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Americans Are Eager to Tax the Rich, Multiple Polls Show

Occupy Wall Street protest. (Timothy Krause / Flickr Creative Commons).

Billionaires who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos last month may be weary of the wave of proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. A Wall Street Journal editorial called them “crippling.” Economist Tyler Cowen, writing in Bloomberg, suggested that, if implemented, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal that Americans with incomes over $10 million should be taxed at a 70 percent rate would help re-elect Trump.

New polls, however, suggest that Trump’s opponents might want to pay closer attention to such proposals. As Ben White writes in Politico on Monday, “polling suggests that when it comes to soaking the rich, the American public is increasingly on board.”

A new survey from Morning Consult and Politico found that 76 percent of respondents, all registered voters, believe that the richest Americans should pay higher taxes. It’s a belief that extends across party lines too, for Americans making over $10 million. A Fox News poll taken shortly after Ocasio-Cortez proposed the 70 percent rate during her “60 Minutes” interview showed that 54 percent of Republicans agreed with her. Another survey, this time from The Hill and HarrisX, showed that 59 percent of respondents agreed with Ocasio-Cortez.

Those numbers, White says, “suggests the political ground upon which the 2020 presidential campaign will be fought is shifting in dramatic ways, reflecting the rise in inequality in the United States and growing concerns in the electorate about the fairness of the American system.”

Ocasio-Cortez is not the only member of Congress to float plans for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In the weeks following that interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has taken major steps toward a 2020 presidential run, proposed a two percent tax on Americans with a net worth above $50 million, and an additional one percent hike on billionaires. Then another possible presidential contender, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced the For the 99.8% Act, which includes a 77 percent tax on billionaires’ estates.

While voters show support in multiple polls for raising taxes on the wealthy in general, the Politico-Morning Consult survey suggests a preference for Warren’s wealth tax specifically, with 61 percent in favor, including Republicans, compared to 45 percent in favor of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan.

Aside from preferences for politicians’ specific proposals, 57 percent of respondents believe poor Americans pay too much in taxes, 58 percent believe the same about the middle class, and 63 percent think the rich are paying too little.

Even President Donald Trump, when he was candidate Trump and had not yet passed sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy, understood this. As Vox observes, in its analysis of the recent Politico-Morning Consult poll:

For all of President Trump’s purported obsession with pleasing his base and fulfilling his campaign promises, candidate Trump promised repeatedly not to enact a tax proposal that he would personally benefit from and claimed over and over again that he wanted to crack down on abusive loopholes used by hedge fund and private equity managers. What he actually did was deliver a regressive tax cut that contains special new loopholes he benefits from personally.

It’s also a sign that when it comes to taxes, the GOP may need to rethink their messaging. As White observes, “Republicans who think they can use the proposals as a political weapon in 2020 to paint Democrats as wild-eyed, tax-and-spend liberals, a winning strategy since Walter Mondale called for higher taxes in 1984 and got crushed, may find it challenging.”


Ilana Novick
Blogger / Editorial Assistant

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