Abraham Lincoln, in addition to being the Great Emancipator, turned out to be quite prescient. He warned of the peril of granting too much power to the banks and corporations (now hedge funds and multinationals), of corruption in high places (think special interest lobbies and PACs) and the concentration of wealth in a plutocratic oligarchy that will do away with American democracy:
The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon their crimes…. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong their reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
– Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.
The Republicans claim to be the party of Lincoln, but they unfailingly support the idea that lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans will benefit everyone else. This “trickle-down” theory hasn’t worked. The wealthiest people pay the lowest effective rate, because the rate on unearned income (capital gains) was 15 percent (now raised to 20 percent), while workers who earn a salary pay a higher rate. The most extreme refutation of this theory is the galloping gap in wealth between the 400 wealthiest Americans and everybody else. According to Forbes, the aggregate net worth of the richest 400 Americans reached $2.29 trillion in 2014, more than half of the wealth of all Americans combined.