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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

53 Percent Think ‘Middle-Income’ Americans Pay ‘Fair Share’; 61 Percent Think ‘Upper-Income’ Pay ‘Too Little’

This morning Gallup published its annual Tax Day poll with the headline “Fewer Americans Now View Their Income Taxes as Fair,” noting that the total percentage who think their tax bill is “fair” is down by 4 percent this year:

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But The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky took a quick dive into the poll’s crosstabs and found the story is much more complex when you look at what the respondents had to say about each group:

The three numbers after each category represent the responses “fair share,” “too much,” and “too little.

Middle-class people: 53, 42, 3

Low-income people: 37, 40, 1

High-income people: 26, 11, 61

Corporations: 21, 8, 66

The number of Americans who think “high-income” people pay their fair share is just about the same as last year, while 61 percent thought this group paid too little. The number who think corporations pay too little is up by 2 percent.

Mitt Romney’s candidacy helped make clear to the rest of the country how rich people — especially those who make their living as investors — pay lower tax rates than most would expect, or pay themselves. While taxes on income over $400,000 did go up on January 1, tax dodges like the “carried-interest loophole” still exist in the tax code.

And while conservatives love to say we have “the highest corporate tax rate” in the world at 35 percent, the average tax rate is much closer to 12 percent.

Tomasky sees these poll numbers as an indictment of the current tax debate in Washington. He quotes economist Joseph Stiglitz’s analysis of how skewed the tax code is in favor of the nation’s richest:

About 6 in 10 of us believe that the tax system is unfair — and they’re right: put simply, the very rich don’t pay their fair share. The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes — far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners — almost a third — paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

Whether people know that many corporations and millionaires pay no taxes at all, they certainly suspect that the game is rigged.

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