From Robert Reich’s blog on Sunday: Exactly a century ago, on February 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, authorizing a federal income tax. Congress turned it into a graduated tax, based on “capacity to pay.” . . . The 1880s and 1890s had been the Gilded Age, the time of robber barons, when a small number controlled almost all the nation’s wealth as well as our democracy, when poverty had risen to record levels, and when it looked as though the country was destined to become a moneyed aristocracy. But almost without warning, progressives reversed the tide. Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901, pledging to break up the giant trusts and end the reign of the “malefactors of great wealth.” Laws were enacted protecting the public from impure foods and drugs, and from corrupt legislators. . . .
A progressive backlash against concentrated wealth and power occurred a century ago in America. . . . Only idealists and dreamers thought the nation had the political will to reform itself, let alone enact a constitutional amendment of such importance — analogous, today, to an amendment reversing “Citizens United v. FEC” and limiting the flow of big money into politics. But it did happen. And it will happen again.