There have been a number of articles recently detailing poll support for President Obama’s call to raise taxes on the rich (see here, here and here). In one poll from July, 72% of poll respondents supported raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year to reduce the deficit. I’m not sure who they polled but my guess is a lot of people making less than $250,000. Why? Because Reason did a little more detailed questioning in their poll and it turns out that Americans are happy to raise taxes – on someone making more than they do:

Results from the Reason-Rupe poll actually demonstrate a willingness by a majority of Americans to increase taxes on the “wealthy.” However these preferences depend greatly on how one defines wealthy. The poll asked the standard question “Do you think the federal government should increase taxes on the wealthy,” with 69 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed. However, respondents in favor were then asked what household income they would use to define someone who is wealthy and should therefore pay higher taxes. Respondents consistently listed incomes that were above their own, even high-income respondents, suggesting that people may want to raise taxes, but just not on themselves.

For instance, the interquartile range among those making less than $25,000 a year ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 a year. Yet, those making $100,000-$199,000 defined wealthy as $250,000 to $5000,000. Those making over $200,000 defined wealthy from $300,000 to $1,000,000. The graphic below compares each income group to that groups’ preferred definition of the term “wealthy.” Each group typically wants to tax those who make more than they do.

Here are some other interesting responses in the Reason poll that won’t get much press:

  • 69% favor a balanced budget amendment
  • 57% favor cutting the deficit primarily through spending cuts while only 15% favor cutting it through tax hikes
  • 57% believe cutting government spending will mostly help the economy
  • 62% believe that if Congress raises taxes, the new revenue will be spent on new programs, not cutting the deficit
  • 69% expect their taxes to rise
  • 54% favor allowing workers to opt out of Social Security
  • 57% are unwilling to cut their own benefits to balance the budget
  • 61% believe the US uses its military force in foreign conflicts too much
  • 65% believe leaving troops in Afghanistan until 2014 will have no effect on US security
  • 54% believe that government regulation of business does more harm than good

The full poll can be found here.

It seems to me that Americans are pretty rational about all this. We should have a balanced budget and we should accomplish that primarily through spending cuts. And if we have to raise taxes for God’s sake raise that other fellow’s, not mine. The rest of it seems pretty reasonable too.

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