Monday, October 04, 2010

Mark Thoma asks why US citizens don't support more income redistribution.

I contest his premise in a long comment

I disagree with the premise of the quoted article and the post. I think most people in the USA support explicit leveling. In particular I think a solid majority wants the tax code to be more progressive. Search for Gallup and fair
here .

The majority of US adults has been convinced that the poor pay more than their fair share and the rich less than their fair share for decades.

This also shows up in polls on other topics. The only approaches to shoring up social security and paying for HCR with majority support were increasing taxes on the rich.

Many commentators noted majority opposition on extending Bush tax cuts on income over 250,000. I was surprised the majority was so small (on average between 50% and 60 % not slightly over 60% as I would have expected).

US citizens may be less egalitarian than Europeans, but they definitely want a more egalitarian policy. Yet, as in the recent case, Congress won't deliver it.

The claim of people (cough Henderson cough) in families with income over 250,000 that they are (he is) just middle class was subject to a tidal wave of ridicule. It is not surprising that there are such people. One got the sort of reception he would get in Sweden.

As far as I know, only one major politician (majority whip James E. Clyburn) proposed the obvious good policy and politics compromise of permanent extension of Bush tax cuts on income under 250,000 and temporary extension of the Obama tax cuts for 95% of working families. This is a total no brainer as the Democrats have to convince people that those Obama tax cuts exist. But it would be "class war" so it can't be debated.

I see no evidence that a party which advocated higher taxes on the rich and lower taxes on the poor and middle class would have any trouble winning elections. There is no such party in the USA.

The Democrats are convinced that US citizens reject "class war" and "demagoguery" and "left populism." Looking at the polls, I have no clear idea why this is so. The current election in which voters seem inclined to vote for Republicans because they think that Obama singed the TANF act (which they think cost $700 billion and not around zero) seems to me to be a sign not of a polity with unusual views but of a failure of political representation.

I think the answers are to be found withing the Democratic party (not registered Democrats but the people who run the party starting with an effort to figure out who they are). I guess it has to do with
1) veto points -- progressive reforms are popular if they are ever enacted but can't get through the Senate.
2) The power of money in US politics -- a winning message is no good if one can't buy TV time to get it out.
3) The power of campaign consultants who also help large firms with public relations (which means politician relations) -- that is it's Penn's fault.
4) Baby boomers convinced that McGovern was rejected for being too far left in general so that means Americans don't want more progressive taxes and guys 1972 was 38 years ago.
5) Opinion leaders all have high incomes and socialize with people with high incomes and are totally totally out of touch (I have repeatedly shocked people with the link to pollingreport in this comment).
6) Politicians are inclined to blame the voters for their general cowardice.

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