President Trump speaks about business during a proclamation signing in the Oval Office. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Senior reporter

On the list of untrue things President Trump has said, few have been repeated as often as him calling the United States the “highest-taxed nation in the world.”

And his top spokeswoman basically admitted it was bogus Friday.

Speaking at her regular briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked why Trump keeps returning to that talking point during the tax reform debate, even though the United States overall actually ranks among the lowest-taxed nations in the world. And her justification for it — if you can even call it that — spoke volumes.

“I believe there are specific sectors within the country that are among the highest taxed in the world,” she said.

Well then.

First off, Trump has never offered that first qualifier — that he was talking about “specific sectors” only. He has always cast it as the country as a whole, and he's often said it while talking about taxes on the middle-class.

But even if we grant him that generous interpretation, it's still impossible to justify. As PolitiFact notes, we rank toward the bottom when it comes to taxes as a percentage of gross domestic product and individual tax rates. Our corporate tax rate is among the highest, but it's not the highest, and even that is misleading when it comes to the taxes that corporations actually wind up paying.

PolitiFact explained:

Of the most advanced and industrialized nations in the world, America ranks third highest for general top marginal corporate income tax rates with a 39.1 percent tax on corporate profits, exceeded by Chad and the United Arab Emirates. So the United States does have a higher corporate tax rate than most of its industrialized peers.

That said, it’s worth remembering that the official tax rates are one thing, while the tax rates corporations actually pay can be substantially less. In practice, U.S. companies pay less because they can claim deductions and exclusions.

Sanders's second qualifier is also notable. Sanders isn't even saying the United States is the highest-taxed in some of those sectors or on the corporate tax. She's saying it's “among the highest-taxed” in those sectors. But Trump says “the highest-taxed,” period. So she's not even really vouching for the claim that Trump has made dozens upon dozens of times. And she's not vouching for it because it's not true.

When your own press secretary won't attach her brand to your bogus claims, maybe it's time to revisit them.