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The taxpayer knows

Created on May 17, 2007

The taxpayer knows

The Taxpayer Knows 'High' From 'About Right'

When Washington politicians raise taxes, the number of folks who say taxes are "too high" goes up.

Public dissatisfaction with high taxes consistently has mirrored fluctuations in the average income tax rate over the last half century, according to the Gallup Poll, General Social Survey and other polls.

"The polls show Americans are keenly aware of their tax burden," said Mike Franc, vice president for government relations at The Heritage Foundation.

The Washington think tank analyzed the relationship between tax rates and public opinion.

When rates are cut significantly -- as under Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush -- the percentage of the public viewing taxes as "too high" declines, and the number seeing taxes as "about right" climbs.

The Reagan tax cuts came in 1981, when 69 percent of adults called taxes "too high" and 26 percent saw them as "about right." By the next year, "too high" had dropped to 60 percent and "about right" increased to 32 percent. Beginning in the early 1990s, more and more Americans viewed taxes as "too high." With tax relief under President Bush in 2001 and 2003, though, this dissatisfaction dropped from 65 percent to 50 percent. At the same time, the number viewing taxes as "about right" hit a 50-year historical peak at 46 percent.

But Congress today is steering back toward higher taxes.

The Heritage Foundation estimates the House budget resolution will boost the average taxpayer's income tax bill by $3,026 five years from now.

"Big spenders in Congress are kidding themselves if they think taxpayers won't notice the biggest tax increase in U.S. history - or make their dissatisfaction known," Franc said.