deficit-iconThere is something creepy about how visceral, uninformed and myopic people are when it comes to taxes. Now that the healthcare reform brouhaha is over the media and the Tea Party loons are focusing on tax reform. Basically they want to only have things they like paid for by taxing people they don't like - in a way, for the myopically self interested, it's not a bad idea. Might have problems pulling it of.

I'm a visual person. Charts graphs and images help me comprehend complex ideas. I needed to get a little more familiar with Adobe CS4 for a class I will be teaching next semester so I took the opportunity to put together a visualization of some of the facts about income taxes, the deficit and fiscal responsibility.

It's a timeline from 1940 to 2010 - 70 years of data and a great and interesting period in USA history. In the chart, the green bars, you have the deficit as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Overlayed is the top and bottom income tax brackets. I couldn't find, in the time I gave myself, good data about effective corporate taxes so I just put in a quote from the DAO that I think sums it up. Below are all the presidents so that it's easy to see what administration was in power. For some of the Presidents, starting with LBJ, I had data that compared the change in their revenue stream and spending. That's the one I found the most revealing.

US Deficit and Taxes

For good measure and so you can see how other countries are doing I added information on what percentage of GDP do their tax revenues constitute. You can click on the image to enlarge it or you can download a pdf version here.

I'm not going to analyze it for you but I did come to a few conclusions:

  • Rich people, as a percentage of their income, are paying a lot less taxes than they did 50 years ago.
  • Republican administrations like to live on credit much more than Democratic ones. Just compare Bill and Bush. Maybe it's their upbringing - the first credit card President Clinton got he had to manage himself. I think Bush is still using his daddy's.
  • Except for special circumstances like Kuwait and Japan, it seems like, if you want a country worth living in you have to pay for it.

In case you think I'm a socialist shill here are my sources:,,, World Bank Entrepreneurship Survey 2008 .

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