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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

‘Record Revenues’

Party Lines imageThe Line: The federal government will “collect more revenue in 2013 than ever before.”

The Party: Republican

It is true that the government will collect more revenues than ever in raw dollars, but not as a percentage of gross domestic product — which accounts for growth in population, inflation and earnings. As a percentage of GDP, revenues this year are actually expected to be lower than the historical average since World War II.

This Republican talking point is rooted in a government report issued Feb. 5 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023.” CBO projects that the U.S. government will collect more than $2.7 trillion in fiscal 2013. In nominal dollars, that would be higher than any year in history — topping the previous peak of $2.57 trillion in 2007 (See Table 1.1).

But it’s misleading to talk about revenues in nominal dollars. Economists prefer to view historic revenues as percentages of GDP. In fiscal 2013, federal tax revenues are projected to equal 16.9 percent of the nation’s economy, which is below the post-World War II average of 17.7 percent.

For more on Republican revenue claims, please see our Feb. 28 piece, “Boehner’s Revenue Reach.

Below is a list of some Republicans who have made this claim.

House Speaker John Boehner, Feb. 26: The federal government will have more revenue this year than any year in our history. (Source: “CBS Evening News.”)

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, Feb. 28: In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government is expected to collect record revenues this year, totaling approximately $2.7 trillion. (Source: Letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, March 1: This year alone, the federal government will take in more revenue than ever before. (Source: Weekly Republican Address.)

Former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Feb. 28: We have record revenues this year. (Source: CNN’s “The Situation Room.”)

Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, March 10: Well, the president got over $600 billion worth of taxes at the beginning of this year. We know that this town has a spending problem. We’re going to have record revenues in 2013 as … the economists have already shown. (Source: NBC’s “Meet the Press.”)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Feb. 26: Many of us do not believe that it is a revenue problem, and in fact, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government will take in more revenues this year than ever before, $2.7 trillion. (Source: Opening statement, House Committee on Financial Services.)

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, Feb. 25: We have more revenue for 2013, projected, than at any other time. And what does the president ask for? To take more from the taxpayer. (Source: Fox News interview.)

Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, Feb. 26: This year we will have a record revenue year. I mean $2.7 trillion I think is the most that we will take in as a government. But yet we can’t find 2.5 percent in cuts? (Source: Interview with the Sarasota Herald Tribune.)

Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi, Feb. 22: The federal government is set to collect more revenue this year than any previous year in American history, yet here [the president] is demanding another tax hike. (Source: Press release.)

Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, Feb. 25: Punishing middle class families and small businesses is no way to promote lasting growth. In fact, the federal government will take in more revenue this year than ever before. (Source: Press release.)

Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, March 7: And Washington certainly is not starving for revenue. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal government will take in $2.7 trillion in revenues in 2013 — more revenue than it ever has before. (Source: Op-Ed in the Norristown Times Herald.)

Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, Feb. 20: The Congressional Budget Office has project [sic] the government will take in $2.7 trillion in revenues in 2013 — more revenue than it ever has before. (Source: Press release.)

Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana, Feb. 22: This month the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan agency, reported the federal government will take in more revenue than ever before in 2013, at a projected $2.7 trillion. (Source: Op-Ed in the Rochester Sentinel.)

Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado, March 1: While American families have seen their taxes go up and their incomes shrink over the past few years and are doing all they can to weather the storm, the federal government continues to increase spending, and will collect more revenue in 2013 than ever before — $2.7 trillion. (Source: Press release.)

Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Feb. 27: No one should be talking about raising taxes on hardworking Americans with so much wasteful spending in Washington, especially when the federal government is set to take in more revenue than it ever has before in 2013. (Source: Press release.)

Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Feb. 13: We have more revenue now than ever, but the President continues to look for new ways to tax. (Source: Press release.)