Larry Kudlow

Taking advantage of the populist revolt against Wall Street and AIG bailouts, the House Democrats have passed a vengeance tax on TARPed financial firms that amounts to a 90 percent marginal tax rate on bonuses.

This is being done in the name of AIG outrage, and nobody wants to defend the insurance company -- including me. The financial-products division helped blow up the global credit system, and it shouldn’t be rewarded. Yet one wonders about this 90 percent tax rate. If it passes the Senate, will it ever be repealed? This could be the ultimate class-warfare spread-the-wealth redistribution scheme, aimed squarely at punishing success and penalizing the so-called rich.

Note that the $250,000 cut-off point for the tax is the same line drawn in the sand in Obama’s budget for tax hikes on investors and successful earners. The president is proposing a tax rate of 40 percent, not 90 percent. But connecting the dots between Speaker Pelosi and Pres. Obama, it will be interesting to see if the president dares sign this bill.

And even though the 90 percent tax is a reaction to the AIG bonus fiasco, you have to wonder if the very-liberal-left House Democrats have a much broader agenda: to completely overturn the supply-side tax cuts of Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy.

A bit of history is in order. Following WWI, the Harding-Coolidge-Mellon Republicans returned the country to tax normalcy by reducing Woodrow Wilson’s 75 percent wartime tax to 25 percent -- thus triggering the roaring growth of the 1920s. Then came the Depression, spawned in large part by Herbert Hoover and FDR, who raised the top tax rate to 63 percent, 70 percent, and finally 94 percent.

The Robert Taft Republican Congress elected in 1946 lowered those tax rates, but they later bounced back to 91 percent, where they held until JFK proposed sweeping tax reform in the 1960s. The top tax rate was reduced to 70 percent, igniting the 1960s boom -- until it was undone by the inflationary Fed and Nixon’s de-linking of the dollar from gold. But Pres. Reagan slashed the top tax rate all the way down to 28 percent. This launched a multi-decade boom, with the top rate not straying far from Reagan’s vision.

Now, Pres. Obama has said that he has no intention of returning to the 70 or 90 percent tax rates of the past. But one wonders if the 90 percent House Democratic tax rate on so-called unearned income (bonuses) might not be the congressional tail that wags the presidential dog.

Larry Kudlow

Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” which airs nightly from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.