Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tax Receipts as the Ultimate Economic Indicator

According to Sprott Asset Management the US Federal tax receipts are down in February 2012 vs 2011.  Tax reciepts are the ultimate co-incident economic indicator.  

This means that few people are working or being paid less in aggregate.  The latest "improvement" in reported job creation last month was primarily part-time workers and low paying workers.   The US employment situation is not really improving. 
It has become fairly evident over the past several months that most new jobs created in the US tend to be low-paying, while the jobs lost are generally higher-paying. This seems to be confirmed by the monthly US Treasury Tax Receipts, which are lower so far this year despite the seeming improvement in unemployment. Take February 2012, for example, where the Treasury reported $103.4 billion in tax receipts, versus $110.6 billion in February 2011. BLS had unemployment running at 9% in February 2011, versus 8.3% in February 2012.12 Barring some major tax break we've missed, the only way these numbers balance out is if the new jobs created produce less income to tax, because they're lower paying, OR, if the unemployment numbers are wrong. The bulls won't dwell on these details, but they cannot be ignored.

Figures from the Tax Policy Center show the history of receipts and revenues all of the way back to 1940.

The interesting thing is that, for 50 years, government revenues have been about 19% of GDP despite widely varying tax bracket rates.   The 19% figure therefore shows the EFFECTIVE federal tax rate.  This means that government revenue had been fairly constant despite top tax brackets varying from 33% to 70%.

For much of the last 50 years, government spending ranged from 19% to 21% of GDP during the 1990s and 2000s.   In Bush's last term (2008), Federal outlays were 20.7% of GDP.

Fast forward to 2010, only one year after Obama entered office, Government spending was nearly 24% of GDP (and tax receipts down to 14.9%).   The president's latest budget of 25% of GDP spending  ($3.6 Trillion) was sounded rejected by the House of Representatives by a vote of 414 to 0.

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