Jonathan Chait

Populism and the Deficit

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Quinnipiac has a new poll out on the deficit. The results may not surprise. By more than a three-to-one margin, the public opposes "cutting the growth of spending" on Medicare or Social Security benefits, or any tax increase on the middle class. What specific measure do they support? Raising taxes on the rich. 60% of the public says we should raises taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year. 72% want to raise taxes on households earning more than $1 million.

Interestingly, 42% of Republicans favor a tax hike on $250,000 households, and 56% of them favor a tax hike on households earning over a million. But zero percent of Republican elected officials in Washington favor this approach. Indeed, the Republican Party's current plans all involve large tax cuts for high-income households.

I'm certainly not defending public opinion on the deficit. Mathematically, raising taxes on the rich isn't going to do enough. There will have to be entitlement cuts. It's just striking how far to the right the elite consensus is on this issue vis a vis public opinion.

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