
When Lincoln anniversaries come around I sometimes enjoy comparing the views of the first Republican president to the Republican party of today. Tax policies offer a stark contrast. Lincoln supported progressive income tax structures that asked the rich to pay their fair share.
As a member of the Illinois state legislature, Lincoln defended a property tax because it would mostly be paid by the wealthy. Paul Simon's book, Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness, quotes Lincoln's letter on the tax.
…I believe it can be sustained, because it does not increase the tax upon the “many poor” but upon the “wealthy few” by taxing the land that is worth $50 or $100 per acre, in proportion to its value, instead of, as heretofore, no more than that which was worth $5 per acre. This valuable land, as is well known, belongs, not to the poor, but to the wealthy citizen.
On the other hand, the wealthy can not justly complain, because the change is equitable within itself, and also a sine qua non to a compliance with the Constitution. If, however, the wealthy should, regardless of the justness of the complaint, complain of the change, it is still to be remembered, that they are not sufficiently numerous to carry the elections.
We live in different times. The voice of the wealthy few manage to outweigh the many poor in most elections thanks to unrestricted campaign spending. Illinois' new Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has discussed supporting a sales tax increase that would place a greater burden on the middle class and poor, rather than the 1% Lincoln preferred taxing.
As President, Lincoln created the first income tax. It was so progressive that most Americans paid nothing at all. Republicans today sometimes complain that half of Americans supposedly pay no income tax. That's exactly what Lincoln had in mind when he established a tax on those most able to pay.
Somehow, Lincoln's populist views sound more modern and relevant than today's Republican party that's captured by perpetually complaining billionaires.