If we want millionaires to pay more taxes, then we need an economy where there are more millionaires.
He's probably right about that, though not in the way he intends. The country needs an economy that will create more of the "millionaires and billionaires" that Mr. Obama loves to excoriate, not more taxes from those who already exist. Total taxes paid by millionaires fell by almost $100 billion between 2007 and 2010, the last year with statistics available from the Internal Revenue Service. The drop resulted not from too-low tax rates, but from the severe recession and an anemic recovery since 2009 that thinned the ranks of the wealthy.
Let's start with the 1920s. All tax rates were cut during the Calvin Coolidge administration, including the top rate, which fell to 25% from the World War I high of 73%. Between 1923 and 1928, benefited by lower tax rates, the economy surged, raising incomes and living standards for the middle class. Tax collections in real terms nearly doubled—and the share of taxes paid by those who made more than $100,000 a year (more than $1 million today) increased to 51% from 28%.
The top tax rate rose to 63% in 1932, to 79% in 1936, and to 90% during World War II. The higher rates persisted after the war, and while the economy grew as the government's economic role ebbed, high rates generally helped to hold back the pace of growth.