The Connection between Taxes and Growth

 

One of my favorite economic journalists is Eduardo Porter of the New York Times who writes the weekly column Economic Scene. In his latest column.  He points out that taxes (federal, state and local) for the U.S. and the O.E.C.D. average were about the same 27% of GDP in 1969.  But now, almost 50 years later, the U.S. tax level has stayed the same while the O.E.C.D. average has grown by 7% (see chart below).


Mr. Porter says that according to Wagner’s Law “government spending as a share of the economy will increase as nations get richer and their citizens demand more and better public services.”
Americans may be receiving fewer public services than citizens of the OECD countries but we are also enjoying faster economic growth as pointed out by the AEI scholar James Pethokoukis using data from the International Monetary Fund (see chart below).


According to the Pew Research Center our median family wage is also one of the highest in the world (see chart below).


As pointed out by Mr. Pethokoulis, lower taxes are a fundamental reason for the superior performance of the U.S. economy.  Other (tax-related) reasons are:

  • The most competitive large economy as ranked by the World Economic Forum.
  • An entrepreneurial culture fueled by a willingness to take risks.
  • Labor markets which generally link workers and jobs unimpeded by excessively restrictive labor regulations.
  • A growing population fueled by immigration based on economic opportunity.
  • A culture and tax-transfer system that encourages hard work and long hours.
  • A favorable regulatory environment, relatively speaking.
  • A decentralized political system in which states compete both tax-wise and by other means.

Conclusion. Americans pay lower taxes than other developed countries and also enjoy faster economic growth and higher median wages than most. There appears to be a strong connection between these three fundamental measures of economic wellbeing.

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