Bruce Bartlett on occasion has some very smart things to say. But it seems he says only really stupid things when he writes for the National Review:
In 2005, the federal government took $2.4 trillion out of the pockets of the American people. To put this number into context, it is about the same as the size of the entire U.S. economy in 1959 in inflation-adjusted terms … Contrary to popular belief, the vast bulk of federal taxes are paid by the wealthy. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, in 2006, 53.7 percent of all federal income taxes were paid by those with incomes over $200,000.
These were the highlights. Real GDP was 4.1 times higher in 2005 than it was in 1959. Part of this increase came from higher income per person and part of this came from an increase in population. Comparing tax revenues in 2005 to real GDP in 1959 is not putting things in context.
As we look at the BEA for calendar year 2005 (see table 3.2), we see $2246.8 billion in total Federal revenue of which $855.3 billion came from contributions for government social insurance. If the wealthy paid 53.7% of federal income taxes, that represented about 33% of total Federal taxes. Since when is 33% considered the “vast bulk”?
There is not a single contribution in Bruce’s NRO op-ed. I guess had there been a legitimate contribution, Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg would have refused to let Bruce submit an op-ed. But why does someone who is usually quite sensible need to write for a rag like the National Review?