OUR TAX STRUCTURE USE TO BE MUCH MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN IT IS TODAY.
For a glimpse of the problem with our current tax structure, see the US states map at the following URL to see how much more the bottom 20% are paying in taxes, as a percentage of income, over the top 1%.
The graph below shows the 99 year history of tax rates for four incomes levels in the US. The data is adjusted for inflation and reflect the current value of the dollar. Tax rates for those making one-million dollars are in blue, those making $100,000 are in pink, those making $50,000 (approx. median household income) are in brown, and those making $25,000 (half of all American make less than $26,364) are in black. All rates are based on the married, filing jointly category. The tax information begins in 1913 and continue through 2011.
See data source here: http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2011-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets
What the graphic says to me is that for most of the last 100 years the wealthiest Americans have been paying more taxes than they are today, a lot more. Also, there was a period from around 1932 to 1988 when tax rates were lower for the working poor than for middle Americans. I also noticed that beginning in the early 1980's the tax brackets for the wealthy began collapsing until 1987 when a person making a million dollars a year was paying the same tax rate as someone making $117,760 per year. This had the effect of adding millions of tax payers into the same federal tax bracket as the ultra-wealth. From a political perspective, they became a single voting block on the issue of taxation. Also note that the tax rates for the two lower incomes jumped significantly in 1942-1946 and has been relatively steady since, decreasing only slightly during the Reagan administration when taxes on the wealthiest Americans began dropping sharply. Remember that mantra in the 80's, "It's not what you make, it's what you keep." This was never truer than for the wealthiest among us.
See Raw Data Here
The Rise and Fall of the US Progressive Tax Structure