There is no trope so worn out, dishonest, or silly that some right-wing hack won’t revive it when subjected to the appropriate Pavlovian stimulus – such as, for instance, taxes. Which brings me to Cynthia Davis who, in her latest Capitol Report, has resorted to pushing the Tax Foundation’s old Tax Freedom Day chestnut:
Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, “What price is the nation paying for government?” An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation’s total income. The answer this year is that taxes will amount to 26.89 percent of our income, and the stretch of 99 days from January 1 to April 9 is 26.89 percent of the year. Overall, Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined.
I’ll refrain from overmuch commiseration since I strongly suspect that most of those Americans who made enough money to pay taxes are still getting plenty of food, clothing and shelter – while enjoying the physical, educational and social infrastructure their taxes purchased. Additionally, except for a very few, “tax freedom day” came and went long before the April 1 date cited above. The Center on Budget and Policy Policies publishes an annual analysis of the ways that the Tax Freedom Day percentage misleads:
* The Tax Foundation employs averages in a misleading fashion that overstates the tax burdens of the vast majority of families. Analysis by authoritative institutions such as the Congressional Budget Office shows most Americans pay significantly less in taxes than the Tax Foundation reports.
* In figuring the percentage of income that U.S. families as a whole pay in taxes, the Tax Foundation counts taxes paid on capital gains but ignores the capital gains income on which these taxes are paid. This approach, which Alan Greenspan has said is invalid, artificially inflates the percentage of income consumed by taxes.
* The Tax Foundation analysis also counts as taxes certain non-tax items, like the premiums that older American can elect to pay for Medicare Part B, intra-governmental transfers, and rents that individuals or businesses pay to rent property that state or local governments own. This further inflates tax burdens.
Although the Tax Foundation’s calculation of the tax burden is flawed, and does not provide a reliable measure of the middle class American tax burden, it is still instructive to compare the Tax Freedom Day calculations over a period of years. Doing so shows Davis’ worries about excessive taxation to be no more than a case of hysterical vapors:
The percentage of income that we pay in taxes has been going down for half a century. This year, Americans paid 26.89 percent of their income for all taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. In 2000 we paid 32.98 percent, in 1990 we paid 30.4 percent, in 1980 we paid 30.4 percent, in 1970 we paid 29.6 percent, and in 1960 we paid 27.7 percent. You have to go back to 1950 to find a time when the tax burden was lower (24.6 percent).
If people are complaining about socialism with today’s 35 percent top income bracket, what must they have thought about the 91 percent bracket under Dwight Eisenhower?
If memory serves me right, Eishenhower’s high taxes failed to harm the steady economic growth that characterized the period – nothing like the harm hat George W. Bush’s tax cuts did fifty-odd years later. None of which, however, gives good old, reliably dim Cynthia pause as she breathlessly proclaims:
Congress has taken us to a point where our finances are so out of control; it is as though they made it their goal to destroy the economy of the greatest nation ever and as quickly as possible!