Friday, March 19, 2010

Are Tea Party Members Protesting Out of Ignorance? Yes -- According to Forbes Article

Bruce Bartlett's latest column in Forbes analyzes the views of Tea Party members regarding taxes -- a primary source of their movement's anxiety. It turns out that most of the Tea Party members who responded to a recent survey regarding federal tax policy have highly distorted views about the magnitude and direction of taxation in the country.

Here is a clip from Bartlett's article:
Tuesday's Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944. . . .

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it's hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama's stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year's $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies.
I suspect most Tea Party members would simply deny this information.


MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Bartlett is a tax/fiscal policy expert. Nobody should dispute his numbers. He was instrumental in augering in the Reagan supply side revolution that created trillions in new wealth and tens of millions of new jobs.

He became enraged with the GOP, and left the party under GWB because of the GOP's fiscal irresponsibilty. So did many others, and I believe that's in part why they lost control of both houses and the presidency. But Bartlett took it a step further. He decided to enrich himself writing books trashing GWB and his former party. I have no problem with that.

If I were asked a question about federal taxes, I'd be tempted to think about ALL the different kinds of taxes I am burdened by (state sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, social security, medicare, and probably dozens more, etc.) and lump them all together in my response about "federal" taxes. So I believe Bartlett is being a wonky nit.

Further, I suspect Bartlett probably understands that regardless of how they respond to a survey on taxes, the Tea Party outrage is driven as much by the vast expansion of government into markets and our lives in the past 2 years as it is by percieved federal tax burden.

People are sick of bank bailouts, auto bailouts, Fannie and Freddie bailouts, the AIG bailout, the healthcare takeover, the student loan takeover, proposals to bankrupt coal fired power plants, and other anti-market policy. And we know it must lead to increased taxes in the future, regardless of what Bartlett's numbers say about current federal tax burdens.

So, whatever the current tax rates are or how the Tea Partyers respond to a survey, their real motivation is to pressure the GOP to embrace the limited government philosophy Bartlett himself once championed. I'm sure he knows that. But he'd rather demonstrate his intellectual superiority and make them look foolish by pointing to inconsistencies between survey responses and hard data.

Matt P. said...

Well said Maggot.

Anonymous said...

Maggot, it's not "being a wonky nit" to know the difference between federal and other taxes. Really it isn't. And to suggest that he is such a thing to say so is only to embrace the stupid.

Willingly embracing stupidity isn't something that successful political movements can do. They can be contradictory at times, but stupid? I guess this will explain many things, but I don't think it will be used to explain the success of the movement.

Caro said...

The misconceptions held by the tea partiers are due to a more than 40 year, multibillion dollar disinformation campaign mounted by a few wealthy families to convince Americans that no one should have to pay taxes.

The result is a completely misinformed public.

Why have progressives not mounted an information campaign to counter the disinformation?

Carolyn Kay

Jordon said...

Just because they haven't raised our taxes (yet) doesn't mean we shouldn't be worried. The current administration is smart in deferring costs to a latter date to keep them from looking worse. Just like your irresponsible younger cousin who's maxing his credit cards to buy the new Nissan, we're racking up debt at a exponential rate. Even if we haven't seen the tax increases don't think they aren't coming. Just like household debt exceeding your paycheck, our debt is online to exceed our GDP in the near future. Our current tax situation is a pretty smart temporary move to help reelection potential. Tea partiers are just reading between the lines, unless somebodies got a stash of gold somewhere they haven't told us about yet.

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