PolitFact awards Mitt Romney the “Pants on Fire” label for saying “redistribution” has “never been a characteristic of America.” It also says this:
A progressive tax system is one that takes a larger share of the income of high-income earners than it does from low-income individuals. Since this revenue is spent on government programs — which benefit people other than just the taxpayer whose income is taken — a progressive tax system is essentially by definition redistributive.
Indeed, the U.S. system, at least if you look at the official rates, has been far more redistributive in the past than it is now, with a top federal income tax rate of 35 percent. Just looking at some previous Republican presidents, the top tax rate was over 50 percent under Warren Harding, over 60 percent under Herbert Hoover, over 90 percent for Dwight Eisenhower’s entire term, 70 percent or higher for Nixon’s entire term, and 70 percent under Gerald Ford, said Daniel N. Shaviro, professor of taxation at New York University Law School.