The U.S. has a fee-vah and the only prescription is more embarrassingly feeble budget gimmicks.
Election status: Over.
I kid, I kid — although those GOP numbers are a bit closer than I would have expected. Anyway, the important data on the Buffett Rule isn’t what people think when asked, it’s how much they care when they aren’t asked. If you missed yesterday’s post about that, read it now. Here are the key numbers to refresh your memory — and remember, this comes from a center-left group (Third Way):
Swing voters don’t care about soaking the rich. They want jobs, and if The One can’t deliver then they’ll roll the dice on Romney. More on that from Jay Cost, who can’t quite believe O thinks class warfare might save him from yet another busted “recovery”:
[T]his is not what swing voters want to talk about. Think of the campaign in terms of consumer economics: Customers want Walmart and Target to stock their shelves with certain items at certain prices, and the purchasing power of their dollars forces the two firms to comply. Well, our parties are like Walmart and Target, the voters are their customers, and the campaigns are like the marketplace. In the competition for votes, the two parties invariably end up talking about what the country, and in particular the swing vote, wants to talk about.
I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the average swing voter does not want to talk about the “war on women,” the Buffett rule, or whatever else Team Obama is going to throw out there in the weeks and months to come. That voter wants to talk about jobs, the economy, the deficit, gas prices, the health care bill–in other words, all the issues where the president is vulnerable. And the competition of the campaign means that swing voter will get what he wants – Team Romney is more than happy to discuss all those issues, and so Obama will have no choice but to respond.
As if to prove Cost’s point, after a week of Buffett Rule blather and a solid six weeks of “war on women” crapola, Romney has his biggest lead over Obama in Rasmussen’s tracking poll today in more than a month. But wait — what about the actual Gallup data? Sixty percent support is no small shakes. That’s got to mean something, no? Well, maybe not:
In February, the online pollster YouGov asked a representative sample of 3,500 American adults what they thought would be a “fair amount of tax” to pay on lottery winnings. The survey specified different amounts of winnings, ranging from $1 million to $100 million. (The amount shown to each respondent was selected at random from a set of seven possible values.) Respondents gave their answers in dollars, and YouGov computed the implied percentage tax that they thought was fair.
Less than a quarter of respondents chose a tax rate of 30% or higher on any level of lottery winnings. The vast majority thought that a reasonable amount to pay was much lower, with the average being only 15%. Democrats and Republicans differed only a little: The average rate preferred by Republicans was 14%, compared with 17% for Democrats.
There was no evidence that respondents thought rates should be any higher on a $100 million prize than on a $1 million prize.
Not hard to see what’s going on here. People do want the rich to pay their “fair share” but they have no strong feelings about what a “fair share” might be. If you offer them a number that the pollster or Congress seems to think is “fair,” you get an approving response; if you ask them to name their own number, “fairness” starts to look much more conservative. Someone should test Gallup’s method by redoing their poll with two sets of questions. First, ask if millionaires should pay, say, 49 percent at a minimum. You might very well get a majority for that. Then give other respondents a choice of various tax brackets and ask them which is fairest as a minimum for millionaires. I’d be surprised if much more than 10 percent volunteered “49 or above.” But then, that’s no obstacle to Obama’s messaging: As Ben Domenech said, the Buffett Rule is fundamentally a moral argument, not a fiscal one. It just happens to be a moral argument that swing voters don’t much care about vis-a-vis having a steady paycheck. O’s run out of answers on creating jobs and reforming entitlements so now he’s stuck with “well, it’s just the right thing to do” arguments for his budgetary policies. That’s what four years of Hopenchange has come to.
Here’s next week’s talking point, by the way, in case you simply can’t wait until Monday to revisit this subject again.