In fact, we pay much lower taxes than most of our peer countries. In the United States, our tax-to-GDP ratio is about 26 percent, far below the 34 percent average of the advanced economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and drastically less than some European countries (Denmark tops the list at 46 percent). To some conservatives and libertarians, the appropriate response to those figures is, “That’s why we’re more free than them.” But are we?
If by “free” you mean “more vulnerable,” then yes. We have chosen — whether we did it consciously or not — to create a system that makes it easier for a small number of people to get super-rich, but also makes life more cruel and difficult for everyone else. In your average social democratic European country, you pay more taxes, but you also get a lot in return: universal health coverage, free child care, generous paid family leave, and free college, for example. If you’re Danish or French or German, there are certain things you just don’t have to worry about, things that keep us Americans up nights.