The astonishing feature of the federal fiscal position is that revenues are forecast to be a mere 14.4 per cent of GDP in 2011, far below their postwar average of close to 18 per cent. Individual income tax is forecast to be a mere 6.3 per cent of GDP in 2011. This non-American cannot understand what the fuss is about: in 1988, at the end of Ronald Reagan’s term, receipts were 18.2 per cent of GDP. Tax revenue has to rise substantially if the deficit is to close.
This is quite misleading. One big story of the recession is that tax revenues dropped drastically. It's hard to compare this year's share of tax revenues to "the Reagan years" or to the post-war average. Jared Bernstein has something similar:
Tax revenues are at their lowest as a share of GDP, but once again, the economy still is far below capacity...One better comparison is with tax revenue and government spending in the last recession, in 2001. Via...Ezra Klein:
In 2001, revenues were at 19.5 percent of gross domestic product and spending was at 18.6 percent of GDP. That was our surplus. In 2010, revenues were at 14.9 percent of GDP while spending was at 23.9 percent.The right comparison would actually be to consider the revenues if taxes were held at today's level(what the Republicans want), in a "normal economy". So one possibility is to look at historical tax rates and see if today's are far below historical levels(and be careful of the loopholes). You can also compare the rates with other countries
For instance, the top marginal tax rate
a nice comparison or corporate income tax rates between the US and other countries, and over time