Despite the intense antitax sentiment that has helped the rise of the Tea Party movement since Mr. Obama took office, tax rates in the United States are at their lowest level since Harry Truman was president.
In 1950, the top income bracket had a 91 percent rate; today it is 35 percent.
This is misleading and confusing to the point of inaccuracy. By following the language about "tax rates" with references to the rate paid by the "top income bracket," the Times makes it sound like today's 35% top federal individual income tax rate is the lowest it's been since 1950. But that's false. In fact, the top federal individual income tax rate that applied to income in 1988, 1989, 1990 was 28%. In 1991 and 1992 it went up to 31%. Today's 35% top rate is a 25%, or seven percentage point, increase over the rates achieved by President Reagan.
Proponents of higher taxes love talking about this stuff in terms of percentages rather than in terms of actual dollars. But if the Times wants, for whatever reason, to use 1950 as its basis of comparison, federal receipts that year were at $39.4 billion. This year they are projected to be $2.2 trillion. Using the White House's inflation adjusted "constant" 2005 dollars, receipts in 1950 were $370.7 billion, while this year they are projected to be $1.9 trillion. So tax receipts since 1950 have, even using the government's inflation adjustment, far from being at the lowest level since Truman, grown to more than five times what they were, while the American population has only about doubled since then.
What the Times means to refer to is tax receipts as a percentage of GDP. All that proves is that you can lower the tax rates and GDP grows enough to more than make up for the reductions in revenue that might be projected under a flawed static analysis. But don't expect to read that in a New York Times news article.