And in This Corner . . .

By James Kwak

Over in the less-prestigious and less-well-paid online section of the Times, Bruce Bartlett has a good column on the comparative tax burden across advanced economies. He makes the point that one reason European taxes look higher is that we provide subsidies through the tax code while they do it through spending programs like family allowances — another example of how aggregate statistics are distorted by calling something a “tax credit” as opposed to “spending.” His other main point is that the main substantive reason why we pay lower taxes is that we pay for less of our health care spending through the government — and that isn’t working out so well for us.

9 responses to “And in This Corner . . .

  1. Bartlett’s column is incoherent.

    He thinks he has proven that “the idea that Europeans are enslaved by high taxes, as most American conservatives believe, is just nonsense.”

    In fact all he has proven that American and European taxes are equally high. A possible conclusion is that Americans and Europeans alike are enslaved by high taxes.

  2. Charles Wheeler

    Only if you count private health care costs as a tax!

    Bartlett makes the point that Americans are paying a premium for healthcare precisely because it’s supplied by the ‘free’ market rather than through govt. either as a provider (UK – where health takes 8.4% GDP compared with US at 16%) or as broker (France/Germany).

    Lower taxes in the US mask unavoidable out of pocket expenses like healthcare.

  3. I’m so tired of fellow Americans complaining about taxes today when we have it pretty dang good in the scale of things. Try this out instead for size:

    Really, let’s end this false crises and just bloody tax us.

    Seriously. Just tax me. I’d pay $1,000/year easily to not hear some blowhard Republican/Libertarian go on and on about taxes and the death of freedom. And while you’re at it, tax the people who make more than me more. A lot more. In fact try to get nearer to that chart I posted above thank you.

    And if you want to say the economy will collapse with these higher taxes, then I guess the “American Dream” we all lived through in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s was just an illusion too…

  4. BTW – the above chart is a 1943 newspaper clipping…

  5. right on, Carl, baby

  6. Moses Herzog

    I want to give Bruce Bartlett the benefit of the doubt. He has sung some notes on his blog the last 2–3 years that I find very appealing. But as a former member of the Reagan economic team, I’m a little leery how sincere Bartlett is, or is he just a hypocrite blowhard like David Stockman?? I don’t consider myself to be one easily induced to feel pure hate, but every time I see David Stockman and hear his hypocrisy saturated words on the monitor I seethe with rage and want to throw a brick at the screen.

    I tend to want to believe Bartlett, as he seems more sincere and consistent…… but it’s hard.

  7. I read the article and then I had a chance to listen to Tim Pawlenty (spelling) on CNBC earlier spewing some stuff about cutting tax rates and cutting spending. While I agree that we are being taxed to death, taking an axe to the present structure can be far more harmful than we think and we ought to be more deliberate in our approach. Carl, thanks for that chart!

  8. Mark A. Sadowski

    Moses Herzog,
    I have a great regard for Bruce. I only know him from commenting on his Forbes articles. He was kind enough to respond to my comments in a way which enlarged my understanding. Not only does he know an amazing amount about economics for a noneconomist, he is without doubt one of the most authentic and least hypocritical people I’ve ever had the chance to converse with. No doubt that’s why he’s become such a pariah within his own party.

    By the way I Bruce’s article was one of the best things I read last night. He has a gift for looking at things in creative ways.

  9. Given enough time, Bartlett will denounce this position and savagely attack anyone still citing it.