WaPo/ABC poll: Six in ten favor raising taxes on $250K+ households for fiscal-cliff solution

posted at 12:11 pm on November 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Well, that $80 billion a year will come in handy, no?  That’s the impression that six in ten Americans have as a solution to the trillion-dollar deficits in the latest Washington Post/ABC poll — and 39% of Republicans, too.  The result demonstrates the political leverage of Democrats in the fiscal-cliff fight, and perhaps the leeway for the House GOP to compromise as well:

Sixty percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll support raising taxes on incomes more than $250,000 a year, long a popular option overall, but also a divisive one: While 73 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents are in favor, far fewer Republicans, 39 percent, agree.

Interestingly, the move to limit deductions doesn’t get nearly as much support:

Americans divide on another item on the table, reducing income-tax deductions. In a question testing the concept generally – that is, without suggesting that wealthier Americans would be harder hit – 49 percent oppose limiting deductions, while 44 percent are in favor. On this option, strong opposition exceeds strong support, although intensity isn’t high on either side, 28 vs. 20 percent.

Partisan divisions on this question are less pronounced than they are on a tax hike for the better-off: Support ranges from 45 percent of Democrats and independents to 39 percent of Republicans; opposition, 48 to 51 percent across these groups. “Strong” opposition, likewise, is similar across partisan groups, 26 to 30 percent.

Does that make any sense at all?  Part of the problem with the tax rates, from the populist point of view, is that the wealthy are perceived to have too many ways around them.  That’s why Mitt Romney belatedly took up the cause of limiting deductions to a capped amount.  That way one can limit the ability to shield income without having unpleasant conversations about the distortions provided by certain types of deductions.

Peter Orszag writes today at Bloomberg that these unpleasant conversations are the reason we won’t see deduction reform, even with a cap:

Let’s take a closer look at the effects of such a limit, though. In 2009, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service, taxpayers who itemized their deductions and had incomes of more than $200,000 had average deductions of $50,000 or more. For those with $200,000 to $500,000 in income, average deductions amounted to more than $51,000; from $500,000 to $1 million in income, the average was more than $100,000. At higher incomes, the averages rose further.

That households with incomes of more than $200,000 would be disproportionately affected by the deduction limit is neither surprising nor necessarily troublesome. Here comes the problem. In 2009, those taxpayers deducted more than $300 billion, 90 percent of which came from just three categories: taxes paid (mostly state and local taxes), home-mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Of the big three, charitable giving is the most discretionary (unless a family moves to a smaller house with a smaller mortgage, or a city or state with lower taxes). The charitable sector thus has the most to lose from a limitation on itemized deductions.

How much money is involved? In 2009, households with incomes of more than $200,000 claimed almost $60 billion in charitable deductions — or about 20 percent of total charitable giving in the U.S. that year. Households with incomes of more than $10 million claimed an average of $1.75 million each in charitable donations in 2009, and they accounted for roughly 5 percent of all giving.

Charitable giving reacts to tax incentives, and in response to any limits on deductions it could even fall by about the same amount as the increase in the tax bill, according to John List of theUniversity of Chicago, who recently reviewed the literature on this subject. Other studies have suggested an effect about half as large. Even that smaller estimate, though, suggests that limiting deductions to $50,000 a year could easily reduce giving by tens of billions of dollars.

How long do you think it will take the charitable sector to figure this out?

Well, how about some simple entitlement reform — like raising the retirement eligibility age?  That’s the most unpopular option of all, opposed by two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans:

Sixty-seven percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, oppose another suggestion, raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.  And on this idea, strong opposition surpasses strong support by more than 3-1, 49 to 14 percent.

Opposition to increasing the Medicare eligibility age crosses partisan and ideological lines; it’s 68 percent or more among Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives alike. Instead views relate to age; opposition peaks at 78 percent among adults age 50-64. It’s also higher among women and people with less than $100,000 incomes, compared with men and the better-off.

Terrific.  The only broad consensus for action is the populist tax-hike option which will solve less than 10% of the problem, and two-thirds won’t even take a basic step like mildly indexing retirement eligibility to life expectancy in order to reduce costs in the biggest fiscal train wreck of the federal budget.

If we could trade marginal tax-rate increases for real cuts in spending and actual entitlement reform that would end the long-term problems in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, I’d take that trade, if somewhat reluctantly.  This poll shows that Americans still have not come to grips with the scope and size of the problem … or even basic math.

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The same six out of ten people also think that removing a single french fry from a happy meal makes it a healthy meal.

Where is Ross Perot when you need him? Where is Karl Rove’s whiteboard or Glenn Beck’s blackboard? The amount of “revenue” generated by this tax increase won’t put a dent into the fiscal problem we face… yet NOBODY is talking about that incredibly obvious and important point.

I hate the world right now…

TheLoudTalker on November 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM

TheLoudTalker on November 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM

Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Of course it won’t do anything for the fiscal problem.
That’s not the point.
The point is to satiate the envious and let them feel like they’re getting a free piece of someone else’s pie.
You’re obviously into “logic”. You need to get with the program, comrade.

justltl on November 29, 2012 at 12:17 AM

Oh…and Let it Burn.

justltl on November 29, 2012 at 12:18 AM

Pollster should loose it’s license.

stupid question. Why not ask something like this or is it then too obvious?

“Do you want a fairy to make the fiscal cliff go away?”

The only reason people may so no is because it would be so obvious that the fairy does not exist and the issue would not go away.

Same here with tax the high incomes: the amount of money you can steal from them is just a drop in the bucket and wont solve a thing.

huntingmoose on November 29, 2012 at 2:31 AM

Raise the taxee, eight days worth then what Libs? If you listen real.closely you can hear the cracking and groaning as the structure collapses. The Libs own it, so LET IT BURN.

stormridercx4 on November 29, 2012 at 2:40 AM

The dumbest thing Republicans could do is agree to half of a solution. I’m confident they will.

Let it burn.

Over50 on November 29, 2012 at 6:48 AM

I say give the Democrats everything they want.

I want to see America punished for these election results, and inflicting Obama’s economic policies on them is the quickest way to cause the most destruction.

To hell with trying to do right by the country. 2012 proved to me the American people only care about handouts and class envy – so eff ’em. The rest of us who know what’s coming will be prepared.

DRayRaven on November 29, 2012 at 7:29 AM

The true poll question should be A or B.

A- Just tax cuts on the rich.
B. Tax cuts on the rich offset by bigger entitlement cuts.

Fact is that we get 80% of the vote in this poll even though the media is framing the debate wrong.

Bensonofben on November 29, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Probably the stupidest poll ever.

So they ask people; “Do you support raising taxes on people making over $250k a year?.” And they are surprised at the answer?

Why not just ask if they believe Elvis is still alive?

There is zero context as it relates to our fiscal issues. None.

It’s just an seemingly innocuous question. But ABC will run with it.

How about they say- do you support raising taxes on people making $250k a year, most of whom are small business owners, if it will force them to reduce employees, cuts benefits or downsize their business?

What do you think the answer would be?

How about a follow-up? Such as; Considering your answer on the first question; if those tax increases represent less than 1/11th of a solution for solving countries fiscal problems yet the entire annual deficit could be made up by spending cuts, what would you prefer- a small, economically damaging tax increase or spending cuts which solve the entire problem?

Marcus Traianus on November 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM

WaPo/ABC poll: Six in ten favor raising taxes on $250K+ households for fiscal-cliff solution

Solution? No.

FineasFinn on November 29, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Just one crazy question… Will these politicians be exempt from this tax? I mean it seems they exempt themselves from everything else put on the masses.

fistbump on November 29, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Six in ten covet their neighbors’ goods and would steal same if given the chance.

unclesmrgol on November 29, 2012 at 10:18 AM


Confiscating more money only gives the profligate political weasels more to waste.

We don’t need to be giving them more cash to burn, but to restrain their burning.

profitsbeard on November 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Six in ten favor are too stupid to understand that raising taxes on $250K+ households for fiscal-cliff solution will do nothing to fix our economic woes


Physics Geek on November 29, 2012 at 11:18 AM

If course it makes sense, Ed. Barack O’Claus has come to town, and the pathetic state of our broken Union is that no one wants to give up their free stuff. Including squishy Republicans. ~ RD

RumblinDurango on November 29, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Six in ten are stupid morons.

Sherman1864 on November 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM

I’m surprised it’s not 8 out of 10.

Capitalism is, for the most part, a counterintuitive process, and Republican politicians gave up trying to explain how it works long ago. It creates wealth systemically and indirectly, and that’s hard to explain to ordinary folks in quick sound bites when the LSM doesn’t support you. Rather than going to the trouble of truly educating the public, it’s been easier for Republicans to just offer this pitch: “Vote for me and I’ll lower your taxes.”

In other words, Republicans have appealed for votes on the basis of the voters’ direct self-interest. Even the Tea Party has taken this road to a great extent. You talk to a typical member, and many are likely to say, “Yeah, duh. I want to pay less taxes, so I joined. Taxed Enough Already–get it?”

Democrats are now exploiting a loophole in this line of thinking. You can now vote Democrat and you personally will still be paying less taxes–because the rich will be paying for you. In other words, Democrats not only have compassion on their side, they also have the voters’ self-interest as well. What’s not to like?

Burke on November 29, 2012 at 2:49 PM

This is from Rules for Radicals by the dirt ball, Alinsky:

RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

I despise these tactics, but it’s probably time to fight fire with fire.

I would pick someone very prominent on the Left who likely has a graveyard full of skeletons in his life, and who is inherently loathsome and who would generate almost no sympathy or support from his “friends” much less from his enemies. Let’s say, for example, some well known politician who has yet to prove, or even deny, that they are a pedophile.

-Publicize his wealth. Raise questions about how he made his wealth on his relatively meager salary.
-Organize protests outside his home, at his office, at his place of work.
-Protest that he needs to “pay his fair share”, that he has more money than anyone could possibly need, that he should donate all of his money above let’s say a million dollars to the poor and starving children of his state and the nation.
-You get the idea. There are a limitless number of ways to have fun doing this. And the envious 50% can join in, so as to slake their venomous, drooling envy and desire to see someone richer than they are get their comuppence.

justltl on November 29, 2012 at 7:27 PM

IF it were a solution, but it is not, it is 8 days of federal spending…well until that raise that limit another 1.6T then it will be like 8 hours.

rgranger on November 29, 2012 at 9:13 PM

All the taxes in the world will not cure the debt we carry unless we cut spending. Kiting checks is what the government is and has been doing for a long time. An atempt to redistribute wealth under the guise of $1.6 T in taxes will accelerate bankruptcy. Ya know, I shouldn’t have even put a dollar sign in front of that number, what does it mean nowadays?

jake49 on November 30, 2012 at 1:31 PM

I can’t find this survey, did they ask this dumb question? What maximum in total taxes should American’s rich and poor, be expected to pay?

Did they ask the question, besides Unemployment income, what other government benefits should count on someone’s tax returns? Should the value be used to determine poverty levels? some recipients today have so many different benefits that don’t count, and if they don’t count, they are eligible for more benefits.

I think that the EBT should be taxed in your income at the after tax value. It would cost me about $750 of earnings to buy $400 worth of food. Make recipients claim the true value of those dollars. Then determine taxes per the usual.

Housing subsidies the same. Free lunch, the value that other kids have to pay. Lets start counting and tell them what they are getting in dollar value, so they can be properly grateful.

Fleuries on November 30, 2012 at 2:03 PM

What that 6 out of 10 does not understand is that targeting a certain group for higher taxes, and that group does not produce enough tax money, who will be the next group to target. It could well be you! This country was not founded on the redistribution of the citizen’s wealth. A re-reading of the Declaration of Independence by that 6 out of 10 might be worthwhile, that is if they can read.

savage24 on December 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM

The Bush tax cuts increased revenue to the government to record levels from 2003-2008. He doesn’t get remembered for that, only the frank dodd financial crisis

Obama in the 2008 democratic debates when asked on increasing capital gains tax even though it would lower revenues to the government said that it was the fair thing to do.

He either doesn’t get it, wants to punish the wealthy, will grab it now, or has sinister elements

Look up the debate comments on you tube. Very revealing

audiotom on December 1, 2012 at 7:10 PM

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