Americans Ambivalent About Tax Rates

Americans are divided about whether their tax rates are too high or about right. That has to make it harder for members of Congress as they try to decide whether voters want lower taxes.  Politicians who believe that taxes have to be increased to lower the deficit are in a particularly difficult position. A new Gallup poll shows that half of Americans think their taxes are too high.

The poll results say “The 50% now calling their taxes “too high” is within the 46% to 53% range found each year since 2003.” History hardly matters to people who worry about their costs of living today. And, the past will not matter at all to politicians who keep their jobs based on their ability to divine the will of the people. Some members of Congress think higher taxes will increase Treasury receipts. Others think a greater burden will slow the economy and bring down total receipts eventually.

The Gallup poll does not show whether citizens think their tax rates are essential to the recovery of the economy or not. Perhaps that doesn’t matter. People may think with their own pocketbooks and may have little concern about the national interest particularly years from now. The deficit is the federal government’s problem and not theirs.

But, it is hard to believe that most Americans think that they should play no role in the improvement of GDP and joblessness. They have watched the government’s balance sheet worsen considerably over not just the last three years, but over the last ten. The notion that Americans are willing to throw the deficit and national debt to their children is probably a myth. Filicide is not part of the American character. A few Americans may put their interests first, but most people work to make sure their children will lead easier lives.

And, the eventual result of the taxation issue may boil down to one thing for many voters. Are they willing to bear some of the burden to improve the national debt problem or are they willing to ignore the futures of their own children?

Methodology: Results for the latest Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 7-11, 2011, with a random sample of 1,077 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-selection methods

Douglas A. McIntyre