Mad Men, then or now?

The fictional television series “Mad Men” does a great job dramatizing the astonishing cultural, social, and political transformation of the United States since the early 1960s. A new report (pdf) from the Institute for Policy Studies now adds some insight into one of the key economic differences between then and now.

This graph from the report compares the actual income taxes paid by the rich in 1961 and 2011. As it happens, 1961 falls right between the time covered by seasons one (March to November, 1960) and two (February to October, 1962) of “Mad Men.”

Effective tax rates, rich taxpayers, 1961 and 2011

Source: Institute for Policy Studies.

Back in 1961, Don Draper and his partners at Sterling Cooper paid somewhere between 27 and 43 percent of their income in federal income taxes. Their counterparts today pay somewhere between 20 and 24 percent. As the IPS report argues, we don’t need austerity, we need tax increases at the top.

One Comment

  1. Jack Funchion says:

    Ahh, those halcyon days.
    I can’t paste the chart I’ve made, but here’s some data for you (BTS should love this one):
    1961 Population — 183,691,000
    1961 Federal Outlays — $648.5 bn (2005 constant dollars)
    1961 Per Capita Federal Spending — $3,530
    2011 Population — 311,185,000
    2011 Federal Outlays — $3,368.9 bn (2005 constant dollars)
    2011 Per Capital Federal Spending — $10,826

    I’ll agree to match the tax rates if you’ll agree to match the spend. As the IPS shows, we don’t need tax increases or austerity, we need to cut federal spending.

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