Donald Trump has a habit of making ridiculous and patently false statements to support his imagination-based brand of politics. Whenever he is called out on his lies, he likes to point out that, since he’s a businessman rather than a politician, he can’t be expected to know or research basic facts. One would think, however, that such a successful businessman – or presidential candidate for that matter – would have at least a rudimentary grasp of how taxes work. Trump shattered that notion last week when he announced to a cheering crowd that “we’re going to reduce taxes tremendously because we have the highest tax rate anywhere in the world and our middle class is being absolutely destroyed.”
The fantasyland of Trump and his apparently mindless supporters aside, in reality this statement couldn’t be further from the truth no matter how you measure it. A list compiled by the international tax advising firm KPMG found that the United States’ top income tax rate – 39.6% – ranks 33rd out of 112 countries surveyed. A different analysis ranked the U.S. 38th out of 155 countries. As for the bottom income tax level, the United States’ minimum of 10% ranked 42nd out of 152 countries surveyed by Ernst & Young, an international accounting firm.
Despite these middle of the pack rankings – and the fact that after deductions the average American pays an effective tax rate of only 9.5% – one could argue that such measures are inadequate because of some nations’ emphasis on corporate or payroll taxes rather than income taxes. No cigar for The Donald here either, though. In fact, the United States ranks even lower internationally on analyses that measure the overall tax burden. For example, in the measurement of tax revenue as a percentage of GDP – widely considered an effective measure by tax experts – the United States’ rate of 25% ranks it 27th out of 30 advanced economies studied by the OECD. In a World Bank ranking of taxation as a percentage of GDP, the U.S. ranked a far-from-the-highest 103rd out of 115 countries studied. Finally, when ranking by the measure of tax revenue per capita, the U.S. figure of $13,482 ranks us 16th out of 29 countries surveyed by the OECD.
Any way you slice it, America’s tax rates are far from the highest in the world, and in fact often rank among the lowest. To Republicans like Trump, however, who inhabit an alternate reality based on what they believe should be true rather than what is demonstrably true, these facts don’t stop him from claiming the exact opposite. Such blatant lying is a tactic that tends to go over well with the circus-going Republican base for whom idiocy and ignorance have become something like virtues in the battle against “political correctness,” which is usually longhand for “facts.” I for one would like to inhabit a democracy where repeatedly making such demonstrably backwards claims would discredit a candidate; in the Republican dream world, however, rhetoric has been completely divorced from reality and Trump remains as strong as ever as a presidential contender.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.