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Taxes today are lower than they were under President Reagan.
June 11, 2011 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Ten Charts that Prove the United States Is a Low-Tax Country from the Center for American Progress.
posted by blue_beetle (70 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nope. Tax cuts are the only answer. Forever and ever, amen.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:05 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


And if you're a corporation, you don't even have to worry about paying them anyway!
posted by not_on_display at 9:22 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


1 trillion a year in tax loopholes. Where's my loophole?
posted by stbalbach at 9:35 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


State taxes? City taxes? Sales taxes? I did a comparison a while back between the US and UK, it seemed to be a wash between the two in terms of the overall amount of tax I paid. I think if you have some money in the US and can pay an accountant to get the breaks and loopholes, it gets much better, but that's a different story.
posted by carter at 9:35 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also a bunch of those charts are for the wealthy and/or corporations (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). So it seems a bit selective to me, and not relevant to my circumstances.
posted by carter at 9:55 PM on June 11, 2011


With England the home of the 20% VAT & whatever ridiculous rate its fuel duty works out to (apparently it's calculated by volume instead of just a percentage of sale price, but either way it's about the highest in Europe), I can't imagine it being an even break between the two on average.
posted by scalefree at 9:58 PM on June 11, 2011


I would happily pay a 20% VAT if it meant my money went to all the things it would in the UK. Id pay even more, if it meant good roads, healtcare, social services, good schools, and all those things.

And yet in this country, where billion dollar corporations get away tax free, and I pay more in percentage of income taxed than men who make 1000x what I do every month (not kidding), I have a steel plate in front of my complex (been there three months) and a crumbling infrastructure and... yeah.

... I hate my country.
posted by strixus at 10:02 PM on June 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Facts are facts. I would like to add that the cost of our imperial (military) adventures is the nail in the coffin. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to want to address the obvious financial facts which prohibit us from funding programs which educate our children, help the homeless and the mentally ill, address the issues around our massive prison system, and otherwise ameliorate the problems the USA has within its borders. Those with many millions of dollars and many homes run our country. Plutocracy? Corportocracy? Choose your label: democracy and republic are too quaint for words.
posted by kozad at 10:04 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe VAT's changed (I have been away for a loooong time); and it all depends on where you live in the US as sales taxes are set locally (state/county/city); but I figured out the overall tax burden for my individual circumstances to be about 40% on both sides.

I was actually doing the calc to show that you could have things like the NHS and not be taxed inordinately.
posted by carter at 10:06 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't matter. If nearly half the US population believes, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the Earth was formed only a few thousand years ago what effect will a thousand graphs on taxation have on changing minds?
posted by Neiltupper at 10:11 PM on June 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


That estate tax thing is in-fucking-excusable. I've stated the obvious before: entrenched wealth is a huge threat to a democracy. I guess when you no longer have one it doesn't matter, so carry on.

TL,DR: Heirs should get their own damn job.
posted by maxwelton at 10:43 PM on June 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


carter: “I did a comparison a while back between the US and UK, it seemed to be a wash between the two in terms of the overall amount of tax I paid.”

First of all, have you ever actually lived in the UK? Second, even if you have, I sincerely doubt that your situation is necessarily typical, even assuming that your numbers were right. Until I see data, I don't really accept this.
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


stbalbach: "1 trillion a year in tax loopholes. Where's my loophole?"

st: Where's my loophole?
gvt: What?
st: Rich people get tax loopholes. Why don't I get one?
gvt: How much does your corporation make a year?
st; I don't have a corporation. Should I?
gvt: No. Not really. Then we would know that you're trying to avoid paying your fair share of taxes.
gvt: How much do you make a year? $50 million? $100 million. We want to help you.
st: Um, I make less than six figures...
gvt: WHAT? Why am I talking to you. Go away. Now your income is taxed at 25%. Keep bothering me and it will be 35%
st: But...
gvt: 37% I can do this all day. Anything else to say?
st: I guess not..
gvt: 39% you don't know when to shut up do you?
gvt: Hmmm?
gvt: Oh, quiet now, are you?
gvt: Now I'll tax your purchases just to be sure. 10% sales tax. You prole.
posted by Splunge at 11:09 PM on June 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Duhh, obviously this indicates that the reason for America's FUCK YEAH superiority is our low taxes! We just need to lower them even more to become even more superior!

(hamburger)
posted by hattifattener at 11:12 PM on June 11, 2011


That estate tax thing is in-fucking-excusable. I've stated the obvious before: entrenched wealth is a huge threat to a democracy. I guess when you no longer have one it doesn't matter, so carry on.

Rather than the "Estate tax thing," I'm assuming you mean "the lack thereof."

The United States is a plutocracy, and has been for quite some time (if not for the entire duration of its existence). Plain and simple.
posted by schmod at 11:32 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why we have the income tax is even more interesting.
posted by banished at 11:40 PM on June 11, 2011


The way to win political battles is to keep fighting until you win. Keep pressing. People know this is needed and eventually the loud shouters will be beaten. But you must keep fighting and not despair.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:57 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The more you need facts and figures as proof the US is a low tax country, the less likely you are to believe those facts and figures.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:08 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The United States is a plutocracy, and has been for quite some time (if not for the entire duration of its existence).

More of a Goofyocracy IMO
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:53 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cherry picked statistics.

Why do their date ranges vary? If this was supposed to be a longitudinal study then they should have used the same date ranges.

Also, why did they choose 1945 as the earliest date to poll; tax data is available long before that.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 1:39 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


AndrewKemendo: “Cherry picked statistics.”

Refute them with data.

How about this: Americans are the greediest people on earth, and the most loathing of taxes. And after almost two and a half centuries of demanding that our politicians cut our taxes as much as possible, it's likely that they've given in to us on more than one occasion.

I can point to these charts to stand behind that assertion. What exactly can you point to?
posted by koeselitz at 1:44 AM on June 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


This has long been blindingly obvious to non-Americans. As has the size and opaqueness of the blinders many of the US right strap to their heads in order not to notice it.
posted by Decani at 1:59 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have lived in the US and the UK, and I can say with certainty that it is basically a wash, at least for someone on my income of £25000 per year (I made about the same in the states). I am, however, factoring in the fact that over here,I don't pay $200 per month for shitty health insurance. If I were to factor in the money I save by using public transport- NOT an option where I lived in the states- the balance would tip decidedly in favour of the UK.

I understand that those making more money that I am pay a higher percentage of tax. I'm absolutely fine with that.
posted by Wroksie at 2:33 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe VAT's changed (I have been away for a loooong time); and it all depends on where you live in the US as sales taxes are set locally (state/county/city); but I figured out the overall tax burden for my individual circumstances to be about 40% on both sides.

My experience of living in the UK and US is that the 'tax' burden is about the same between both as well, you're just taxed in different ways. Health insurance, in the US, is a 'tax' which I doubt is accounted for in these charts, for instance.
posted by plep at 2:45 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also property taxes in the US can be way higher than the council tax in the UK. I would definitely dispute that the US is a low-tax country compared to the UK.
posted by plep at 2:48 AM on June 12, 2011


"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
Leona Helmsley, "Queen of Mean"
posted by yoyo_nyc at 3:21 AM on June 12, 2011


Byron Looper and Richard Kyanka are undoubtedly pleased with this conclusion.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:23 AM on June 12, 2011


It's worth pointing out that corporate taxes are quite high in the UK, at least according to those charts, and very low in the USA.

So it's quite possible that individuals such as Wroksie pay about the same tax in the US and the UK; the diference in overall tax take is accounted for by the low corporate (and maybe estate) taxes in the US.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:26 AM on June 12, 2011


Chart 2 represents "total taxes paid to all levels of government". If it's correct, then the US is taxed well below UK levels, high property or state taxes notwithstanding.
posted by alexei at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2011


First of all, have you ever actually lived in the UK?

Yes, for a long time. And in the US as well. Paid taxes in both.
posted by carter at 4:39 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


... and Wroksie's and plep's points about health insurance differences are also important.

I want to be clear that I was talking about how I was an individual was affected by taxes, and not overall tax policy. Maybe averaged out on a per capita/gdp level it is lower in the US, but that is probably because some rich entities are not paying a lot of taxes.

On a more philosophical note, American friends and colleagues will sympathize with me for the taxes I had to pay in the UK. Low US taxes seems to be a kind of 'anti-socialist/pro-freedom' mantra. Most people do not believe that taxes in the US for the working/middle classes actually quite high, once you add everything up, and all the institutions that take a bite. The "European social policies = high tax = socialism" thing thrown around by the pols here is a big con.
posted by carter at 4:52 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The information is great, which makes it even more unfortunate that the graphs totally suck.
posted by dfan at 5:04 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


carter I think that you are getting it the wrong way around. All that "socialism vs. Freedom" talk is just code for: "we don't want to pay no taxes". Because no European country is even remotely socialistic.
Thing is, nobody likes taxes. But everybody likes the stuff that taxes pay for. The Republicans are probably going to find the hard way when the elderly voters that they mobilized against healthcare reform on the spurious ground that "Obama was going to take their Medicare away" find out that Ryan is going to...er...take their Medicare away.
The European economies that are faring best in the current turmoil are the definitely high-tax Scandinavians, Germany and, to a lesser extent, France. On the other hand, among the ones that are doing worse are low-tax Ireland and Spain. That alone ought to discredit "trickle-down" economics. The Greeks are being criticized for the extent to which widespread tax fraud undermines their fiscal policy, but what is the difference between an US corporation that funnels millions into political campaign funds in exchange of generous loopholes by grateful lawmakers, and a Greek businessman that cuts the intermediary and simply "forgets" to declare its income? (well, at least tax fraud is open to everybody, whereas legislative benevolence is available only to the very wealthiest).
posted by Skeptic at 5:27 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: I can point to these charts to stand behind that assertion. What exactly can you point to?

You pointing to them doesn't make them persuasive to a statistician.

I'm not refuting the assertions of the article, only the fact that they base their point through terrible statistical methods - cherry picking dates which correspond to the information that matches the argument not the other way around. So to me the charts mean very little to the overall point - a point I happen to agree with.

It's sad that people assume that because someone disputes the method it means they dispute the conclusions. There is this pretense of good science with all claims which just doesn't exist in the least...Goes to shows that few people know that the majority of "proofs" are confirmation bias.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:45 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I should also mention that if the page really wanted to be accurate it would reach back to 1800s, like this page does so well
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:51 AM on June 12, 2011


It's sad that people assume that because someone disputes the method it means they dispute the conclusions.

C'mon get real. This is metafilter.
posted by Xurando at 5:51 AM on June 12, 2011


But everybody likes the stuff that taxes pay for.


Love me some war, especially when my friends get blown up. Was that the tax stuff I was supposed to like?
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:53 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish that we could have a nation wide experiment where no taxes whatsoever are collected from anybody for one year. If tax cuts are so great, then America would automatically turn into a utopia.
posted by Renoroc at 6:00 AM on June 12, 2011


What would the tax burden on an average individual be like if our war budget was brought in line with the expenditures of other industrialized democracies?
posted by jtron at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2011


Whew! Thank goodness our political policies and discourse are based on solid evidence!
posted by Legomancer at 7:02 AM on June 12, 2011


> It's sad that people assume that because someone disputes the method it means they dispute the conclusions.

I don't see anyone here actually disputing the method. You, for example, cast vague aspersions on it, but the only concrete objection you have is a quibble about dates before 1945.

Has it occurred to you how bizarre and trivial an objection that seems to the rest of us? Absolutely everything about society and the economy has changed completely in the last 70 years - these aren't just quantitive but qualitative changes. It's likely that not one human being who paid taxes before 1945 is reading this article (but I hope I'm wrong! Hi!)

In the middle of the 20th century, governments all over the world, particularly in the West, changed completely and dramatically, providing far more services to their citizens.

To dismiss a study on taxation levels out of hand, simply because it doesn't consider the Victorian Era, is bizarre.

Feel free to present an actual rebuttal of the article! I haven't really tried to pick it apart, there could be great holes in it. But just throwing random aspersions at it isn't a rebuttal, and comments like this where you present yourself as far superior to certain unnamed "people" on this thread:

> It's sad that people assume that because someone disputes the method it means they dispute the conclusions. There is this pretense of good science with all claims which just doesn't exist in the least...Goes to shows that few people know that the majority of "proofs" are confirmation bias.

simply come off as braggadocio, to me at least.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:24 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of a recent AskMe question about taxes.
posted by box at 7:47 AM on June 12, 2011


I have lived in the US and the UK, and I can say with certainty that it is basically a wash, at least for someone on my income of £25000 per year [...] I am, however, factoring in the fact that over here,I don't pay $200 per month for shitty health insurance.

$200!? Try again.

And that was two years ago.

All that just for them to deny any and all claims by default, forcing you to fight them for every single cent of coverage you've already paid through the nose for.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love me some war, especially when my friends get blown up. Was that the tax stuff I was supposed to like?

Strangely enough, in the US, "defense" spending is the sacred cow that no-one dares to touch (and definitely not the Republicans). While this may be a testimony of the arms industry's lobbying power, it seems also to stem from a genuine public demand.

On the other hand, US defense spending usually hovers at around 4% GDP. The current budget deficit is more than twice that. Even if the Pentagon and the whole of the US armed forces were to disappear overnight, the US would still be running a significant budget deficit...
posted by Skeptic at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2011


forcing you to fight them for every single cent of coverage you've already paid through the nose for.

And then there's the ridiculous deductible, as well.
posted by atlatl at 8:03 AM on June 12, 2011


Here's a whole lotta stats about taxation on income, by IRS.

Say, for instance, that your income is $100 and the tax rate is 10% of your yearly income. It follows that the amount of taxes you will pay is $10. Now, say that not all of your income is actually _taxable_ income, because of deduction/detractions/exemptions (that is, laws that say that you're are not to pay tax on that specific part of your income).

Let' say that $20 out of your $100 income can not be taxed; that implies that your taxable income is $100-$20=$80. Because of this, you now pay 10% of $80, that is your pay $8 of taxes.

Therefore, if you pay $8 of tax on $100 of income, your _effective_ tax rate is 8%, even if the tax rate is set at 10%
posted by elpapacito at 8:03 AM on June 12, 2011


I would happily pay a 20% VAT

VAT is regressive, hitting the poor more than the rich.

How about this: Americans are the greediest people on earth, and the most loathing of taxes.


What a thing to say! How on earth can you quantify such a thing? (NB that plenty of western europeans as a matter of course fail to pay taxes at all, as a matter of cultural tradition- which is one reason why their governments put in VAT taxes.)

The Warren Buffett as poster boy villain is kind of ridiculous. He pays small taxes because he has (relatively) small income. The reason Berkshire Hathaway (like Apple) never pays dividends is because he believes dividends are tax inefficient for the investor and a poor use of money for a growing company. That's hardly gaming the system. And by the way, he has always been a vocal critic of leaving large estates to children. Virtually all of his is going to charity.

(If you want to go after assets rather than income, that's another discussion- but I would point out that income tax initially was targeted at the uber-wealthy and only later came to hit the middle and working class. Once government is done grabbing Buffett assets, how long do you trust them not to go after yours?)

Corporate taxes never made sense to me in the first place. All they do is pass along the cost to their customers - which, like VAT, is regressive.

If I'm missing something in that interpretation, please advise. I am not an economist
posted by IndigoJones at 8:10 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


plenty of western europeans as a matter of course fail to pay taxes at all

Huh? Evidence?
posted by Skeptic at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2011


I don't understand all the love for the uk, its shit.

"I would happily pay a 20% VAT if it meant my money went to all the things it would in the UK. Id pay even more, if it meant good roads, healtcare, social services, good schools, and all those things. "

Roads - shit, full of potholes and uneven where utility companies have dug them up. Road tax doesn't fund road repairs, local councils have no money.

Social services - being privitised and budget reductions (no day trips for the mentally ill, Old peoples care homes being sold off (or already sold - see: Southern Cross.))

Schools - being taken out of LEA control and turned into "Acadamies" (which many believe is the first step to privitisation).

Healthcare - The NHS will be shown "No Mercy" as it is asset stripped and privitiased.

Local councils - All hit by Credit Crunch and now having budgets cut by the tories.

Sure Start (a scheme to help young mums) - closed down.

Police - budgets slashed, layoffs a-coming.

War - continuing on all fronts.
posted by marienbad at 9:10 AM on June 12, 2011


Thanks marienbad, I was having a nice Sunday until that.
posted by Summer at 9:28 AM on June 12, 2011


IndigoJone: well it's a tad too much of a generalization, saying that VAT is regressive. It is actually quite regressive when its imposed on frequently bought goods, bought by many, such as food and transport; most people spend a significant amount of their income on these goods, say $10 out of $100 of income, or 10%.

If I apply VAT to the purchase of $10 of food/transport, say a 20% VAT on sale, you will pay $12 instead of $10 (20% on $10=$2)...which in turn means that, with VAT, you spend 12% of your income on food/transport.

Now let's do the same for a person who has $500 income, but still spends $10 (VAT included) on food and transport (one can only consume so much food and trasport in a given time). $10 is equal to 2% of the $500 income. With VAT, the expenditure will rise to $12, which is equal to 2,4% of the $500 income.

Therefore, the VAT has as a -2% negative effect (from 10% of income to 12% of income) on the $100 earner, and a -0,4% negative effect (from 2% to 2,4%) on the $500 earner.

Yet, the tax itself might be called regressive, but not all regressive taxes have necessarily a "bad" effect on people. One might argue that, thanks to regressive taxation on cigarettes, the consumption has been reduced, or that it has been displaced and moved toward people with more disposable income. But, is that the case? Hard to prove conclusively: some people just have stopped buying something else (say, clothes) to keep on smoking cigarettes, yet its quite hard to measure accurately how much displacement has taken effect.

On other goods, such as food and water , which are obviously needed to survive (and I'll advance that energy is too, to a degree), a regressive tax hits on everybody, but obviously has worse effects on poorer people, reducing their disposable income. Is that necessarily a "bad" thing? Some may argue that it is, as increasingly people consider as "basic needs" goods or services such as housing, health care, retirement and free time to be spent on entertaining activites or resting. I quite agree with them, and probably a wide political consensus exists on that, but one thing is to wish for something, realizing that requires more than a necessary consensus.
posted by elpapacito at 9:39 AM on June 12, 2011


I've begun to suspect that there's an awful lot to Phillip Bobbing's assertion that the successor to the service-providing nation-state will be the market-state. I fear that the US may just be in the vanguard again, much like with that representative democracy thing.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2011


How about this: Americans are the greediest people on earth, and the most loathing of taxes.

What a thing to say! How on earth can you quantify such a thing?


It's pretty easy when you let your gut do the talking.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:43 AM on June 12, 2011


I wonder if this has anything to do with our debt to China.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:53 AM on June 12, 2011


Roads - shit, full of potholes and uneven where utility companies have dug them up. Road tax doesn't fund road repairs, local councils have no money.

that sounds depressingly familiar

Social services - being privitised and budget reductions (no day trips for the mentally ill, Old peoples care homes being sold off (or already sold - see: Southern Cross.))

i was reading in the kalamazoo gazette this week that a state home for veterans may be privatized by a new michigan law ...

Schools - being taken out of LEA control and turned into "Acadamies" (which many believe is the first step to privitisation).

lots of school districts have already "outsourced" their janitorial, maintenance and food service jobs - and it's my understanding that there are private companies that run schools in other sections of the country

Healthcare - The NHS will be shown "No Mercy" as it is asset stripped and privitiased.

and the republicans want to turn medicare into a voucher system ...

Local councils - All hit by Credit Crunch and now having budgets cut by the tories.

there isn't a city, township or school district i know of that hasn't had its budget cut

Sure Start (a scheme to help young mums) - closed down.

similar programs are being cut ...

Police - budgets slashed, layoffs a-coming.

that's happening all over the place here, too

War - continuing on all fronts.

well, as long as we can beat up on someone else, it doesn't matter what we do to ourselves, right?

whether it be the u k or the u s - or somewhere else, for that matter - i'm dismayed by my impression that as the generations that managed to make some things work leave their affairs to their children, the children don't seem to have a clue as to how to keep things going
posted by pyramid termite at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2011


Healthcare - The NHS will be shown "No Mercy" as it is asset stripped and privitiased.

To be fair, their attack on the NHS has come closer to derailing the ConDems than anything else in their agenda.

Of course, they'll go ahead and do it all anyway -- just a bit more surreptitiously, and with a bit less of the no mercy rhetoric.

But the key things that makes living in the UK better than the USA is that we regard people who believe in angels and deny the theory of evolution to be nutters, and we no longer go in for that whole 'Britain: love it or leave it' bullshit.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:12 AM on June 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Civil_disobedient - I was a single, healthy, 20-something year old woman with no pre-existing conditions and no dependents, and I paid $200 per month for an extremely basic HMO with extremely high deductibles. I am aware that it would have been far more if I had a PEC, or a family. But I did have almost every single claim denied the first time 'round, only to be paid the second or third or fourth time it was submitted. Almost like it was... a policy, or something.
posted by Wroksie at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2011


plenty of western europeans as a matter of course fail to pay taxes at all

Huh? Evidence?


Google "shadow economy" or "black economy". Plenty of data from plenty of sources on plenty of countries.

That "all" was perhaps a bit strong, but not entirely wrong. Again, non-compliance with other tax schemes is the reason the VAT is so widely used in Europe

Oh, and talk to Europeans of certain countries. "Only the simple minded pay taxes" is about the size of it. More inclusive than Mrs. Helmsley's comment.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:06 AM on June 12, 2011


IndigoJones Considering that VAT fraud is possibly the most widespread form of tax fraud in Europe by far, your theory doesn't hold water. The "shadow economy" doesn't pay VAT. Google "VAT carousel" yourself, you lazy git.
posted by Skeptic at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2011


Actually, we're taxed about as much as many European countries . . . if you think of all health-care costs as taxes. As that article (by Bruce Bartlett, who was an economic policy advisor to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, yet voted for Obama) says:
When Americans see these data they are usually incredulous that Europeans submit to such seemingly oppressive tax levels. Conservatives, in particular, tend to view freedom as a fixed sum: the bigger government is as a share of G.D.P., the less freedom there is for the people (if government consumes, say, 40 percent of G.D.P., then people are only 60 percent free). . . .

But O.E.C.D. data show that Americans pay vastly more for health care than the residents of any other major country. In 2008, we paid 16 percent of G.D.P. in total health care costs, public and private combined. The people with the next heaviest health care burden were the French, who paid 11.2 percent of G.D.P. Indeed, at 7.4 percent of G.D.P., the governmental share of health spending in the United States is about the same as total health care costs in many other countries, including (as a percentage of G.D.P.) Luxembourg (6.8 percent), Israel (7.8 percent), Japan (8.1 percent), Britain (8.4 percent) and Norway (8.5 percent).

In other words, if we had a health care system like those in most developed countries, we could, in effect, give every American an increase in their disposable income of 8 percent of G.D.P. – about what they pay in federal income taxes – and have health care no worse than they have in Britain or Japan. It would be like abolishing the federal income tax in terms of allowing people to spend more of their income on something other than health care.

Because most people have little more choice about medical spending than they do about the taxes they pay, one can think of the two as being similar in nature. . . .

Looking at taxes alone, the burden in the United States is 25 percent below the O.E.C.D. average, but including the additional health costs Americans pay, the United States is just 4.7 percent below average."
posted by John Cohen at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


So I suppose the only things certain in life are death, taxes, and a myriad of charts representing them...
posted by samsara at 12:14 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Cohen has it accurately - but there is more. When I lived in the US as a visiting scholar (and loved it), my home institution payed everything. Tuition fees, rent, social security, health-care, and a generous sum for costs of living. But the one thing they didn't pay for was day-care for my 3yo. Wow.
If I hadn't got a private "scholarship" for my daughter, I couldn't have completed my studies. It cost more than my tiny apartment. It seems women are supposed to stay at home, or employ illegal immigrants in the US.
I got a very wonderful job-offer while I was there, but had to decline. The conditions for a young family in the US, as compared to Europe, were horrible. I couldn't sacrifice my little girl for personal ambition.
For our taxes, we get health-care, cheap child care, maternity leave and leave for lots of other family-related situations like sick children or parents. As stated above, my education, even abroad, was covered, and I can ask for help now, when my grandmother needs it. (My grandmother wants me to care for her, and she has the last word, but the state helps me convince her that some of the more mundane tasks can be carried out by others).
USA is a paradise for the privileged and well-educated. But for ordinary people, even Cuba would be better, and Europe would be ten times better.
posted by mumimor at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


The US is a low-tax nation with the world's most expensive private alternatives to public services; western continental Europe, particularly Scandinavia, is made up of high-tax nations with limited private alternatives to public services; the UK (and Ireland) fall somewhere in between. Any attempt to argue otherwise can be filed under: "doth protest too much, methinks."
posted by holgate at 2:22 PM on June 12, 2011


It seems women are supposed to stay at home, or employ illegal immigrants in the US.

Who says only women can take care of kids? "The US" isn't stopping men from doing it.
posted by John Cohen at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2011


Who says only women can take care of kids? "The US" isn't stopping men from doing it.

Hi John. Welcome to Midtown. Oh, what's that you say; your daughter is ill? OK, here please place your testicles in this box over here for safe keeping until you're capable of doing a Real Job.

Stats, charts, whatever: trying to quantify this is immaterial to the lived experience of anyone who's lived both places. It's brutal here in the States. The rewards are potentially far greater, but the risk is hideous.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:23 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, why did they choose 1945 as the earliest date to poll; tax data is available long before that.

I don't know if this is trolling or an actual question, but the modern administrative state in the U.S. was basically born under FDR, and the post-war economic boom begat a wave we've been surfing ever since in one way or another, be it an explosion in manufacturing, high-yield investments, the internet boom, or the housing bubble. If you're trying to make the point that we did just fine before Roosevelt, make that point, but don't point at 1945 as a start date for graphs about American taxes as though it is somehow arbitrary. That is where modern peacetime taxation begins in the U.S. (and probably a hell of a lot of the rest of the world) and even during times of war, politicians have found more and more insidious ways to hide the costs of military spending from the average taxpayer, so as to keep opposition at bay. The graph makes sense.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:42 PM on June 12, 2011


To look at things another way, I can remember a time in my life (and I'm pretty young) when George H.W. Bush was running for President, after eight years of Reagan, and said, "Read my lips: No New Taxes." And even he didn't live up to that, what with the first gulf war. That question wasn't about cutting taxes further, but about whether or not they would be raised. A Republican nominee said they wouldn't be, and then, as President, did it anyway because he had to in the interest of sound fiscal policy.

Mind you, he got creamed for it in the next campaign, and his son only learned the lesson that lowering taxes buys voters and fuck the consequences to anything else. But there was a time, 23 years ago, when a Republican was honestly asked about whether he would raise taxes, dogged about it, in fact, so much that he made the biggest gaffe of his political career about the subject, and then still did it anyway when he had to.

We now live in a day where the arguments from each side are just about how much to cut, and from where.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:52 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Corporate taxes are actually significantly higher in the US than they are in Canada. If the statistics about a low effective corporate tax rate are correct, it's a function of the fact that there are significant deductions available for US corporations; but those deductions disproportionately benefit more complex, sophisticated businesses. It's actually tougher to meet your tax burden in the US than in Canada. That's without getting into the fact that you have to pay for employees' health care, because there's no universally accessible government health care.
posted by Dasein at 8:07 PM on June 12, 2011


Born and bred in New York, have been living in the UK for the past 5 years.

Over here, I pay higher taxes, have a superior quality of life, a lot more time off to spend with my kids, free health insurance.

Taxes pay for things to sustain everyone. We're all in this shit together. There are more important things than wealth accumulation at the expense of all else.

The reality that this fact continues to even be a subject for debate back home breaks my heart. I feel very lucky that I can raise my children elsewhere.
posted by Hickeystudio at 1:29 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones Considering that VAT fraud is possibly the most widespread form of tax fraud in Europe by far, your theory doesn't hold water. The "shadow economy" doesn't pay VAT. Google "VAT carousel" yourself, you lazy git.

I never said VAT was effective, I said only that it was instituted as a means to ensure revenue from a population that was disinclined to report income. That it is abused and avoided is no more surprising than that income taxes are abused and avoided.

And "lazy git" is neither healthy or respectful nor does it focus on the issues topics and facts at hand.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2011


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