Data released last week by the Congressional Budget Office underscored the progressive nature of the federal tax system. And in an op-ed article today in The Wall Street Journal, Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary, used that data — in particular, the income tax numbers — to argue that the wealthiest Americans bear an unfair share of the tax burden. Other research has found that many states and local governments have more regressive tax systems, though, that might offset the progressiveness of federal tax rates.
Ari Fleischer is not the only member of George W. Bush’s Administration to argue that the tax system is highly progressive by presenting only Federal taxes paid as if you and don’t pay state and local taxes too. Greg Mankiw has highlighted the CBO data on Federal taxes many times.
While I think this is an incredibly silly exercise, Mark got this comment from cynicalone:
Can you please explain how this rebuts the CBO. The CBO looked at the effective average federal tax rates. This throws in state and local taxes and you somehow imply that this proves federal taxes are not progressive. If you believe that your state and local taxes are not progressive enough then go complain to the state legislature or your local council. This has nothing to do with the progressivity of federal taxes and certainly has no bearing on the CBO report. The entire argument is disingenous. i.e. I don't like this CBO report so I am going to include some completely irrelevant data until I get the outcome I desire.
While we should tell cynicalone that his argument is disingenuous, we hear this a lot from certain conservatives. The problem with this argument is that we citizens really don’t care which government services we get from Washington versus which ones we get locally (in my case, New York City and Albany, New York). We also pay more attention to our total tax bill rather than where we end up sending the various checks. Besides, the Federal government has this habit of mandating that the local governments do certain things and only often only partially fund these mandates. To slice and dice tax obligations in the fashion that Ari Fleischer et al. do is either just or dishonest in my opinion.
Besides – a lot of Federal taxation was deferred under the previous Administration. Who will pay those deferred taxes? It seems that the past White House wanted to claim no one had to. Now that was very dishonest.