Raw Data: Federal Taxes and Spending Over the Past 60 Years

There’s no special reason for posting this except that taxes and tax cuts are in the news:

For more than 60 years, total federal taxes have averaged about 17 percent of GDP.¹ Tax receipts go up and down slightly, mostly because of tax legislation and economic cycles, but always return pretty quickly to their long-term average. Spending has averaged about 20 percent of GDP ever since the Reagan era. It also goes up and down a bit thanks to recessions and expansions, but always returns to around 20 percent.

Bottom line: Taxes have not skyrocketed. Spending has not skyrocketed. Corporations are not burdened with the highest tax rate on the planet.

¹Of that total, personal income taxes have been a steady 8 percent of GDP. Corporate taxes have declined from 5 percent of GDP to 2 percent.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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