How do you define "triple wall of privilege?"


The "triple wall of privilege" was President Woodrow Wilson's sobriquet for the mechanisms that, at the time, were protecting the very wealthy from having to contribute their share to the economy, and the three items in the wall were the tariff, banks and trusts. In order to make taxation more equitable, the American government eventually passed the 16th Amendment which instituted a personal income tax.

Between 1790 and 1914, the tariff was the primary source of revenue from the American government. Taxing imports not only protected American companies from foreign competition, but it also brought funds into the treasury; in those years, there was no personal income tax to bring in money. It worked fairly simply: Treasury agents boarded ships bringing goods to the United States and collected the tax before the ship could unload the goods, and these funds provided as much as 95 percent of the federal government's income. On average, the tariff was approximately 20 percent on foreign imports.

The trusts received Wilson's criticism for creating monopolies that led to unfair competition, and the greed of the banks at times led to foreclosures when people could not pay their mortgages, and Wilson saw these three institutions creating a divide between the rich and the poor.

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