Obama’s mandate: tax increase on rich
Republican leaders such as Grover Norquist and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continue to strike a hard line on taxes and revenues, “warning” President Barack Obama that the GOP will not negotiate or compromise when it comes to tax policy and deficit reduction.
From an electoral politics standpoint, the Democrats should “have at it.”
As the election made clear, this policy is out of step with voters. Obama made raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year a centerpiece of his economic message – something he emphasized in his recent press conference – and he was rewarded with a resounding victory. Voters also handed Democrats an increased Senate majority, where the tax debate played out front-and-center in many campaigns.
This theme echoed through state politics as well. Voters in California, for example, passed Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to fund K-12 public schools through a revenue increase that comes from the highest earners.
Strikingly, on taxes – an issue long considered Republican terrain – Obama actually held a 46 – 44 percent advantage over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney among voters, according to our Democracy Corps/Campaign for America’s Future post-election survey.
Further, in our post-election survey of the presidential and Senate battleground states conducted for a coalition of environmental groups, nearly a quarter of swing state voters said the top reason for opposing Romney (22 percent) and Senate Republicans (24 percent) was their support for giving more tax breaks to millionaires while raising taxes on the middle class. An additional 18 percent said their top reason to oppose Republicans was their backing of tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs.
In addition, national exit polls show that a strong majority of 60 percent to 35 percent of voters support raising taxes on Americans making more than $250,000. Moreover, Gallup reports that support for tax increases as part of a budget deal is rising. Just 10 percent of Americans believe the deficit should be tackled with only spending cuts, down 10 points since last year. (By comparison, 56 percent believe such a deal should include at least half tax increases.)
The Republican Party’s determination to protect tax breaks for the wealthy, the big corporations and the special interests at the expense of the middle class will not only lead the country toward the fiscal cliff, it will likely serve to further disconnect the GOP from most of America.
Our post-election Democracy Corps polling looked specifically at different policies in relation to the coming negotiations about the fiscal cliff. And the result highlights strong support for the president’s position on taxes:
- 75 percent of voters say “creating a higher tax rate on those earning over $1 million a year” is an acceptable policy, the second-highest rating of the 18 policies we tested.
- 70 percent say “raising taxes on the richest 2 percent, while keeping taxes low for middle class and working people” is acceptable.
- More strikingly, 68 percent find “not raising taxes on the rich” an unacceptable option, with more than half the electorate feeling that way strongly. Let us say that again: More than two-thirds of voters say that it would be unacceptable for a deal on the fiscal cliff to NOT include higher taxes on the wealthy.
- 62 percent of voters say that any long-term deficit deal should get at least one-third of its deficit reduction from new tax revenue.
One of the most remarkable aspects of this polling is how Republican lawmakers such as McConnell are not only out of touch with Democrats and independents, but also out of touch with the Republican voters they claim to represent. Indeed, even a 56 percent majority of Republicans say that raising taxes on millionaires would be an acceptable part of a budget deal on the fiscal cliff.
There is clearly a mandate on taxes from this election. It’s just not the one Republicans are trying to convince themselves of.
The terms of the debate are now very different from 2010. Obama has all the leverage, while the Republicans may only dig themselves an even bigger hole by doubling down on policies that voters have soundly rejected.
PHOTO: President Obama hosts a bipartisan meeting to discuss the economy with Congressional leaders in the White House, Nov. 16, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing