Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
A new study conducted by researchers at the Brookings Institution and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reveals that Romney’s proposed budget would raise taxes for 95% of Americans – while reducing the tax burden for the top 5%. The plan would cut rates without increasing deficits by slashing tax breaks for education, child care, medical expenses, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes, which all benefit middle-class Americans.
According to the study, 95% of Americans would see their taxes rise by an average of $500 annually, while the wealthiest Americans would receive an $87,000 tax cut.
The Obama campaign was quick to jump on the study, using its findings as to bolster their claim that Romney’s tax reforms disproportionately help wealthy Americans.
Last fall, PRRI found that approximately 8-in-10 (79%) Americans believe the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger over the past 20 years. A solid majority (60%) of Americans agree that society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal, and they want the government to do something about it. Two-thirds (67%) of Americans say the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, while seven-in-ten (70%) Americans support increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million per year.
When asked, specifically, about measures that would help reduce the nation’s budget deficit, Americans remain solidly in favor of raising taxes for the rich and eliminating tax breaks for large corporations, without cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor.
However, despite the consensus of opinion on the issue of economic inequality, only 40% of Americans say that the growing gap between rich and poor is a critical issue. There are significant political differences on this question, with 58% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 22% of Republicans reporting that reducing the gap between rich and poor is a critical issue in the country. Earlier this week, a Gallup poll showed that few Americans cited increasing taxes on wealthy Americans as a top priority for the president.
It’s hard to get voters excited about tax reform. But if the Obama campaign can convince Americans that Romney’s policies will raise taxes on the middle class, they might be on to something.