The Mix

Freedom's on the march!

At least at Dow Jones and Co.
It's a wonderful day! The Economic Freedom Index compiled annually by the Heritage foundation and the Wall Street Journal is out today. I've been waiting on pins and needles.

The U.S. is tied for ninth - better than its twelfth-place rank last year, and - surprise! - Venezuela comes in two spots below Cuba at 152 (could you get more ridiculous?).

Every year when the report's published, Mary Anastasia O'Grady does an Op-ed about it. This year's theme is something about how Eastern Europe swallowed some painful economic reforms while Latin America didn't and blah blah. You can read it here.

Anyway, not much has changed, so allow me to lazily re-post what I wrote when last year's index was published:

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics…

I don't know about you, but when the Wall Street Journal's editorial page starts talking about 'freedom,' I go and check on the children.

In yesterday's Journal, America's Column editor Mary Anastasia O'Grady trots out the latest "Economic Freedom Index" ratings and warns that we're falling behind in the global economy:
In 1998, the U.S. was the fifth freest economy in the world, in 2001 it was sixth, and today it sits at 12th, tied with Switzerland. The U.S. drop in ranking is explained in part by a slightly lower score, but mostly by the good performance among its competitors. The lesson? Stand still on the highway to economic liberty and the world will soon start to pass you by. […]
The U.S., with its strong property rights, low inflation and competitive banking and finance laws, scores well… But worrying developments like Sarbanes-Oxley in the category of regulation and aggressive use of antidumping law in trade policy have kept it from keeping pace with the best performers in economic freedom.
Sarbanes-Oxley, you'll remember, was the corporate accounting law passed after Enron. She goes on:
Most alarming is the U.S.'s fiscal burden, which imposes high marginal tax rates for individuals and very high marginal corporate tax rates. In terms of corporate taxation as an element of economic freedom, the U.S. ranks a lowly 112th out of the 155 countries scored, and its top individual tax rate ranks only slightly better at 82nd.
There's a lot there, not least of which are some major methodological problems comparing developed states and, say, Chad. And marginal tax rates are just one piece of the bigger tax pie. Looking at the whole picture, we rank 4th lowest out of 30 developed OECD states in terms of overall tax burden, according to the Tax Policy Center --pretty lean. And that data is from 2000, before Bush's tax luau for the wealthy. I'm sure we're number one now.
Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.
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