More on Tea Parties and Higher Taxes

I was traveling and away from the Internet for most of last week, and will be traveling and away from the Internet for most of this week. But I did want to note a couple of columns from Bruce Bartlett that I thought had nice raw data on a question that came up last week: The relative burden of American taxes.


Bartlett's first column looks at how American taxation compares internationally. Here's the breakdown of OECD taxes as a percentage of GDP:

taxes as share of GDP, international, forbes.png

And here are the effective tax rates on the average worker across the same countries:

effective rate on average worker, international, forbes.png
Bartlett's second column compares taxes historically, within the United States. Here's the breakdown of effective tax rates on the median American family over the last 50 years:

effective tax rate on median family, forbes.pngI would add a couple of points about this. First, this data isn't an airtight argument against the claim that American taxes are, at the moment, too high. You could say, quite consistently, that American taxes were too high in the past, and that most of the OECD nations have taxes that are too high in the present.

Nor does this data say anything about where taxes will go into the future. One thing that struck me about the response to last week's post about the tea parties was the amount of concern about higher future taxes that will result from higher present spending. (Not that comments are a necessarily a representative slice of anything, but still.) That is a perfectly legitimate concern.

But I think this data does put the present tax furor in context. It certainly makes me feel less oppressed by the current state of American taxation.

Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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