CONGRESS

Poll: Don’t Extend Bush Cuts for Wealthy

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles during a campaign stop at Mapleside Farms on Sunday, June 17, 2012 in Brunswick, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)  
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
June 18, 2012, 5:59 p.m.

COR­REC­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this story gave the in­cor­rect per­cent of the pub­lic that wants tax breaks across all in­come levels made per­man­ent. Eight­een per­cent polled sup­port the po­s­i­tion taken by Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Mitt Rom­ney.

As Pres­id­ent Obama nav­ig­ates a choppy eco­nomy in his reelec­tion bid, he can rely on one com­fort­ing fact: Amer­ic­ans con­tin­ue to strongly em­brace his op­pos­i­tion to ex­tend­ing tax breaks for those earn­ing more than $250,000 a year.

A new United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll shows that only 26 per­cent of the pub­lic wants to see all of the tax breaks cre­ated dur­ing the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, which are set to ex­pire at year’s end, ex­ten­ded for at least an­oth­er year. And only 18 per­cent want the tax breaks across all in­come levels made per­man­ent, the po­s­i­tion taken by Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Mitt Rom­ney.

(Re­lated: Which House Fresh­men Might Make a Deal?)

That the broad­er pub­lic prefers tax­ing the rich to tax­ing them­selves is not sur­pris­ing. But the poll res­ults of­fer evid­ence of the polit­ic­al be­ne­fits that the pres­id­ent can de­rive from his op­pos­i­tion to the Bush-era tax breaks for high-in­come earners. Obama has made this a center­piece of his cam­paign. It also shows the dif­fi­culties that the GOP faces try­ing to con­vince voters that the $250,000 threshold hits small busi­nesses and would hurt the eco­nomy, and why that nar­rat­ive has gained little trac­tion with the pub­lic at large.

In the poll, 47 per­cent of re­spond­ents said they wanted to see the tax breaks ex­ten­ded only for those earn­ing less than $250,000. Eight­een per­cent said they prefer that all the tax breaks simply ex­pire, which would res­ult in high­er taxes across the in­come spec­trum.

The ques­tion of how to handle the ex­pir­a­tion of the Bush tax cuts, of course, will be settled not on the cam­paign trail but in Con­gress. No ac­tion is ex­pec­ted un­til after the fall elec­tions, when the lame-duck Con­gress will have to tackle not only the Bush tax cuts, but auto­mat­ic cut­backs to de­fense spend­ing, an ex­pir­ing payroll-tax break, the rising es­tate tax, and a po­ten­tial debt-ceil­ing in­crease. Col­lect­ively, that loom­ing fisc­al fight has be­come known as “Taxmaggedon.”

Re­pub­lic­ans have ar­gued that rais­ing taxes amid an eco­nom­ic down­turn could plunge the coun­try back in­to re­ces­sion. And Demo­crats have not stayed united in op­pos­i­tion, as former Pres­id­ent Clin­ton made waves this month when he sug­ges­ted in a tele­vised in­ter­view that law­makers should “avoid any­thing that would con­tract the eco­nomy now.” He later is­sued a cla­ri­fy­ing state­ment say­ing he sup­por­ted Obama’s po­s­i­tion.

“Even Bill Clin­ton came out for it, be­fore he was against it,” House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The op­pos­i­tion to ex­tend­ing the Bush-era tax breaks for those earn­ing above $250,000 spanned across every eth­nic and age group in the poll, with young voters most op­posed. Opin­ion did dif­fer among vari­ous in­come groups. Only 21 per­cent of those who earn less than $30,000 a year want the tax breaks for all earners ex­ten­ded; 28 per­cent of those earn­ing between $30,000 and $75,000 want them ex­ten­ded; and 31 per­cent among those earn­ing at least $75,000 fa­vor the across-the-board ex­ten­sion.

With less than five months un­til the Novem­ber elec­tions, the sur­vey shows how both Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans have tried to stake out pop­u­lar po­s­i­tions on fisc­al is­sues not just among their re­spect­ive bases, but also among the crit­ic­al in­de­pend­ent swing voters that de­term­ine elec­tions.

For Obama, that means talk­ing about the Bush tax cuts. For Re­pub­lic­ans, it’s push­ing small-busi­ness tax breaks, rather than more spend­ing on things like high­ways and in­fra­struc­ture, to pump up the slump­ing eco­nomy.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., pushed through le­gis­la­tion this year that prom­ised busi­ness-tax breaks to spur hir­ing. Obama em­braced Can­tor’s Jobs Act, des­pite an­ger­ing some in his own party, and the pair made a rare joint ap­pear­ance for a Rose Garden sign­ing ce­re­mony.

When asked what Con­gress could do to help the eco­nomy and cre­ate jobs, the top an­swer picked by poll re­spond­ents (37 per­cent of them) was “passing tax cuts for small busi­nesses to en­cour­age them to hire more work­ers.”

Re­pub­lic­ans par­tic­u­larly em­braced that ap­proach (52 per­cent), but it was also the most pop­u­lar op­tion se­lec­ted among both Demo­crat­ic voters (35 per­cent) and in­de­pend­ents (32 per­cent).

Busi­ness-tax breaks eas­ily out­polled ad­ded taxes on im­por­ted goods (24 per­cent), us­ing a trans­port­a­tion bill to pro­mote road-build­ing (20 per­cent), and ad­ded sub­sidies to pro­mote the use of clean en­ergy (11 per­cent). Clearly, three years after the stim­u­lus pack­age, the pub­lic still ap­pears to doubt the abil­ity of gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments to help the eco­nomy.

The strong show­ing for new taxes on for­eign products, mean­while, was only one ex­ample of a pro­tec­tion­ist streak cours­ing through the elect­or­ate, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey. A ma­jor­ity, 52 per­cent, also said that “eco­nom­ic com­pet­i­tion from for­eign coun­tries selling their goods here” has con­trib­uted “a lot” to sup­press­ing U.S. fam­ily in­comes.

There was no party split on that ques­tion: A ma­jor­ity of Demo­crats, Re­pub­lic­ans, and in­de­pend­ents agreed that goods pro­duced abroad were de­press­ing in­comes here. That was the highest fig­ure of the four choices presen­ted in the poll. The next most pop­u­lar, check­ing in at 47 per­cent, was that gov­ern­ment policies “give too many tax breaks to the wealthy,” fol­lowed by 46 per­cent who blamed “gov­ern­ment spend­ing and reg­u­la­tion.”

Fin­ish­ing a dis­tant fourth, with only 25 per­cent of re­spond­ents say­ing it had “a lot” of im­pact on sup­press­ing fam­ily in­comes, was “the de­cline in labor-uni­on mem­ber­ship.”

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 1,002 adults by land­line and cell phone on June 14-17. The sur­vey has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points. The mar­gin of er­ror is high­er for sub­groups.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×