NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tax Day

April 14, 2003

April 15 is like a national holiday for conservatives, says Bruce Bartlett. It is the one day each year when Americans are forced to think about the cost of government. That is why many conservatives have long thought that tax day should also be election day. A review of polling data on taxes by Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute suggests that conservatives would indeed gain from such a move.

The latest poll shows that the most anyone should pay is a percentage in the high teens. A Fox News poll in January found that 17 percent was the average rate, but 10 percent was the median. That is, half of all those asked thought that 10 percent was the most anyone should pay. Consequently, it is not surprising that a flat rate income tax polls well every time the question is asked.

Today, we have rising deficits and an effort underway in Congress to cut taxes. Almost all Democrats and a few Republicans say that it makes no sense to cut taxes when deficits are rising. But most Americans do not believe that deficits are caused by tax cuts. In fact, a Democratic poll by Penn, Schoen and Berland in May 2002 asked people if they thought that tax cuts increased deficits or reduced them by raising economic growth and revenues.

  • Fifty-six percent favored the latter position and only 34 percent supported the former.
  • Among swing voters, 69 percent said that tax cuts don't increase deficits.

This review suggests that Americans are much more in tune with Republican ideas about cutting tax rates -- even for the rich and even when the budget is in deficit -- than Democratic ideas about soaking the rich and raising taxes to pay for new programs, says Barlett. (See figure)

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