NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Voters Need To Be Convinced Tax Cuts Are Real

November 15, 1999

George W. Bush reportedly will announce a tax plan within the next few weeks that will include some reduction in tax rates, phasing-out of the estate tax and other staples of Republican tax policy. However, today, even among the wealthy, who now pay a majority of all federal income taxes, tax cutting appears to be a low priority.

  • This is a puzzle because federal taxes as a share of the gross domestic product are the highest in U.S. history, 21.9 percent of gross domestic product.
  • Despite this fact, however, poll after poll shows that tax cuts rank below debt reduction, saving Social Security, strengthening Medicare and improving education among voters' priorities.
  • High taxes still are the main concern of a significant number of Americans, but they seldom rise above third or fourth on the list of priorities.

Overwhelming percentages of Americans still think their taxes are too high, and specific tax cuts are very popular; but there is a deep distrust for politicians who promise tax cuts.

One poll from Fox News/Opinion Dynamics in March asked registered voters if they believe politicians when they promise lower tax rates. A staggering 87 percent said no; only 9 percent said yes.

The poll found large majorities favor expanding Individual Retirement Accounts, cutting the capital gains tax, eliminating the marriage penalty and abolishing the estate tax. A large majority also support radical tax reform, such as a flat rate tax system.

George W. Bush needs to persuade voters he is serious about whatever tax plan he puts forward. For myself, I am more interested in whom he will pick to sell it if elected. That means if someone with an impeccable record as a tax cutter is appointed Treasury Secretary -- a Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes or Jim Gilmore -- then I can be confident tax cuts will be at the top of his agenda.

Source: Bruce Bartlett (senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis), "Give Numbers, Name Names on Tax Cuts," Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1999.


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