Let’s say you’re a family making $50,000, married with one child. Let’s also say you put 2 percent of your wages toward a 401(k), don’t itemize, and claim the Saver’s Credit and Child Tax Credit. This is what your tax receipt might look like. You’re paying $440 to have the finest military on the planet. You’re paying $9.59 on unemployment insurance. You’re paying $15.98 to ensure that the federal government can help you out if there’s a natural disaster that takes out your town. You’re also paying about $4,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes.

The Details, plus more charts: How America Pays Taxes—in 10 Not-Entirely-Depressing Charts)


Are the Rich Getting Too Much of the Economic Pie?

But are employment and earnings by degree the most important factors in choosing a college? Absolutely not. First of all, mushy as it sounds in an economics post, happiness matters. To the furthest extent possible, you should do what you want to do, not only in college, but also in life.
—  I have to whole-heartedly disagree with this.  This is precisely the type of nonsense that has left a generation of liberal arts students wading through middling jobs, “searching” for themselves and often unemployed.  While I don’t think college has to be approached with a kind of ruthlessly calculated agenda, some added emphasis on practicality is exactly what has been sorely lacking in our education system. 

The children of the Boomers were raised with a kind of starry-eyed simplicity to “follow your heart” and do “what you love,” because no one cares what you major in.  Do what you love, sure, but make sure you do something you may not love too so you can get a job you love later.  It may not be impossible to get that perfect position if you major in french literature, but sure is a lot easier if you have a double major with business or economics or some such thing.  A little encouragement to think ahead and think about what happens after you get the diploma would be a welcome addition.

Economics in Plain English: Are Bottomless Drinks Good For Business?

In Economics in Plain English, the new economic explainer video series from The Atlantic, business editor Derek Thompson answers big and small questions selected from hundreds of reader submissions.