Political Animal


August 10, 2011 2:25 PM American mainstream calls for higher taxes

By Steve Benen

Gallup asked Americans what they’d like to see Congress do next on debt reduction. The top response in the newly-released poll: “Increasing income taxes for upper-income Americans.” A large 66% majority endorsed this move, including 45% of self-identified Republicans. No, that’s not a typo.

A new CNN poll asked the same question. Guess what was the most popular debt-reduction idea? “Increases in taxes on businesses and higher-income Americans,” which was backed by a 63% majority.

A McClatchy/Marist poll (pdf) released yesterday found that 68% of Americans support raising taxes on income over $250,000. In this survey, a majority of self-identified Republicans supported the idea.

Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, has an updated list of 23 polls — all from the last nine months — which all show the same thing: consistent support from the American mainstream for higher taxes. The list isn’t selected — Bruce highlights (and links to) every poll he could find on this, and in each case, the margin was about 2-to-1 in support of tax increases for the wealthy.

As Bruce explained a month ago:

Contrary to Republican dogma, polls show that the American people strongly support higher taxes to reduce the deficit and improve income inequality.

This clearly isn’t what the congressional GOP had in mind. As debt-reduction talks got underway months ago, Republicans assumed they had the better hand — all they had to do, the party assumed, was say those rascally Democrats want to “raise taxes.” The public would recoil, Dems would back down, and all would be right with the world.

But it’s Democrats who are in sync with the public. Lately, it’s tough to get two-thirds of the country to agree on much, but they agree on raising taxes on the wealthy.

The GOP is an increasingly unpopular party, pushing an increasingly unpopular agenda. Here’s hoping Dems notice as the process moves forward.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Jack Lindahl on August 10, 2011 2:28 PM:

    Here’s hoping Dems notice as the process moves forward.

    Well, how's that been going lately?

  • T2 on August 10, 2011 2:31 PM:

    "The GOP is an increasingly unpopular party, pushing an increasingly unpopular agenda"

    That said: the "unpopular" party controls the House.
    the "unpopular" party controls the Senate by way of the need for 60 votes
    the "unpopular" party controls the US Supreme Court
    the "unpopular" party owns and controls virtually all Corporate Media
    the "unpopular" party controls a majority of State governments

    How does an unpopular party end up controlling so much?

  • stormskies on August 10, 2011 2:36 PM:

    T2 says it all ..and then add the fact that we no longer have a congress or senate that represents the 'will of the people'..........they, in fact, represent the will of their corporate donors who have bought and paid for their souls .. in so doing their souls have now be replaced with nothing more than a rancid abscess ... and all of us 'common people' ..the 'little people' .. have to pay the price of their corruption ..

  • c u n d gulag on August 10, 2011 2:39 PM:

    "Here’s hoping Dems notice as the process moves forward."

    HA! LOL!!!

    We're talking about the same group of people who got at least a foundation for a national health care system passed, then let the righties define it as "Death Panels for Smoochy and Grandma," and then had to run away from what they did when the election of 2010 came up because passing health care was a BAD thing?

    Those Democrats?

    There's almost 15 months left until the next election.

    It'll be amusing to watch how the Republicans out-message the Democrats. YET AGAIN!!!
    But amusing...

  • square1 on August 10, 2011 2:44 PM:

    What Steve Benen keeps omitting from his perpetual rants against the GOP is that Democrats do not need a permission slip from Republicans to raise taxes: The Bush (and now Obama) tax cuts are still scheduled to expire. All of them. Democrats do not need to pass any legislation to accomplish this. Democrats simply have to do nothing to prevent it.

  • walt on August 10, 2011 2:44 PM:

    Obviously, what T2 and stormskies said.

    We need to separate out a couple of knotted strands on what passes for the left here. One is liberalism itself and the other is the corporatized Democratic Party. One faction wants higher taxes on the rich, the other is meh about it all. But if we're the party of government, it's because government is the only force that can buffer the lives of the average citizen from the rapacious "free market". We need to be clear about that because once we muddle this message with "compromise" and "playing the hand you're dealt" and all the other excuses we make for ourselves, liberalism dies along with hope. Make no mistake: the average citizen gets it. Our leadership does not. Either we start speaking louder about this discrepancy on the left or we're irrelevant.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 10, 2011 2:45 PM:

    "How does an unpopular party end up controlling so much?"

    Ans: Democrats will not get out in front of issues even when the public agrees with them. There's a reason for that: Democrats lack milquetoast, hormoneless, fussy weaklings. Their weakness makes them contemptible. Nobody likes contemptible weaklings.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 10, 2011 2:47 PM:

    edit above: ...reason for that: Democrats are milquetoast,...

  • steve duncan on August 10, 2011 2:52 PM:

    What, exactly, did the NY Times find so damned important in this AP release that it merited their mention?


  • Elie on August 10, 2011 2:58 PM:

    I really am sad about the number of right wingers who troll here. My God Steve, given your apparent values, you need a giant "pie filter"...

    Everything much of your commenters say are lies, including "and" and "the" -- at least as it comes from their mouths.

  • T2 on August 10, 2011 2:59 PM:

    square1, if the Dems were to just let the Bush Tax Cuts expire, what would the media say?
    Would it be "Dems cut billions from the national debt" or "Bush Cuts Expire", or "Dems raise taxes"

    I think you know the answer.

  • JM917 on August 10, 2011 3:03 PM:

    So let Obama spend August putting together a jobs and infrastructure-investment plan, and talk up "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS" as he bus-tours around the Rust Belt all month. And he's to to talk up raising TAXES on the high-earners to pay for it. Come September, he has to hit Congress with the jobs/infrastructure plan, and with demand for high-end taxes to pay for it. And of course the House will say it's DOA.

    Fast forward to the deliberations of the Super Duper Committee. Let's hope that they get a presidential proposal along the lines of his jobs/taxes plan. And when the Super Dupers do their thing (hopefully in the full glare of publicity), let the Republicans reiterate their horror of ever asking the rich to pay an extra dime to help out the rest of us (let along rescue the nation from its budget woes). It's at that point that the six Dems (looking at you, Max Baucus) have to hang very, very tough. Don't ask SS and Medicare/Medicaid recipients to pony up a dime in lost benefits if the filthy rich (a.k.a. "the job creators" who create all their jobs in China and India) continue to go scot free.

    Pin that selfishness on all six of those damned Repugs! And don't forget to keep asking the Repugs where are the "jobs, jobs, jobs."

    And when, around Thanksgiving, the Super Dupers come up empty (and it will, unless Baucus caves), then let the trigger guillotine fall.

    At least the Dems will have defined the stakes for the 2012 election. Let the Dems, not the Repugs with their never-again-another-penny-in-taxes Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum chant (and with their failure to deliver on "jobs, jobs, jobs") set the agenda. Jobs--Save Social Security/Medicare--Tax the Rich. That's the message on which what Obama and the Dems need to run on in 2012, and damn the Do-Nothing House. (And hopefully the Republican presidential candidate will look like something in Halloween garb.)

    And who knows, maybe the guillotine falling on some of the lavish defense spending, maybe the country will start to get used to the idea that we have to start reducing our policeman-of-the-world ambitions. That wouldn't be a bad outcome, now would it?

    All that's required is a lot of fortitude from Obama and the Dems. And, as these polls show, we DO have public opinion on our side. The wind that's blowing is NOT a Repug wind.

    We can at least hope. Yes, we can!

  • bleh on August 10, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Aiyee! Sociamalism! Tax-and-spend Deficit-crats! Job-killing Big Gummint! Nazi Pelosi! Anti-freedom Hillary Obamacare! Welfare abortion bureaucracy!

    Also Kenyan Muslim usurper immigrant gaymarriage.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 10, 2011 3:12 PM:

    @JM917: "All that's required is a lot of fortitude from Obama and the Dems."

    Trying to be funny, are you? Dems will NOT take advantage. They just won't. I've been following politics too damned long to keep hoping for that. Dems just won't take their own side in a fight.

  • ckelly on August 10, 2011 3:13 PM:

    So now it's "OK" for the Dems to push for raising taxes because it's a popular idea that polls well? Not because, oh I dunno, it's a policy they believe in and stand behind.

  • majun on August 10, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Unfortunately, I suspect that if polling organizations were to ask the question, "Has Obama raised taxes overall?" almost as many people who favor tax increases for the rich would answer in the affirmative. Even though individual taxes have gone down demonstrably during the past two years, with 288 billion in tax breaks as part of the stimulus and the payroll tax holiday, most Americans still believe that the ACA caused their taxes to go up.

    And that's how the GOP expects to win this one. When challenged, since most of the ACA hasn't gone into effect yet, the response is always, "they will have to increase taxes in the future to cover the expenses of the program." So, when you call them out on their lie they resort to the Colbert tactic of claiming truthiness on their side.

  • Roddy McCorley on August 10, 2011 3:19 PM:

    Here’s hoping Dems notice as the process moves forward.

    Yessssss... here's hoping...

    Ya know what else I'm hoping for?

    Rocket boots.

  • Grumpy on August 10, 2011 3:26 PM:

    Ah, but polls showed health care reform was unpopular. Of course, that was a complex question referring to a multi-faceted plan. "Raise taxes on the rich?" is a simple question. If the GOP rejects tax increases, will Dems tar them, as Dems were tarred in 2010, with ignoring "the will of the people?"

  • square1 on August 10, 2011 3:48 PM:

    T2: First off, I don't give a fuck what the media would say.* If letting the tax cuts expire is good policy, it is good policy.

    Second, whatever the media would say would likely have little to no effect on the public. As Steve Benen just pointed out, the public supports tax increases. And the public came to that conclusion despite the fact that the media has generally either ignored discussions of tax increases or has opposed tax increases.

    Third, Obama's supporters keep telling me that he is "taking the long view" and not worried about short-term political gain. Well, time to put up or shut up. Even if tax increases were unpopular -- and they aren't -- I expect Obama to lead the party in support of good policy and damn the political fallout.

    Fourth, my point was as much about the Democrats' rhetorical games as it is about their actual positions: If Democrats want to reverse their previously stated positions and come out in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts, I would disagree with them but at least they would be taking a position. What really, really pisses me off is when Democrats PRETEND to support increasing taxes while also PRETENDING that increasing taxes is beyond their power.

    *As an aside, although I am confident that the public generally accepts the need for tax increases and am not too worried about defending the policy in public, if Democrats want a strong line of attack, they should simply argue that the Bush tax cuts were always intended to be a temporary response to budget surpluses and by trying to make them permanent, Republicans are making tax relief in the future less likely. A suggested response:

    "Sometimes taxes should be lowered and sometimes taxes should be raised. Democrats have always understood this. My concern is that when Republicans ask for a temporary tax cut and then try to make it permanent after the fact by demogoguing the expiration of the tax relief, it makes it a lot harder to agree on temporary tax cuts in the future. There are a lot of temporary tax cuts that Democrats might support in this economy. But they have to think 'If I agree to this tax break for the next 12 months will Republicans insist on making it permanent and making the long term debt problem worse?' Republicans can no longer be trusted."

  • bdop4 on August 10, 2011 4:13 PM:

    Of course, the poll question doesn't include job creation as a choice for reducing the deficit because really, how would having more taxpaying citizens possible work to reduce the deficit?

  • tnjkemp@comcast.net on August 10, 2011 4:29 PM:

    If Cantor wasn't a crazy illterate he might comprehend what the American public is telling him and the other crazies.

  • xando foote on August 10, 2011 4:35 PM:

    It seems the GOP and news affiliates have hammered so long on this point that the public believes that any increase in USG revenue and any reduction in tax expenditure somehow equates to "raising taxes."

    Allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset, as they were intended to do, is not raising taxes. Nor is eliminating taxpayer subsidied for big oil ... nor is closing corporate tax loopholes. These are common sense steps with which a vast majority of Americans, and even a simple majority of Republicans, fully agree.

    That is a step in the right direction. Mr. Obama could then propose comparable tax cuts for the middle class and leave the GOP to oppose that at their peril in 2012.

  • JM917 on August 10, 2011 5:17 PM:

    @ Disgustedwithitall:

    No, I'm not jesting. I'm really POed and yet also full of hope. I'm saying that sometimes it happens that when you find yourself with your back to the wall, and realize that you can't continue just backpeddling and retreating, you have to turn and fight.

    That's where the Dems, and Obama, are now. The Repugs are simply digging in their heels, thinking that if they just continue with their relentless attack--with their song of "never a new tax" and "no more regulations" and all the rest of that Tea Party sh*t, the American people will join the chorus and trample the Dems. Well, now's the time that we're cornered and fight back. There's no other choice.

    I've been following politics for a hell of a long time, too--since the early 1960s. I voted for the first time for LBJ against Goldwater. I just feel it in my bones that now's the moment to stop backpedding and grousing in these blogs. I've been disgusted with Obama too, for playing Mr. Reasonable Nice Guy J. Bipartian far too long. I just hope--HOPE--that he's got a spark of fight still in him and that we can incite him to do what he has to do. And I think that the impending Super Duper deadlock is the time and the place to stand and fight.

    Crapcha: ivisho HOWEVER. Yeah, I wish...

  • max on August 10, 2011 5:34 PM:

    The majority of people who respond to these national polls see the obvious solution and have more common sense then the genuises in Washington who lack the common sense to run a lemonade stand. Third party anyone? (excluding tea party crazies)

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 10, 2011 6:07 PM:

    @JM917: I sure hope you're right, but I'm given up hope Dems will fight. They'll let the Republicans win the message war and motivate their useful idiots and further depress liberals-progressives. Just have no faith there's a pulse with hormones backing it up in the Democratic party. I think you'll see them let Republicans whittle away incrementally till the New Deal and Great Society are essentially gone before you see fight from the national Democratic party. Sickens me.

  • FlipYrWhig on August 10, 2011 7:36 PM:

    Here's what always happens on this, though. Polls show that people are OK with raising taxes on the rich. Democrats carefully make a plan to raise only taxes on the rich. Republicans pounce, talk about the tax hike as either a number of billions or just generic "raising taxes," like so: "Congressman Schmoe voted to raise taxes. Is that the kind of leadership we can afford?" or "Barack Obama wanted to raise taxes by $300 billion. Congressman Schmoe supported it. Tell Congressman Schmoe, No more blank checks." Etc. What Republicans do is create a lot of smoke and haze in order to make people think that _their_ taxes are going up, when the whole point is that _theirs_ won't. Center-right Democrats know how this game is played, and accordingly run and hide -- that's what happened in the 2010 elections.

    So it isn't just a matter of saying that Democrats should do what is good policy and what people say they support. They _also_ need to put out there, and stick to it, that the Republicans will spend millions of dollars to hoodwink voters into believing that the plan is something else. "Republicans think they can fool you. Don't let them get away with that."

    It's my fantasy meta-campaign. I dream small.

  • Doug on August 10, 2011 8:15 PM:

    re: square1 @ 3:48 PM

    And just how are the Democrats supposed to increase taxes? Especially now. We MIGHT have gotten an increase through a Pelosi-led House, but it NEVER would have passed the Senate.
    You can spare me the "bully pulpit" crap too; President Obama HAS been talking about the economy and jobs, but no one, and that apparently includes YOU, has been listening. Sen. Reid can give all the speeches he wants about the economy and jobs and it won't be worth squat, he's in the Senate, NOT the House. While Rep. Pelosi IS in the House, anything she might propose most likely wouldn't see the light of day. I suppose Democratic Senators and Representatives COULD be like the Republican/Teabaggers and spend all their time whoring for the cameras. Of course, one doesn't get much governing accomplished doing that, but then, that's what Republican/Teabaggers want, isn't it?
    Or perhaps you had in mind something along the lines of Democrats holding the country hostage by threatening to shut down the government unless Republicans agreed to immediately cancel the Bush tax cuts? How'd THAT strategy work out for those who DID it, hmmm?
    I can understand that SOME of the rhetoric tossed around on this and other blogs is based on frustration. I, too, get frustrated sometimes. However, I blame the ones CAUSING the frustration - Republican/Teabaggers, NOT those opposing them. Otherwise, you're merely an enabler of those you SAY you're opposing.
    Cue the "Obamabot" ad hominems in 3, 2, 1...

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  • johnnj on August 11, 2011 3:32 PM:

    “Contrary to Republican dogma, polls show that the American people strongly support higher taxes to reduce the deficit and improve income inequality.”

    NOT TRUE. A majority of the American people support raising taxes on the “rich”, ask those same people if they want their taxes raised to solve the problem and I am quite sure the numbers would be dramatically different.