After Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised the idea of a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on income over $10 million, the progressive wing of the Twittersphere began pointing out that in the 1950s and early 1960s 1 , the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent.
The progressives’ point was that, despite this seemingly onerous level of taxation, the 1950s were a golden age for the U.S. economy, and the rich did just fine, thank you very much. According to records compiled by the Tax Foundation, a single person making $16,000 in 1955 — that’s $150,000 in today’s dollars — had a marginal tax rate of 50 percent; compensation of $50,000 ($470,000 today) moved you into the 75 percent tax bracket; and an income of $200,000 ($1.9 million today) put you in the 91 percent tax bracket. . (Married couples filing jointly hit the 91 percent mark at $400,000.) Which meant that the federal government took 91 cents of every dollar over $200,000. When you added it all up, someone in 1955 who made $1 million a year paid over $800,000 in taxes.