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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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January 28th, 2014
06:18 PM ET

Fmr. Treasury Secretary: People complaining about war on rich need perspective

(CNN) - Venture capitalist Tom Perkins recently compared attacks on the wealthiest Americans to a looming progressive "Kristallnacht."

"I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich,"" Perkins wrote in a letter to The Wall Street Journal.

Perkins later apologized for the Kristallnacht allusion, but defended the rest of the statement on Bloomberg TV.

"You got to have some perspective here," former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"Franklin Roosevelt said of the wealthy, 'They hate me and I welcome their hatred'; top tax rates on the wealthy in this country in the 1950s were 90%; for most of the Reagan administration, they were well above where they are today; President Kennedy sent the FBI to investigate steel executives because he didn't like a price increase that took place in the steel industry," said Summers.

"Forget talking about Andrew Jackson and the like on where the rhetoric in recent days is, compared to where it's been through much of our history," said Summers.

The Harvard professor said he has heard rhetoric from the other side that makes him uncomfortable, saying the country has to find a "middle ground."

"We need a much more inclusive prosperity than we've had. And it doesn't work for the country, it doesn't work for the legitimacy of our institutions when most of the benefits of economic growth, are going to a very small fraction of the population, people like Mr. Perkins," said Summers.

"The right concern for any president, the right concern for any political leader, is with the average incomes of those in the vast middle," said Summers. "On that standard, we've got to do better."

For more of our interview with Larry Summers, check out the video above.,

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