Here's a comment made by one of the American Revolution's heroes, Thomas Paine, in an essay advocating the imposition of an estate tax in post-Revolutionary France-- to fund substantial benefits to those of modest means:
Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
It is a sign of how little progress we've really made that now, more than 200 years later, these words of one of our founding fathers still fall on deaf ears. 21st century politicians, who denounce taxes on the wealthy as "confiscatory," or, "punishing success," represent an ancient, greedy point of view. This outlook survived the American, French, and Russian revolutions. Yet the clear logic and good moral sense of Paine's position still retains its power as well.
We must continue to press the case, as Paul Krugman does so well, that trickle-down policies weaken our economy. But we also shouldn't be afraid to follow Paine-- in calling for restoring the principles of justice, gratitude, and civilization that are essential to any decent society. Helping the middle class and poor will not only stimulate demand, it will restore a sense of self-respect in all Americans.