{{show_title_date || "Rewriting a GOP Congressman on taxes and Lincoln, 12/12/12, 7:00 PM ET"}}

O’Donnell on why Republicans shouldn’t quote Lincoln on taxes


In his Rewrite segment, msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell schooled a Tea Party congressman over his own party’s and President Lincoln’s records.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Republican Congressman John Fleming shared a “bit of trivia that’s not trivia” involving the Republican Party’s history on taxes:

“Our federal tax system began as a result of the 16th Amendment that was ratified in 1913, and do you realize that in this entire time, and even before that going back to the founding of this nation, not once has a Republican-controlled House of Representatives ever lifted the tax rates on the American citizens. So that means that if we do it here, now, this will be unprecedented–raising the federal tax rates on our citizens for the first time in a Republican-led House of Representatives.”

Congressman Fleming paired those comments with an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times, repeating that bit of history. In that op-ed that he quoted Abraham Lincoln: “Adhere to your purpose, and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.”

He failed to mention what the Republican-controlled House of Representatives during Lincoln’s presidency did with taxes. msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell set the record straight on Wednesday’s show:

“That Republican-controlled House actually passed our first income tax which Lincoln signed into law to pay for the Civil War. It was a progressive income tax–3% on annual incomes over $600 and 5% on annual incomes over $10,000. The Supreme Court ruled those taxes constitutional, but decades later in 1895 the Supreme Court reversed the earlier decision and declared federal income taxes unconstitutional–which is why in 1913 it took a Constitutional amendment to re-establish federal income taxation.

O’Donnell also pointed out that Republicans constantly bring up Lincoln any chance they can get “because 21st century Republicans know that Abraham Lincoln is the only Republican that many Americans admire.”

“Abraham Lincoln is also the only Republican president, indeed the only president, who has ever gotten a Republican House of Representatives to raise income taxes. Republicans didn’t just establish the very first income tax as I just described. Two years later, they raised the rates. They doubled the top tax rate from 5% to 10%. That’s back when Republicans were responsible: 150 years ago.”