charts can be deceiving
I’m not a huge fan of charts because I think they’re usually just used to create illusions and sales pitches. James Joyner points to this chart from Conor Clarke, illustrating the drop in effective income tax rates for the top 1% of Americans from the Clinton to the Bush years. He writes:
I’d note that the curve is wildly exaggerated because the Y axis starts at 28 percent. All the variation is between 31.5 percent and 36.1 percent or so; the drop has hardly been precipitous. In addition to the Bush tax cuts, most of the difference is lowered capital gains taxes.
To better illustrate this point I give you Conor’s chart and one I made. Numbers don’t lie, but how we present them can make all the difference in the world.
Here’s Conor’s chart:
I agree with James, though – this cuts both ways. Going back to Clinton level tax-rates is not the doomsday scenario so many tax-hawks claim it is. Then again, it’s also important to remember that the rich already pay a great deal more than any other demographic, and there’s only so much revenue that can be raised by taxing them while doling out services to the rest of the population. At some point, taxes will simply have to go up across the board.
That’s the sad fact about free lunches. They are never, ever actually free.