A few readers in response to my most recent piece expressed some incredulity about the chart showing that Americans paid, on average, about 30% of their income in taxes. This seemed low to them. In truth, it seemed low to me as well. I spent quite a bit of time when researching the article looking for reliable information about the tax burden for the average American household. This chart from the NYTimes indicates higher rates:


Tax Foundation has put Tax Freedom Day at April 17th:


Of course, this hasn’t stopped talking heads from opining that Americans aren’t paying enough:


Bertrand de Jouvenel wrote in On Power that “Achievement of the right to search its subjects’ pockets for the wherewithal to maintain its enterprises had been the first great victory of Power in modern times.” As the data indicate, the government is going to have to start searching sock drawers and seat cushions too – because it’s doing good, you know.


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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.