Yesterday, a Hill poll claiming that, "three-quarters of likely voters believe the nation’s top earners should pay lower, not higher, tax rates," drew some pretty wide attention. Most polls usually show majorities of Americans saying the rich should be taxed more, not less.
But most polls don't actually tell respondents how much the wealthy already pay in taxes. They just ask respondents if the rich should pay "more" regardless of what they pay now. The Hill tried a different route, they asked respondents to choose the "Most Appropriate Top Tax Rate For Families earning $250,000 or More?" Only 31 percent of Americans chose 30 percent or more and 61 percent chose less than 25 percent.
As one of the premier institutions arguing for higher taxes on the American people, Think Progress published a response to The Hill poll, including:
In tax policy, it’s critical to distinguish between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. Marginal rates are the rate paid on a person or corporation’s last dollar of income. Effective rates are the overall share of income paid in taxes.
The Hill article fails to sort out this very basic distinction, then proceeds to make a number of apples-to-oranges comparisons that paint a misleading picture of what wealthy people and corporations are paying in taxes now and what people want them to pay. For example: ... Fully 60 percent of respondents who expressed an opinion said that the “most appropriate” rate for families earning $250,000 or more should be 25 percent or higher. That is, in fact, higher than what the average effective income tax rates are today for all levels of income. And it is significantly higher than many extremely wealthy households now pay.
What a misleading defense. Notice how Think Progress never comes out and gives you the relevant facts at issue, i.e. the effective tax rate people making more than $250,000 actually pay. Instead, they change the subject and say that 25 percent is "higher than what the average effective income tax rates are today for all levels of income." That's irrelevant. They then add that some wealthy pay far less. How many? Think Progress doesn't say.
Here are the facts according to a 2010 Congressional Budget Office study. The top quintile of earners, that is households making more than $264,700 a year, pay an effective tax rate of 25.1 percent. So The Hill poll does show that almost 70 percent of Americans believe the rich already pay their fair share in taxes. The super-wealthy, those in the top 1 percent, pay even higher effective rate, at 29.5 percent.
No wonder Think Progress left these facts out.