Poll results on tax rates could use a second look

At first blush The Hill’s Feb. 27 “Hill Poll: Likely voters prefer lower individual, business tax rates” seems to suggest a number of recent polls that show that a majority of voters support requiring the rich to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes are either wrong, or that public opinion has shifted dramatically over a very short period. If you read the actual question in this poll, it is quite likely that the poll results are not inconsistent. 

This poll asked what is the “[m]ost Appropriate Top Tax Rate For Families earning $250,000 or More?” According to the poll, “precisely 75 percent said the right level for top earners was 30 percent or below. Although “[t]hree-quarters of likely voters believe the nation’s top earners should pay lower, not higher, tax rates,” this does not necessarily support the author’s conclusion that, “The big majority opted for a lower tax bill when asked to choose specific rates.”

How could this be consistent with the previous polls? Simple. A majority of voters may prefer a flat 30 percent tax on all of the income of the wealthy with no deductions.

One way to find out if voter sentiments are changing, whether they might prefer a flat 30 percent tax on the wealthy or whether respondents may have misread the question would be to repeat the poll. This time they should modify the question slightly to ask what is the “[m]ost Appropriate Effective Tax Rate For Families earning $250,000 or More?” If the results are the same, it suggests that most voters would support a 30 percent flat tax on the wealthy. 

This is worth knowing, because a flat 30 percent tax might indeed lower the tax for some wealthy taxpayers even as it increases the tax on others. All of them would benefit from a greatly simplified two-line tax form. This would be at least a partial victory for flat-tax proponents, and it may also be at the same time a change that voters do believe in.

From Bruce Hahn, president of the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Alexandria, Va.

Don’t open sensitive coastal areas to drilling

Many thanks to those who recently stood up for our nation’s wildlife and wild places by voting against the fiscally irresponsible plan to fund the transportation bill with highly speculative revenue from opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain and some of our most sensitive coastal waters to oil-and-gas drilling.

Sadly, the plan that will open the refuge and our coasts to exploitation by the oil companies still managed to pass the House of Representatives even though any revenue that might come from production in the Arctic would not be seen for at least 10 years.

If this bill is not stopped, all 1.5 million acres of the biologically rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain, and almost every acre of our coasts including along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, protected areas of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Bristol Bay will be open for drilling.

From Brooke Harris, Alexandria, Va.

Fiscal choices a matter of the nation’s priorities

We do not need nor can we afford to waste hundreds of billions of tax dollars on obsolete Cold War nuclear weapons systems that are ill-suited to meeting U.S. security needs in the 21st century.

I value a country that invests in our people, our health and a socially responsible future. We are not broke. Rather, our financial choices are a matter of our priorities as a nation.

States across the country are laying off teachers and reducing investment in schools. Yet we continue to waste billions on unnecessary military spending. Moreover, increased investment in military and nuclear weapons sends the wrong message to the international community.

I understand that there will be difficult choices ahead as our government attempts to rein in spending. We must, however, not make cuts that harm our children and seniors, the most vulnerable and least powerful, in order to protect a military strategy that is a relic of the Cold War. It is a matter of priorities.

From Barbara Fried, Alexandria, Va.

Disapproving of college doesn’t make any sense

The public’s view of college education according to Pew Research shows a majority of Americans favor college for their kids while a minority, mostly Republican Tea Party members, don’t think it is a good thing. Here we are in the 21st century competing globally with countries that put a priority on higher learning while we have a significant number of citizens who believe college is not good for our children. 

The idea goes against all common sense, but there is a bright side — in the future, the immigration problem will certainly be solved. We will not need immigrants illegally crossing our borders to fill the most menial of jobs Americans do not want. There will not be jobs for them. The Tea Party children, those that will not pursue college, will be lining up for those minimum-wage jobs that their parents have guaranteed for them.

From Norm Grudman, Boca Raton, Fla.