First of all, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, depicted below are the tax revenues as a share of GDP (2006 data) for all member OECD countries:
Note that America isn't the lowest, but we are fifth lowest and our share (28 percent, which includes state/local taxes) is 20 percent lower than the OECD average of about 35 percent.
Yeah, we've got it really bad here, tax-wise, don't we? So how about the kinds of taxes?
And in fact, as the data above from the Tax Policy Center show, income taxes as a share of GDP have held steady during the same time period. Corporate and excise taxes, paid mostly by businesses and which conservatives complain are inefficient and simply passed through to consumers anyway, have gone down as a share of that 20 percent. What's gone up are payroll taxes which fund programs like Medicare and Social Security that the same tea partiers were warning Obama and congressional Democrats not to touch in the same breath they were complaining about the socialist expansion of the healthcare system.
Finally, how about income distribution in America? Well, as the following graph shows, we're in last place compared to 26 other OECD countries. That means we're the worst at income equality. Or, I suppose you could say that the rich stay richer in America, and the poor stay poorer.
So, all that loony stuff you're likely to hear about "Tax Freedom Day"? Take it with a grain of salt.
Dollar for dollar, America offers the most effective and efficient government on the planet, doing so for about 20 cents on the dollar nationally, 28 cents if you include state and local taxes. If you ask a conservative to name a country that provides as many quality services for less, or more and better services for the same price, they can't name one. If they do, encourage them to start packing their bags. Sure, they could save a lot of money living in Mexico--if they don't count all the bribes they'll have to pay to educate their kids and protect themselves from possible violence. Bottom line is we're simply not as big as conservatives would have us believe. This doesn't mean we shouldn't seek efficiencies, govern more effectively within budget constraints, or try to eliminate fraud and abuse. But American government is pretty clean and fairly lean.
And since we're comparing America with other countries, I might also mention this post at The New Republic. Here's an excerpt:
So, let's look at a straight-up measure. How did the United States perform in comparison with European social democracies? Well, since 1980, the original 15 members of the European Union saw their real per capita income grow by 58%. Real per capita GDP in the United States grew by... 63%. And that measure actually overstates the difference. The European Union does not include Switzerland, Norway or Iceland -- three countries that clearly qualify as European social democracies. Those three countries had 71% growth in per capita GDP since 1980 -- thanks to Isha Vij of the Center for American Progress for pointing this out to me -- which, if added to the EU 15, would bring the growth record of the United States and the social democracies even closer to parity.
Interestingly, Manzi concedes in his essay that social democracy provides superior social cohesion. His essay simply assumes that it inherently produces dramatically lower growth. But now that we can see his assumption doesn't hold up, he's actually making the case for social democracy. To be sure, I'm not a social democrat, but Manzi has inadvertently softened my skepticism. If instituting a social democracy in the United States would dampen growth only very slightly, and create greater social cohesion and economic equality (meaning, for people who aren't very rich, higher living standards), why not give it a try?