Paul Favors Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Non-rich people are in favor of taxing the rich and using the proceeds to fund programs for non-rich people

Andrew Sullivan passes along this remarkable finding from CNN:

Nearly two-thirds say no to major changes to Social Security and Medicare. And nearly nine in ten don’t want any increase in taxes on middle class and lower income Americans.

“Republicans and Democrats disagree on the need for cuts in domestic and military spending, as well as tax increases for higher-income Americans, but they do agree that the committee should stay away from tax hikes for the middle class and major changes to Social Security and Medicare,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

According to the survey, only a third say that taxes on wealthy people should be kept low because higher-income Americans help create jobs, with 62 percent saying that taxes on the wealthy should be high so the government can use the money for programs to help lower-income Americans.

“That sentiment has changed little since the 1990s,” adds Holland.

So, non-rich people are in favor of taxing the rich and using the proceeds to fund programs for non-rich people? And this sentiment has been consistent over time?

Well, hush my mouth.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    So, non-rich people are in favor of taxing the rich and using the proceeds to fund programs for non-rich people? And this sentiment has been consistent over time?

    Well, hush my mouth.

    It’s a conspiracy dating all the way back to 1776, helped along by such communists as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and Adam Smith!

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Alex Knapp: Actually not true, at least on a national level. The funding mechanism set forth in the Articles and the Constitution was a head tax paid by the states. And there essentially were no social programs until the Civil War created a massive need for care for wounded vets.

    The history of the income tax, though, was that it was initially limited to the upper classes and, until JFK and especially Reagan, fantastically high marginal rates.

    I’m not opposed to raising the top rate back to Clinton era levels; it’s probably necessary. I just don’t think polling data tells us anything useful, given self-interest.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    I’m not referring to income taxes, particularly, but rather progressive taxation and social programs generally.

    Adam Smith put forth arguments for progressive taxation in the Wealth of Nations. Benjamin Franklin successfully lobbied the government of Pennsylvania to provide a free hospital for the indigent. Thomas Paine argued that all non-landowners should be provided with a minimum annual income by those who owned land.

  4. WR says:

    So a progressive income tax is nothing but theft to you, is that right James? We’re all just parasites looting our societal betters?

    Did you think that way when you were taking a paycheck from the government?

  5. Gustopher says:

    And the rich prefer to raise taxes on the poor and middle class, and use that to fund bailouts of their businesses.

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: The government does not tax in order to obtain funds to spend. This is a fallacy you keep repeating.

  7. legion says:

    James,
    You’re technically right, but there’s a very good reason for that self-interest – it’s been shoved in our faces for the last couple of decades that the “wealthy classes” don’t actually create jobs or stimulate the economy any more. At least not in the US. So, oddly enough, more people are thinking that a bunch of rentiers shouldn’t be living off of us.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I have a suggestion: raise rates on the rich, demonstrate that the overlords of society are feeling some pain, then ask the question again.

    Because right now, in a system rigged to defend every last minute prerogative of the rich while leaving the middle class and working class with unemployment, higher tuitions, fewer benefits and protections, lower incomes and dashed dreams is not an environment where any rational hardworking American volunteers to step up. They’ve stepped up. They’ve been beaten down. And we’re surprised they don’t want to take the load off the poor billionaire’s shoulders?

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    @legion: You’ve described the major flaw in conservative and libertarian thinking on property. If they really valued private property as a fundamental right they would acknowledge that rent seeking is a form of theft, and it is the responsibility of government to confiscate stolen goods.

    Unfortunately too many people think the money itself is virtuous, regardless of how it is acquired.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @legion:
    Exactly. They (we) got the Bush tax cuts and the net result was nothing. Nada. And yet we’re still getting from the GOP that we need to tug a forelock to the rich and useless. Massa needs still more. Massa can’t give up anything. Not a penny of his government bail-out money.

    The GOP rank and file are the brothers of those Russian peasants who, as they were being trampled by the Tsar’s Cossacks, would cry out to the Tsar to save them.

  11. Jay Tea says:

    @Ben Wolf: it is the responsibility of government to confiscate stolen goods.

    No, government should return stolen goods to their rightful owners. And “the government,” as the representative of ‘the people,” does not get to keep them in their name.

    J.

  12. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea: It has to be confiscated to be returned. And as it would be impossible to determine exactly what is owed to whom the only available option is for net financial assets to be returned to the private sector through spending.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @WR: Um, the title is a tongue-in-cheek play on a tongue-in-cheek quote from George Bernard Shaw that Dave Schuler uses with some frequency.

    I’ve written at length about the progressive income tax many times. Short version: It’s necessary (you can’t get blood from a turnip) and fair (marginal dollars mean less to the rich than the poor) but can theoretically be punitive. The 92 percent rate we had in the 1940s strikes me as bordering on theft–the mob appropriating the money of the rich minority for themselves. I don’t know where the line is drawn, but it’s not in the niggling range between 34.5 percent and 38.8 percent (or whatever) where the current debate lies.

  14. Lit3Bolt says:

    Tautological fallacies defending the wealthy are GOP mantras and koans. I swear they murmur them constantly while fingering rosaries.

    Here’s a list off the top of my head:

    The rich deserve their money because they’re rich. Everyone who is wealthy has earned their money, while everyone who is poor deserves to be poor. The poor always seek to steal from the rich through foul government programs like food stamps, subsidized housing, free healthcare, clean water, and public schooling, roads, and transportation. The rich never benefit from the government. The rich never use the government to enrich themselves. Poor people deserve to be poor because they could be rich simply if they wanted to be. But rich people are self-starters who have always succeeded by their own merits. Society is divided into winners and losers, and I’m a winner and deserve everything for which I’ve worked, while poor people are simply filthy moochers. Poor people don’t work hard because they’re poor, because hard work directly correlates to income. We live in a meritocratic society where everyone is compensated fairly with no bias. Corporations are trustworthy and ethical because they are successful and profitable. Government is always wasteful but the free market is efficient and rational. Only the poor engages in class warfare, but never the rich. Hard work and endless effort always pays off. The rich are better than the poor because they are rich. Amen.

    In other words, for Republicans and libertarians, capitalistic suffering is a feature, not a bug. If the poor did not exist, they would have to be invented.

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Joyner: The appropriate tax rate is entirely dependent on current economic circumstances. A significantly higher tax rate for the wealthy and super wealthy would generate a net economic gain by draining the vast excess of reserves which have accumulated at the very top. That’s what taxation is: controlling money supply and generating demand for currency. Raising taxes would also counter any potential for future inflation, though the likelihood of inflation becoming a problem is already quite low. The best policy would be an increase in top marginal tax rates, a cut to payroll taxes, and an increase in government spending to sectors of the economy which generate real goods and services rather than extracting rents.

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    @@Lit3Bolt: Actually this sounds exactly like what I would expect from people who had overly strict parents.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Lit3Bolt:
    Add to that excellent peroration the fact that the GOP includes many poor and working class folks who believe that sufficient servility will earn them a place at the rich man’s table. Like dogs that lick the hands of their abusers, they’re hoping for scraps.

  18. WR says:

    @James Joyner: Thank you for a calm reply to my heated message. I have to say the state of this country — and the world — and the desire of many on the right to essentially destroy civilisation had me more than a little irritable.

  19. mantis says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    Adam Smith put forth arguments for progressive taxation in the Wealth of Nations. Benjamin Franklin successfully lobbied the government of Pennsylvania to provide a free hospital for the indigent. Thomas Paine argued that all non-landowners should be provided with a minimum annual income by those who owned land.

    Commies!

  20. emrka says:

    @Alex Knapp:
    When did any of them advocate for that?

  21. Alex Knapp says:

    emrka – Benjamin Franklin successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania Assembly to build a hospital for the poor in 1751.

    Adam Smith argued for progressive taxation in the Wealth of Nations.

    Thomas Paine advocated for a minimum annual income for non-landowners in his tract Agrarian Justice.

  22. emrka says:

    @Alex Knapp: @Alex Knapp:
    So you think it’s a good idea to extrapolate that to be taking of private property to redistribute to others as a good thing I assume…?

  23. Fog says:

    “The 92 percent rate we had in the 1940s strikes me as bordering on theft–the mob appropriating the money of the rich minority for themselves. I don’t know where the line is drawn, but it’s not in the niggling range between 34.5 percent and 38.8 percent (or whatever) where the current debate lies.”

    Unfortunately, “where the line is drawn” is the only important question.

  24. emrka says:

    I’ve found that the “tax the rich” crowd is almost universally ignorant of what the “rich” currently pay or what a good rate for them to pay would be.

  25. Dean says:

    …the GOP includes many poor and working class folks who believe that sufficient servility will earn them a place at the rich man’s table. Like dogs that lick the hands of their abusers, they’re hoping for scraps.

    Liberals can complain about the rich not paying enough in taxes when Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, et al stop doing everything they can to avoid paying their full tax bill. Liberals can complain about the rich not paying enough when they specifically ask the president by Jeffrey Immelt can sit on a presidential council when his company pays zero in US taxes.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @emrka:

    I’ve found that the “tax the rich” crowd is almost universally ignorant of what the “rich” currently pay or what a good rate for them to pay would be.

    I have found that the rich pay less (percentage wise) than I do. I find that a good rate for them to to pay is at least as much as I do.

    Are you disagreeing with me? Or do you live in a different world?

  27. Alex Knapp says:

    I’ve found that the “tax the rich” crowd is almost universally ignorant of what the “rich” currently pay

    The richest Americans currently have an average effective tax rate of 18%.

    In case you’re wondering, that’s a lower effective tax rate than most households.

  28. andrew says:

    @emrka:

    It’s funny how they pretend we don’t already have a progressive tax system in place.

  29. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Alex Knapp: Don’t blame Dr. Joiner too harshly. The mistake comes from reading ABOUT economists rather than READING economists and imagining that they are the same act.

  30. Alex Knapp says:

    So you think it’s a good idea to extrapolate that to be taking of private property to redistribute to others as a good thing I assume…?

    As Abraham Lincoln said, “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branches off into an infinite variety of subdivisions.

    The first—that in relation to wrongs—embraces all crimes, misdemeanors, and non-performance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself.”

    Emphasis mine. I see no reason to disagree with Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Paine, Mr. Franklin, or Mr. Smith.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    It’s funny how they pretend that there aren’t numerous loopholes and gimmicks in place to make the tax system “progressive” in name only…

  32. WR says:

    @Alex Knapp: Well, sure, you’ve got Lincoln on your side. But they have Jay Tea!

  33. Hey Norm says:

    We started on this “tax the well off less/help the poor even less” kick 30 or so years ago with Reagan and it’s pretty clear where it’s gotten us…we now have a middle class that, absent a tech bubble or housing equity bubble, does not have the economic strength to generate any significant demand in the system. Put a way Henry Ford would relate to: his workers could not afford to purchase his product. We can either rectify that problem in some way, or watch the system continue to crash. Given the idiots driving the conversation…the oxygen masks should be dropping.

  34. Ben Wolf says:

    @Hey Norm: People will continue to cling to what they have always believed with their dying breath. The only way change really occurs is when the older generation dies off and lets its children make decisions for themselves rather than making decisions for them. The Reagan conservatives will have to croak from old age before this country can get on with its life.

  35. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ben…
    The country would probably do well with a party of Reagan Republicans. Not sure we can survive Tea Party Republicans and their bizarre concept of reality.

  36. emrka says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Name one, that isn’t a DNC crony, that paid less than you.
    I am not defending those who got loopholes from buddies in DC’s. I am talking about the rates. Do you know what they pay in terms of the overall tax burden and percentage of their income?

  37. emrka says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    ya that job creation and prosperity really damaged that welfare nanny state you libs had goin

  38. Liberty60 says:

    job creation and prosperity?

    What job creation and prosperity?

    The middle class income has been stagnant since Reagan took office. The only prosperity has been in the top 1%

  39. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    In the great debate between Jeffersonian democracy and Hamiltonian democracy Hamilton was correct and Jefferson was wrong. It’s literally that simple.

  40. Ben Wolf says:

    @emrka: Job creation and economic growth were lower throughout the 80’s than any decade following World War II. That’s hard fact. Reaganomics damaged the country’s long-term prosperity.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    @emrka: Did you not see Alex Knapp’s link? Let me help you out, here it is again…perhaps all 400 of those people are DNC cronies…

  42. An Interested Party says:

    So, non-rich people are in favor of taxing the rich and using the proceeds to fund programs for non-rich people? And this sentiment has been consistent over time?

    Well, hush my mouth.

    Well, maybe not your mouth, but certainly hush the idea that America is supposedly such a conservative country…

  43. john personna says:

    Surely then only drunkards are suited to set drunk driving rules.

  44. john personna says:

    (I think we hear this theme from James from time to time. Basically it is an incomplete belief in democracy, and an assertion that the majority can never morally regulate a minority.

    I think what’s especially telling is that it doesn’t hinge on “oppression,” but rather says any attempt at (moral, ethical, or whatever) rules-making can be ruled out.

    By that rule, then no, non-drinkers should not help set intoxication limits or abuse punishments.)

    I think a higher marginal tax rate is sensible, and not oppression in any meaningful sense.

  45. Rob in CT says:

    James,

    I think that, given recent history, that poll number is surprisingly low. Most people know on some level that the rich have gotten richer and everbody else has treaded water at best. Most people do not know the degree to which that has occurred, obviously (there’s poll data on that, showing that most people wildly underestimate income/wealth inequality in the USA), but both liberal and conservative people have a sense that they’re being screwed. Liberals tend to get worked up about the financial sector and executive compensation. Conservatives tend to assume that the uberrich screwing the rest of us always have and always will, but those damn union thugs are taking their piece of the remaining cookie. There’s some truth to both, IMO, but given the trend I think the liberals are closer to the mark.

  46. Joe R. says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    You’ve described the major flaw in conservative and libertarian thinking on property. If they really valued private property as a fundamental right they would acknowledge that rent seeking is a form of theft, and it is the responsibility of government to confiscate stolen goods.

    Libertarians would agree that rent seeking is a form of theft. However, the rent that was sought was granted by the government: expecting government to re-confiscate is wishful thinking, and is why libertarians would suggest restricting the power of government to play favorites in the first place.

  47. Murray says:

    “Republicans and Democrats disagree on the need for cuts in domestic and military spending, as well as tax increases for higher-income Americans, but they do agree that the committee should stay away from tax hikes for the middle class and major changes to Social Security and Medicare,”

    The only way to balance the budget without major changes to SS and Medicare is to cut in military spending AND increase taxes for higher incomes (a reform of the tax code would be a good start). Will some politician at long last have the balls to clearly state that to the public.