Rasmussen has released a poll which suggests that Americans are either stupid, brainwashed or ignorant of facts regarding federal taxes. Here are some highlights from the poll, accompanied by a brief description of reality.
* The poll finds that 2/3 of respondents believe that Americans are overtaxed.
According to the most recent data, however, 47% of American households will pay no federal income taxes. This figure does not include Social Security and other payroll taxes, but when these numbers are included, the data still show that roughly 50% of American households pay roughly just 13% of their income in taxes (which includes corporate taxes, federal income taxes, and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare).
* 55% believe that on average, Americans pay 30% of their income in taxes.
The latest data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center paints a completely different picture. The vast majority of Americans do not pay anything close to 30% of their income in taxes. The actual projected mean for 2010 is 18.9% -- or 11% lower than the amount imagined by the poll's respondents. The effective federal income tax rate (which includes corporate taxes, federal income taxes, and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare) only reaches a mean of 30% or over for the taxpayers among the top percentile of the highest 4% of income earners. The vast majority of Americans pay a lot less in taxes, and a large chunk of low income earners experience a net profit from the government -- because their credits and deductions exceed what they pay in taxes.
* Only 8% of Americans believe that Obama will cut taxes.
Obama has already cut taxes for most Americans! In fact, nearly half of the stimulus package was devoted to tax cuts.
* 43% of respondents believe that the average American should pay about 10% of their income in taxes in exchange for the services provided by the government.
The median effective tax rate for 2010 is 13.1% -- only slightly above the ideal share desired by the poll's respondents. Furthermore, many individuals actually have a net inflow of money from the federal government (see above). The mean rate is 18.9, but this number is weighted higher than 10% not because of the tax load carried by "average" Americans, but because the mean liability among the top 2/5 of taxpayers is much higher than the rates for most people.
* Only 35% of the poll's respondents believe that most federal spending is on defense, Social Security and Medicare.
For fiscal year 2009, 53% of the federal budget went to defense spending (including Veteran's Affairs), Social Security and Medicare.
* 65% believe that the "middle class" pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy.
In reality, the numbers are very different. The mean tax liability for the middle quintile of taxpayers is 14.3%. For the next two quintiles, the figure jumps to 18.3% and 23.3%, respectively.