Federal tax rates: perception vs. reality

Great Dave Leonhardt column yesterday.  Just read it (unless, of course, you are my wife who is the highly unusual reader who reads the blog for the non-political stuff– and because she loves me).  Here’s the crux:

This disconnect between what we pay and what we think we pay is nothing less than one of the country’s biggest economic problems.

Many Americans see themselves as struggling under the weight of a heavy tax burden (partly for the understandable reason that wage growth has been so weak). Yet taxes in the United States are quite low today, compared with past years or those in other countries. Most important, American taxes are not sufficient to pay for the programs that many people want, like MedicareSocial Security, road construction and education subsidies.

What does this combination create? An enormous long-term budget deficit.

Together, all federal taxes equaled 14.4 percent of the nation’s economic output last year, the lowest level since 1950 [emphasis mine]. Add state and local taxes, and the share nearly doubles, to about 27 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center in Washington — still lower than at almost any other point in the last 40 years.

Oh, how I wish every Republican voter had to read that (and actually understand it).   Pretty damn clear that far more than we have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.  At least if you want to approach this Newt Gingrich style (you know, open marriage) like a historian.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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