This is true on paper, but it tells you very little. Tax progressivity metrics will vary wildly—without necessarily reflecting any real underlying difference—depending on the existing level of inequality and structure of the welfare state
For example, if you took the US's tax code, and applied it to, say, Finland, it would come out looking a lot less progressive, not because of any tax changes, but because of the compressed wage structure. More inequality mechanically increases measured tax progressivity
You could also eliminate all taxes except for a $100 tax on Jeff Bezos, and tax progressivity measures would find that the US has the most progressive tax code. The richest guy paying all of the taxes. But *levels* matter a lot in practice, not just share of the total burden
Sweden's top marginal rate around 70% has a bigger impact on inequality (including changing the way market incomes get distributed) than the US's ~40%, but since the US implements a lot of welfare programs through the tax code, it makes the latter look relatively more progressive
And since social democracies often tax welfare benefits, it inflates the tax share of low income people, making the tax code look more progressive than if net benefits were lowered but not taxed. There are so many accounting gimmicks here that the comparisons don't say much
A better way of looking at it would be the impact on gini from both taxes and transfers (eliminates some but not all of the issues). There, you see the US has one of the least progressive overall systems and Finland has one of the most

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More from @jdcmedlock

12 Sep
It's incredible that it's considered "effective targeting" when a program excludes 44% of intended beneficiaries
developmentpathways.co.uk/publications/h… Image
I'm a fan of Lula, but Bolsa Familia is overrated. The real hero of the Brazilian welfare state is the pensions tied to the minimum wage developmentpathways.co.uk/wp-content/upl…
Brazil could do a revenue neutral consolidation of Bolsa Familia, Salario Familia, and the child income tax deduction into a flat child allowance that would reduce child poverty! Or they could spend less than 1% of GDP and crush child poverty even more ipc-undp.org/pub/IPCPolicyR… Image
Read 4 tweets
3 Sep
Individual unions sometimes do counterproductive things, like in this case opposing pharma price regulation, and I think a more centralized union movement with confederations that represent unions across sectors would really help reduce rent seeking and align broader interests
Centralization is generally associated with more union support for redistribution and active labor market policies - broader union confederations have incentive to take into account their impact on the entire economy rather than just a narrow section of it researchgate.net/publication/34…
High drug prices are a terrible tax on union health plans. In one notable example, the Boilermaker union health plan had to pay .35 cents *for every hour worked* just because one of their members got a rare disease.
Read 4 tweets
27 Jul
I think about this with regards to the ACA’s advance premium tax credit. It had a big welfare cliff at 400% of the poverty line, and if polling had been done on this it’s plausible it would have been more popular to exclude the richest despite it being sloppy policy
But I highly doubt that the exact phase out rate was an issue salient enough to move a singe vote. Most people were probably entirely unaware of the exact subsidy structure
On the other hand, it seems plausible to me that the implementation of this bad policy, where earning a tiny bit too much could result in having to pay back thousands at the end of the year, was enough to sour some people on the ACA. Very salient hassle for a concentrated group
Read 4 tweets
26 Jul
M4A is a good and just fight to have, but given the state of our democracy and the entrenchment of the current system, it'd be useful to sketch out a somewhat plausible long term plan of how to get from A to B beyond just yelling at a few politicians to hold doomed floor votes
Short term prospects for systematic health reform are looking extremely bad. Only marginal (though still impactful) changes seem likely to pass under the Biden admin. Obviously electing more left wing candidates, both at the top and down ticket, is key.
In the meantime M4A advocates should push policies that will make the eventual fight easier
• Build more publicly owned hospitals - private hospitals are a powerful and underrated lobbying forces against M4A, & expanding supply will also help address concerns around wait times
Read 8 tweets
25 Jul
We’re reaching levels of online previously thought impossible
There’s a certain genre of nominally ‘leftist’ activist that has no constructive politics or vision for a better world, just all motivated by spite against whatever the establishment is at that moment, could have just as well been Ron Paul types if they saw a different YT video
I’m very much for a big tent left, but I do not think the jimmy dore types are actually interested in winning, in fact that would be counterproductive to their project
Read 4 tweets
16 Jul
What these takes always miss is that at what point people are financially stable enough to have kids is itself a policy variable that can be modified with things like the CTC
Rather than force the human lifecycle to conform to the way the market economy distributes income, we should conform the way we distribute income to the human lifecycle
Read 4 tweets

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