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« Me, Cooking | Main | Closing the Book on China »

How Much Tax is Too Much?

On this season's last Real Time with Bill Maher, Stephen Bannon, whose only claim to fame seems to be he directed an up and coming documentary about Sarah Palin (counterfactually named "The Undefeated"), voiced a frequently heard right-wing "fact" on the US Economy:

"It's a line in the sand. We don't want, under any circumstance, any increase in revenue.[…] The federal government takes too much tax revenue today."

So as always in these cases I expected someone on the panel, or maybe the moderator, to ask "What do you mean by 'too much' ?", and as always I was disappointed. Neil DeGrasse Tyson came close, but his vague question was never answered.

Really, how does one make the case that the US government takes too much revenue ? I'm guessing they think the US would be a better country if its government took less revenue. That's a hard proposition to test. What we can do is compare the US with all the countries which take less in tax revenue (as percentage of GDP):

United States 26.9
South Africa 26.9
South Korea 26.8
Kazakhstan 26.8
Croatia 26.6
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 26.5
Samoa 25.5
Venezuela 25.0
Solomon Islands 24.7
Papua New Guinea 24.5
Belarus 24.2
Saint Lucia 23.1
Uruguay 23.1
Cape Verde 23.0
Colombia 23.0
Albania 22.9
Argentina 22.9
Morocco 22.3
Suriname 22.1
Fiji 21.8
Georgia 21.7
Belize 21.6
Kyrgyzstan 21.4
Jordan 21.1
Uzbekistan 21.0
Lithuania 20.9
Ghana 20.8
Malawi 20.7
Maldives 20.5
Turkmenistan 20.2
Macau 20.1
Djibouti 20.0
Senegal 19.2
Mauritius 19.0
Gambia 18.9
The Bahamas 18.7
Chile 18.6
Kenya 18.4
Cameroon 18.2
Azerbaijan 17.8
Nicaragua 17.8
Vanuatu 17.8
India 17.7
Burundi 17.4
São Tomé and Príncipe 17.4
People's Republic of China 17.0
Thailand 17.0
Tajikistan 16.5
Zambia 16.1
Egypt 15.8
Honduras 15.6
Malaysia 15.5
Togo 15.5
Benin 15.4
Mauritania 15.4
Côte d'Ivoire 15.3
Mali 15.3
Sri Lanka 15.3
Peru 15.1
Dominican Republic 15.0
Tunisia 14.9
Lebanon 14.4
Philippines 14.4
Singapore 14.2
Armenia 14.1
Rwanda 14.1
Costa Rica 14.0
Vietnam 13.8
Mozambique 13.4
El Salvador 13.3
Democratic Republic of Congo 13.2
Ecuador 13.2
Liberia 13.2
Hong Kong 13.0
Uganda 12.6
Taiwan 12.4
Federated States of Micronesia 12.3
Comoros 12.0
Paraguay 12.0
Tanzania 12.0
Guatemala 11.9
Ethiopia 11.6
Burkina Faso 11.5
Guinea-Bissau 11.5
Indonesia 11.0
Niger 11.0
Nepal 10.9
Laos 10.8
Bhutan 10.7
Madagascar 10.7
Syria 10.7
Panama 10.6
Sierra Leone 10.5
Gabon 10.3
Pakistan 10.2
Mexico 9.7
Haiti 9.4
Bangladesh 8.5
Guinea 8.2
Cambodia 8.0
Algeria 7.7
Central African Republic 7.7
Iran 7.3
Yemen 7.1
Afghanistan 6.4
Sudan 6.3
Nigeria 6.1
Republic of Congo 5.9
Angola 5.7
Saudi Arabia 5.3
Burma 4.9
Bahrain 4.8
Chad 4.2
Libya 2.7
Qatar 2.2
Oman 2.0
Equatorial Guinea 1.7
Kuwait 1.5
United Arab Emirates 1.4

So which one of these countries does the Tea Party want the United States to turn into ? Except for a few resource-rich countries (which the US isn't anymore) and the fast growing export-oriented economies of South Korea and Singapore (ditto), there's not a single country in there that I'm especially eager to move to.

Now let's examine the ten countries which take the most tax revenue :

Kiribati 69.7
Zimbabwe 49.3
Denmark 49.0
Sweden 47.9
Belgium 46.8
France 46.1
Cuba 44.8
Finland 43.6
Norway 43.6
Austria 43.4

I'll admit I'm not a big fan of Zimbabwe, Kiribati, or Cuba. However, I do live in Belgium, and I've been to nearly all the other countries on this list. Trust me, they're doing great.

So what evidence exactly does the Tea Party have for saying US tax revenue is too high ? And, more importantly, why aren't any of the journalists who interview those people making this self-evident point ?!?

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