"Soak the rich" losing popularity

Perhaps this will feel a little counterintuitive after seeing today’s jobless numbers, but it actually makes a lot of sense.  Gallup’s latest poll on soak-the-rich tax policies show that Americans are less open to redistributionism than at the peak of the pre-Great Recession economy, with a plurality rejecting “heavy taxes on the rich”:

Americans break into two roughly evenly matched camps on the question of whether the government should enact heavy taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth in the U.S. Forty-seven percent believe the government should redistribute wealth in this way, while 49% disagree, similar to views Gallup found four years ago.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply different reactions to the government’s taking such an active role in equalizing economic outcomes. Seven in 10 Democrats believe the government should levy taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth, while an equal proportion of Republicans believe it should not. The slight majority of independents oppose this policy.

The question also provokes different reactions from men compared with women, whites vs. nonwhites, and upper-income vs. lower-income Americans. Consistent with their more Democratic political orientation, women, nonwhites, and lower-income adults are all more supportive than their counterparts of government redistribution of wealth via taxes.

The “slight majority” of which Gallup speaks is a ten-point margin among independents, 53/43.  Interestingly, even though a majority claims that the distribution of wealth in America needs to be more evenly distributed (57/35), a plurality of 42% believe that we have “the right amount” of rich people.  Maybe we just need to redistribute within the wealthy class?  That’s near a 20-year low of 40% in 2007, but the percentage who believe we have too many rich people dropped six points from 37% in 2007 to 31% today.

Redistributionist policies will always appeal to those who see themselves as outsiders to economic success.  One might expect that the terrible economy of the last three years would have boosted the popularity of Barack Obama’s populist agenda, but it seems the opposite has occurred.  Americans know that job creation comes from private investors taking risks with their wealth in order to create even more wealth, and not from government confiscation of wealth to create new bureaucracies that create nothing but red tape.  We have spent the last two years watching what happens when government takes wealth out of the economy, and the results — chronically high unemployment, bad housing markets, and a falling dollar that brings high fuel and food prices — are no longer dim reminders of the 1970s, but our current environment.