Most Americans: "Tax the rich but not me"

Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:08pm EDT
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By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans believe tax hikes are OK if you're making more than $250,000, a policy proposed by President Barack Obama, but hands off Medicare and Social Security, a poll released on Monday found.

The Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of Americans among both major political parties think raising income taxes on households making more than $250,000 should be a main tenet of the government's efforts to tame the deficit. More than 70 percent, including a majority of Republicans, say those making more than $1 million should pay more.

But 80 percent say raising taxes on those making less than that should not be part of the government's approach. Moreover, most oppose touching Medicare and Social Security - two long-term drivers of the budget deficit over the coming decades.

"Given those numbers, it's clear that those who want serious deficit reduction have their work cut out for them in convincing the public, which seems adamantly opposed to cutting the programs with the largest budgets," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the polling institute.

In tackling the deficit, most economists agree taxing the rich only won't raise the revenue necessary to make a dent. With much of federal spending fixed in entitlement programs and interest of the debt, cutting spending alone is not likely to solve the nation's fiscal problems.

Broader tax increases in some form, whether it be income, sales or other forms, will be necessary, economists say.

This year, the deficit is expected to top $1.5 trillion, about 10 percent of gross domestic product. The administration and many economists say a healthy deficit would be about 3 percent of GDP.

Obama's 2011 budget proposal and most of his fellow Democrats favor eliminating tax breaks for individuals making more than $200,000 and for households making more than $250,000, which were enacted in 2001 and 2003.   Continued...

<p>Anita Dwyer participates in a rally and march in protest of higher taxes in Santa Barbara, California, in this April 4, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Phil McCarten/Files</p>