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Health Care Reform and the National Debt

Current tax rates are relatively low by historical standards.  Here is a table and plot of the rates going back to 1913: link

They're also relatively low by international standards.  See Table 1 in this article from Forbes: link

The combination of our aging demographics and skyrocketing health care costs means higher taxes are inevitable.  See Figure 1 here regarding the coming debt explosion which will be driven primarily by health care costs: link

If you care about the debt and taxes, then the status quo regarding health care is not an option.  Things like tort reform won't make a significant difference.  The non-partisan CBO has estimated that it would only lower health care spending by 0.5 % (link), and the story is much the same for selling insurance across state lines (link).

More fundamental reform is required, yet even the relatively modest currently-proposed reforms are nearly dead.  This doesn’t look good.

Update 2009-02-19:
Admittedly, federal income tax rates don't tell the full story about the tax burden. However, the international comparison in the Forbes article is total taxes (federal, state, and local). In terms of historical U.S. figures, the data from The Tax Foundation show that local and state taxes as a percentage of income have remained stable for the last 30 years (link). In terms of % of GDP (another metric of the tax burden), this figure shows that state and local taxes rose steadily from 1945 to 1970, but not astronomically (link). None of these data support the view that taxes are currently abnormally high. Given the impending debt explosion driven by demographics and health care costs, I'm betting taxes will rise eventually no matter which party is in power.

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