American Attitudes Toward Taxes

May 26, 2010

It is no surprise that in a country devoted to the free enterprise system people believe the government takes too much money away from us.  

Although polls find a visceral sympathy for increasing taxes on “the rich,” the data show that most Americans believe the maximum fair tax level is far below what the upper classes are currently paying. By a large margin, Americans feel overtaxed.  According to an April 2009 poll by the Tax Foundation, 56 percent of U.S. adults believe their federal income taxes are “too high.”  Only one-third believe that the amount of taxes they pay is “about right.”  Just 2 percent—people I have never met—say their taxes are too low. Yes, some surveys suggest that in America there is popular support for increasing taxes on the rich.  Two-thirds of those polled in a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics survey in March 2009 favored raising taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year if taxes were lowered for other households.

But these statistics are misleading: If you dig deeper into the data, the popularity of “tax the rich” politics begins to crumble.  Another spring 2009 poll found that 69 percent of Americans think the top federal tax rate should be 20 percent or lower (even 62 percent of Democrats think this).  But of course, the top federal income tax rate is not less than 20 percent.  It is currently 35 percent and will rise at the beginning of 2011 to 39.6 percent.

Americans do not realize that we are a high-tax country already.  When they learn how much we are currently taking from our citizens—even “the rich”—they think it is too much.

Find out more about this in my new book The Battle here: http://www.aei.org/book/100036.