Majority of Americans Say No to Tax Cuts for the Rich, But Who Cares?

We often hear that politics is driven by polling, but if that were the case, health-care reform would have passed with a public option, which was supported by a majority of Americans, even on the day the Affordable Care Act passed without one.

And so it goes that -- despite majority support for excluding the wealthiest Americans from extension of the Bush tax cuts -- the rich are going to have their cake and eat it too. That's because Republicans essentially ransomed the extension of unemployment benefits (to those millions of unfortunates who lost their jobs largely thanks to the Bush crash of September 2008) in exchange for $690 billion in tax breaks -- which equal lost revenues -- to the nation's wealthiest citizens.  (Note: that figure assumes the cuts will be extended for another 10 years, which goes beyond current proposals, but could still wind up happening, depending on future election outcomes. Either way, the deal in the works will add up to tens of billions in lost revenue.)

The most recent CBS News poll shows that 53 percent of all those surveyed think the Bush tax cuts should be extended only to those who earn less than $250,000 per year. Among Democrats, the number soars to 71 percent. And even among that coveted electoral demographic, a strong plurality, 47 percent, think the rich don't need the extra help.

As CBS's Brian Montopoli put it, House Minority Leader John Boehner "is off-base in his claim that Americans 'want us to stop all the looming tax hikes.'" I would add that Boehner is also off-base when he demeaned as "chicken crap" Thursday's attempt by Speaker Nancy Pelosi win a vote that would have extended the tax cuts to everyone but the rich.

So, why does this happen? How is it that the president finds a need to cut deals that are bad for the economy with his political enemies, even as the American people want him to vanquish their greedy grab?

Digby breaks it down via an assessment by political scientist Larry Bartels. It has to do with the difference between the general public and the voting public. And guess who votes in greater numbers than people who think like you do? Right -- people who don't. Especially among that independent crew, the swing voters.

So that 70 percent of Democratic voters who want to see the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich -- they don't really matter. Neither do the 47 percent of independents who do, because they're not all going to vote. And so the Republicans are able to put the president over a barrel, threatening to deny the extension of unemployment benefits for a few months, while the rich enjoy a lot more caviar over the next few years.

Oh, and all that job-creating potential supposedly inherent in the tax cuts for the rich? A study by Moody's Analytics found that when the rich receive a tax cut, they don't put that money back into the economy; they save it. From a September Bloomberg News report:

The Moody's research covering couples earning more than $210,000 found that spending by the wealthy is more likely to be influenced by the ups and downs of the stock market than changes in income-tax rates.

Stock-market performance is the "primary factor that is driving the savings of the top 5 percent of households," said Mustafa Akcay, economist and co-researcher of the savings data.




AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at December 6, 2010, 11:06am

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018