Commentary Magazine


RE: Poll: 60% Support Tax Hikes on the Wealthy

I certainly agree with Alana that the Republicans are in a tough spot. But I’m not sure how valid any of these polls about public opinion on the issue are. Unlike when the choice is either A or B, as those are the only two candidates in an election, polls on public issues depend crucially on exactly how they are worded. And even when worded in a neutral manner (not an easy thing to achieve even when the pollster is trying to be honest), I’m not sure they mean that much in terms of political consequences down the road.

No matter what the Republicans do, the permanent Obama campaign—sorry, I mean the mainstream media—will hammer them. So they might as well do what’s right.

I’m not surprised that 60 percent want taxes raised on the wealthy. This is taxing the man behind the tree, in Senator Russell Long’s famous description of the art of taxation, as almost no one considers himself to be “rich.”

Equally, I am not surprised that 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations. I wonder what percentage of that 64 percent know that the United States already has the highest corporate taxes in the world? Maybe 10 percent? The average man in the street has little understanding of the realities of such public policy questions, which obsess only the chattering classes. Polling them doesn’t provide useful information, it only provide ammunition for one side or the other to use.