Synopses & Reviews
On tax day, April 15, 2010, hundreds of thousands of Americans demonstrated with signs demanding lower taxes on the richest one percent. Where do protest movements like this come from? Rich people are an unpopular minority with plenty of political influence. Why would rich people need to demonstrate in the streets to demand lower taxes-and why would anyone who wasn't rich join in the protest on their behalf?
Such rich people's movements are hardy perennials of American politics. Ever since the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, they have emerged whenever public policies are perceived to threaten the property rights of rich people. The protesters on behalf of the rich have picked up the protest tactics of the poor and powerless because they have been organized and led by activists who have acquired their skills and protest techniques from other social movements, from the Populists and Progressives of the early twentieth century to the feminists and anti-war activists of the mid-twentieth century.
At times when conservative Republicans are in power, rich people's movements have helped to bring about some of the biggest tax cuts for the rich in American history. This is the untold story of the tax clubs and Tea Parties that have shaped American politics and policy for the last hundred years.
On tax day, April 15, 2010, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets with signs demanding lower taxes on the richest one percent. But why? Rich people have plenty of political influence. Why would they need to publicly demonstrate for lower taxes-and why would anyone who wasn't rich join the protest on their behalf?
Isaac William Martin shows that such protests long predate the Tea Party of our own time. Ever since the Sixteenth Amendment introduced a Federal income tax in 1913, rich Americans have protested new public policies that they thought would threaten their wealth. But while historians have taught us much about the conservative social movements that reshaped the Republican Party in the late 20th century, the story of protest movements explicitly designed to benefit the wealthy is still little known. Rich People's Movements is the first book to tell that story, tracking a series of protest movements that arose to challenge an expanding welfare state and progressive taxation. Drawing from a mix of anti-progressive ideas, the leaders of these movements organized scattered local constituencies into effective campaigns in the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s, and our own era. Martin shows how protesters on behalf of the rich appropriated the tactics used by the Left-from the Populists and Progressives of the early twentieth century to the feminists and anti-war activists of the 1950s and 1960s. He explores why the wealthy sometimes cut secret back-room deals and at other times protest in the public square. He also explains why people who are not rich have so often rallied to their cause.
For anyone wanting to understand the anti-tax activists of today, including notable defenders of wealth inequality like the Koch brothers, the historical account in Rich People's Movements is an essential guide.
About the Author
Isaac William Martin is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California - San Diego. He is the author of The Permanent Tax Revolt, and co-editor of After the Tax Revolt: California's Proposition 13 Turns 30 and The New Fiscal Sociology.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Riddle of Rich People's Movements
Chapter One: The Revolution of 1913
Chapter Two: Populism against the Income Tax
Chapter Three: The Sixteenth Amendment Repealers
Chapter Four: The Most Sinister Lobby
Chapter Five: The Power of Women
Chapter Six: The Radical Rich
Chapter Seven: Strange Bedfellows
Chapter Eight: The Temporary Triumph of Estate Tax Repeal
Conclusion: The Century of Rich People's Movements