NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Support For Tax Cuts Isn't Tepid After All

May 29, 2001

Former House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer makes an interesting observation concerning alleged public apathy toward President Bush's tax cuts.

While polls report that only about 50 percent of the public supports tax cuts, that figure doesn't tell the whole story.

  • Consider that only about 65 percent of the U.S. voting-age population pays any income taxes.
  • In 1997, there were approximately 199 million U.S. citizens 18 or older and eligible to vote -- of whom 129 million had federal income-tax liability, while the remaining roughly 70 million paid no taxes and presumably cared little about "relief."
  • This suggests support for cuts at about 65 percent of those who have a personal stake in the matter.

But the figures can be examined another way.

Assume that out of 100 people, 50 support a tax cut. Assume that 65 of the 100 pay federal income taxes -- while 35 have no tax liability. Assume further than none of these 35 are in favor of tax relief. This means that 50 of the 65 taxpayers -- or 77 percent -- are in favor of the tax cut.

Archer points out that under the Bush plan a significant number of middle-income Americans will be removed from the income-tax rolls altogether.

As a result, the percentage of voters who have federal income tax liability in coming years will fall well below 65 percent. This, he warns, could spell trouble for any future movement to further reduce taxes.

Source: Bill Archer (PricewaterhouseCoopers), "Cutting Taxes Will Be Harder Next Time," Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2001.


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