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April 03, 2007


Maybe I'm missing something, but I think your alarm over some of the rhetoric about average tax effects is misplaced.

If you inveigh against saying that the average tax effect of a proposal on taxpayers with a broad range of incomes (e.g., the average effect on everyone earning more than $50,000 a year), I agree with you. That hides the effect on taxpayers in different brackets.

However, if what you object to is statistics about the average effect on, for example, a family of four earning $60,000 a year, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Of course that sort of averaging fails to take account of individual differences in deductions, etc., but that's the nature of averaging in any context. Considering the average effect of tax proposals at different income levels is something everyone does in order to assess progressivity or lack thereof and to judge where the burden of the proposals falls. That's true of Republicans, it's true of Democrats, it's true of economists as much as polemicists. It's a fundamental component of tax discussions.

Though I disagree with you about the mischief involved in discussing averages, I take your point about whether it's appropriate to treat the effect as a tax "increase." But that's a separate rhetorical device and a separate issue.

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