Public Skepticism of Tax Cuts Is Normal

POLITICS & POLICY

The Times article that Robert VerBruggen highlights below suggests that Democrats have been successful in misinforming the public about how many Americans have gotten a tax cut from the Republicans. But it’s probably not just political spin, or the design of that tax law, that caused people to underestimate the extent of the tax cut. Previous tax cuts have landed the same way. President George W. Bush, in his first term, passed two tax cuts that cut tax bills for everyone who paid income tax and raised taxes on nobody. In 2004, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that fewer than one in five Americans thought they had gotten a tax cut. Polls from the 1980s found that Americans were much more likely to think that the bipartisan tax reform of 1986, which in general reduced income taxes and raised corporate taxes, had raised their tax bills than lowered them.

My read: People have a high degree of skepticism that the government has done something helpful about their taxes. That’s one reason Republicans typically get more political advantage from opposing tax increases than from cutting taxes.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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