For centuries, people have debated whether the wealthy should pay more taxes than the poor, and if so, how much more. These issues have never been resolved, and solutions that will satisfy everyone seem unlikely to emerge. In this nation, the notion of "progressive" taxation sparked one of the early battles over tax distribution. Supporters of progressive taxation favored a graduated tax structure, where the tax rate would increase with the taxpayer's income. Opponents of progressive taxation believed that a person should not pay a higher tax rate just because he or she earned a higher income. For most of the nineteenth century, however, this country did not collect an income tax at all.

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