Corporate taxes at record low, profit margins at record high

The right-wing canard that corporations are buckling under high corporate taxes has always been misleading. Although the U.S. has a 35% corporate tax rate, few if any corporations actually pay that statutory rate. In reality, the United States has the second lowest ratio of corporate tax revenues to GDP in the entire 34-country OECD. In the budget baseline the Congressional Budget Office released earlier this week, we learn just how low the effective corporate tax rate actually was last year: 12.1%.

This 12.1% rate is the lowest effective corporate tax rate in the 40-year history that the CBO has been calculating such things:

At the same time, corporate profit levels and corporate profit margins are at record highs:

So right now, corporations in the United States are making records profits at record margins while paying record low taxes. Meanwhile, those on the right continue to fuel the myth that corporate tax rates and economic policy are destroying the ability of the United States to attract business capital. For example, check out this report from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank in the United States. In the report, Heritage uses a misleading graph of statutory tax rates (instead of effective tax rates, the more meaningful metric) to claim that corporate taxes in the United States are sky-high, making the country uncompetitive:

As the CBO baseline report shows, the claim that this graph is supposed to support — that U.S. corporate taxes make the country uncompetitive — is obviously false. The actual tax rate corporations pay in the United States is extremely low when compared against other OECD countries, making the claims of uncompetitiveness absurd on their face.

Although these kinds of reports from right-wing think tanks are largely useless for their intended purpose of policy analysis, they are very enlightening in other ways. If you have ever wondered why right-wing politicians and commentators say such demonstrably false things, the reports published by their think tanks give a great deal of insight. Some right-wing politicians and pundits are consciously lying and pandering of course, but I suspect that many others are actually just mislead by the intellectuals and policy wonks on their own side. If the only reports one ever reads are those coming from the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, profound confusion about the nature of reality is certain to result.