Mellman: GOP tax reform: likely loser

Mellman: GOP tax reform: likely loser
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Republicans could score with their tax reform proposals. But they almost certainly won’t.

Americans would be receptive to eliminating tax breaks for big corporations and lowering taxes for the middle class.

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Alas, the GOP is congenitally incapable of producing such a plan because its real objective has long been reducing taxes for the wealthiest Americans — and that, voters simply do not want to do.

In fact, Americans overwhelmingly oppose more tax breaks for the rich. Quinnipiac’s polling this year has consistently found people opposing tax cuts for the wealthy by margins of 50 to 60 points.

Even Republican voters oppose cutting taxes for the rich by 20 points.

Americans are convinced that big business and the wealthiest are not paying their fair share of the burden.

Gallup found 63 percent saying “upper income people” pay too little in taxes, while 24 percent believe this segment is paying its fair share.

A mere 10 percent share the Republican premise that the rich are paying too much.

“Corporations” fared even worse, with 67 percent believing they paid too little.

Similarly, the AP/NORC poll asked about the tax burden of “wealthy households,” and 72 percent reported they paid too little.

Pew examined the issue from a different perspective, asking what bothered Americans most about the tax system.

The No. 1 frustration was neither complexity, nor the amount the individuals themselves paid. Rather, the public’s greatest frustration with taxes is that corporations and the wealthy do not pay their fair share.

It’s true the Republican base is somewhat more likely to put complexity at the top of their list. But even among President Trump’s fellow travelers, concern about corporations and the wealthy paying too little is nearly as great.

Republicans believe tax cuts for the wealthy help us all because they subscribe to trickle-down economics. Most Americans do not.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans told AP-NORC pollsters that cutting taxes for the wealthy would hurt the economy. Just 22 percent accept the GOP view that tax breaks for the rich help our economy.

Americans not only reject more tax cuts for the wealthy, they would actually favor raising taxes on these individuals.

The CBS/New York Times poll found people supporting a tax hike on the wealthy by over a 30-point margin.

Our own polling for The Hub Project revealed that 69 percent of voters favor raising taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent, a figure that included 42 percent of Republicans.

The Public Religion Research Institute put a dollar figure on “wealthy” and found 72 percent of registered voters favoring an increase in taxes on Americans earning more than $250,000 a year; only 27 percent were opposed.

While tax cuts for the rich are quite unpopular, voters are anxious for middle-class tax cuts. Lower taxes for the middle class were favored by an 80-point margin in our polling.

However, ordinary people reject the notion that the wealthy should get a bigger break than they do.

Republicans would do well to stop focusing on helping the Trumps and their ilk, and instead direct their attention to assisting the middle class.

But they can’t do it, because it’s not their real objective.

As conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote, “...the entire GOP economic philosophy is dependent on a never-ending stream of tax cuts for the rich. What else do they have, policy-wise?” 

Voters understand the GOPs preoccupation with helping the wealthiest among us. While they may not be clear on who Democrats represent, nearly two-thirds believe the GOP represents the rich.

That’s a label Republicans should want to jettison, not reinforce. But that would require not just a change in policy, but a fundamental revision of philosophy as well.

Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years and as president of the American Association of Political Consultants.