Polls Show Americans Are in Favor of Tax Hikes on Rich (as Well as Many Obama Jobs and Deficit Reduction Proposals)

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September 20, 2011; Source: Gallup | A Gallup poll released yesterday reveals that most Americans support the president’s plan to raise taxes on rich individuals and corporations. The poll found that 70 percent of Americans agree that certain corporations should have tax loopholes closed, and 66 percent think that taxes should be increased on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000. In fact, Americans favor almost all the proposals in Obama’s American Jobs Act by fairly significant margins. This is generally true even of Republicans, though their support is lower than that found among Democrats and Independents.

Overall, Gallup found that a plurality of Americans want their representatives to vote in favor of the American Jobs Act. Be still my heart—will Americans suddenly start voting in their best interests as far as tax equity is concerned? Stay tuned, because the answer may well be “no,” despite the polls.

It’s well-known to political economists that a small interest group—such as wealthy Americans—with a lot to gain or lose from a given policy change—such as a tax hike—will generally defeat a much larger public, even if polls reveal that most voters oppose the small group’s agenda. The reason is that the benefits of raising taxes on the wealthy—while significant in the aggregate in terms of controlling the deficit—will be barely perceptible to the average person. Time and time again, history shows that a large group receiving diffuse benefits will lose to a small group receiving concentrated benefits. We’ll have to see if these times will help us all break that mold.—Ruth McCambridge