The American Action Network (AAN), a group aligned with Paul Ryan and the House Republicans, put out a poll that purports to show how much the American people want to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations. The pollster does not show the entire questionnaire, but from the presentation, AAN uses deceptively framed questions to make people believe Americans overwhelmingly support them. My only question is if AAN knows this is pile of manure and are trying to pass it off as haute cuisine, or if they actually believe their own nonsense. Plenty of publicly available research undermine their findings.
Depending on when they ask the question in the chart above, it poisons the rest of the survey. Supporters of Pelosi wouldn’t describe her agenda as fighting against “any” tax cuts and “loosened” regulations on businesses. Ryan does not want to “fix” Obamacare, he wants to end it and has said so many times, not to mention voting to end it dozens of times. They might as well as ask “who do you prefer: A candidate who will kill puppies with Nancy Pelosi and bathe in their blood or a candidate who loves puppies like Paul Ryan?” Back on planet earth, Ryan’s unpopularity (29% favorable, 52% unfavorable) matches Pelosi’s (27% favorable, 53% unfavorable).
This chart shows that Americans want Republicans and Democrats to work together. Not a shocking finding. However, even this chart shows that adding Donald Trump to the equation reduces the desire for kumbaya by 20+ points. Odd framing in the first chart when they ask “Democrats should work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner to improve his agenda.” It’s telling that AAN associates a masculine term with Republicans. The party does have female members. I thought they value them, but I guess not. Sad!
This question is meaningless because they don’t define “the agenda.” There are legitimate differences between the parties on the economy, taxes, health care, Social Security, Medicare, and the role of government in American life. Not defining the parameters of the debate renders this conclusion meaningless. This question is written to push Democrats to accept the GOP agenda and not work together. Republican voters don’t want to compromise on their priorities — 59% prefer elected officials who stick to their positions while only 38% want their leaders to compromise.
Americans think taxes are too high and the tax code needs changes. Also, the sky is blue and water is wet. So what? Do Americans think their taxes are too high? According to Gallup, 51% say they are too high and 42% say they are about right. A narrower gap than the one in the chart above and far closer than in earlier decades.
In April of 2001, shortly before President George W. Bush and the Republican Congress dramatically cut taxes, 65% said they were too high versus 31% about right. The share of voters saying their taxes are too high today is far lower than in recent decades. In addition, 61% say the amount they paid in taxes for 2016 was fair compared to just 35% who say it is unfair.
There is a lot to unpack in this chart. Essentially, “the tax code is too complex, has too many deductions, thus it should be made flatter and fairer and if it passed, it would help me and my family.” Yes, the tax code is complex. No one disputes that. However, they make many assumptions in the questions that are not backed up by independent research.
Americans do not believe wealthy people and corporations pay too little in taxes. They want them to pay more. In a study done in 2014 by David Broockman and Douglas Ahler, voters were given seven choices of tax policy to choose from — 3 liberal positions, 3 conservative positions, and one in the middle to keep the status quo.
Two-thirds support raising taxes on those making more than $250K/year or capping income at $1 million a year and expanding government services to middle and low-income people. Cutting taxes and reducing government services might be the dominant position in the Congress (whether or not members have the guts to say it out loud), but not among the people they purport to represent.
As far as deductions, voters think the problem is that corporations — not themselves — have too many deductions. The most expensive deductions, with the exception of the exclusion for employer-based health care premiums, have wide support:
In the next part of the poll, voters hear four arguments slanted to the GOP and no counter messages. Unsurprisingly, after hearing the propaganda, people think that the GOP “reform” will benefit families like them instead of the wealthy.
This conclusion would have a lot more heft if the pollster simply told people what the tax “reform” does in simple and clear language and then asked if they favor or oppose it. While this slipped the mind of the American Action Network, others have tested it. The Politico-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health described the tax proposal this way:
“President Trump has proposed a tax plan that would lower tax rates for individuals and families, reduce the number of tax brackets, and lower rates for all businesses. It would double the standard deduction that individuals can take without having to itemize on their tax forms. In addition, Trump’s plan would eliminate all income tax deductions except mortgage interest and charitable contributions. That means people could no longer deduct state and local taxes, work-related deductions for the self-employed, and tax credits for retirement accounts like 401(k)s. In addition, their employer-paid health insurance premiums would be taxed. Do you favor or oppose this new tax proposal?”
Voters don’t like this proposal— 62% oppose it while just 24% favor. Republicans split (40% favor-41% oppose) with Democrats (9% favor-85% oppose) and Independents (27% favor-60% oppose) largely in opposition. When the debate moves away from the “complexity” of tax forms to who benefits and who does not, Republicans lose badly. Voters don’t believe this tax plan will improve the economy or create jobs (57% not improve, 34% improve) and believe it will either hurt (33%) or make no difference (42%) to them. Only 20% think it will help them.
Moving to business taxes, the American Action Network uses a lot of rhetoric and oddly worded questions to make it seem like Americans support cutting taxes on corporations.
To summarize their points: Americans believe that the “business” tax system “needs changes,” is relevant to people’s lives, corporations take advantage of too many loopholes, “reform” will “level the playing field” with China, and they respond to a battery of one-sided questions with no corresponding messages from the other side.
AAN’s nose grows in their use of the work “business tax.” There is no such thing. It is the “corporate tax.” That’s how it is described in the tax code. Businesses fill out “Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return.” They are described as a C corporation, an S corporation, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). There is no “business tax” that is separate from the “corporate tax.” They use “business” in the poll because people respond more positively to that word. When AAN uses the word “corporation,” it’s to tilt a question to their desired response — that people believe “corporations,” as opposed to “businesses,” use too many deductions.
In no reality do Americans want corporations to pay less in taxes which they would if the GOP got their way. How do we know corporations will pay less? They would be howling if the deductions corporations lose were not offset by lowering the corporate tax rate. Some corporations have balked at proposals floated. Retailers mobilized to kill Paul Ryan’s idea to tax imports and the GOP Congress caved. This will keep happening until the GOP reaches a final version that cuts corporate tax revenue for everyone and increases the deficit. When the GOP does that, Americans will oppose it. Americans already favor increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations in order to help reduce income inequality in the U.S. (63% favor-31% oppose). They think corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes (9% too much, 19% fair share, 65% too little).
Unless the GOP can come up with a plan that takes away deductions from corporations and makes them pay more while also reducing the deficit (something they tried to do in 2014 and failed), they will be on the wrong side of public opinion. They know this or this poll wouldn’t use such convoluted language. They would let their beliefs compete honestly with those on the other side.