A new WaPo/ABC poll shows that 72 percent of respondents back President Obama's plan to boost taxes on households with annual income of more than $250,000. Support is bipartisan: A tax hike on the wealthy is favored by 91 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.
Such surveys show what a political cul-de-sac taxes are for Republican lawmakers, who recently approved Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to curb the federal deficit in part by reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Conservative pundits have tried to spin that cut by claiming that it would be offset by the Wisconsin Republican's plan to close loopholes. That's false. As The New Republic's Jon Chait notes, Ryan is specific about the tax cuts he would offer the wealthy. The lawmaker also advocates not only preserving, but expanding the preferential taxes on capital gains and personal estates. By contrast, he is hazy to the point of being misleading about which deductions or credits he would eliminate.
Plugging the revenue gap
While it's true that we can't come close to wiping out the deficit by boosting taxes on the top 5 percent of Americans, it's also true that there aren't enough loopholes to seal shut to finance the Ryan tax cut.
That would require even greater decreases in social spending, which today's poll also makes clear people strongly oppose, or balancing the revenue-loss with a tax hike on other people, such as with a VAT. As Kevin Drum sums up the Republican position:
They want to cut taxes in the face of an aging population, and they're still resolutely dedicated to this fantasy-based proposition, come what may.To put it bluntly, any discussion of cutting taxes in face of the nation's fiscal and demographic challenges is madness. As the Economic Policy Institute reports, federal revenue in 2011 is expected to total just under 15 percent of GDP. That's the lowest level since 1950. That decline is a partly a consequence of the diminishing tax burden in this country on the rich, corporations and, yes, on the middle class, too.
It's gratifying to see that most Americans, if not many of their elected leaders, seem to get that.