Not only do the majority of the wealthy think that they should be taxed more, so do a majority of Republicans. These are the surprising conclusions of two recent polls.
When the second-richest American, Warren Buffett, wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times a few months ago advocating increased taxes for himself and everybody else with an annual income over $1 million, that wasn’t such a big surprise. He has been pushing similar policies for quite a while. For that matter so has the # 1 richest American, Bill Gates.
But that column by Buffett generated such a firestorm of opposition that it would have been easy to think that he and Gates don’t have much support among their wealthy colleagues. Not true, according to a survey of millionaires taken during October 2011 by the Spectrem Group, “the premier research and consulting firm in the wealth and retirement industry.” More than 67 percent of those millionaires surveyed said that the U.S. economic situation would be improved by increasing taxes on those with more than $1 million in annual income, pretty much what Buffett is advocating.
Well, OK, that’s surprising. But maybe they’re so rich they can easily afford to pay taxes. Or maybe those in the top 1% being made infamous by the Occupy Wall Street folks are not as greedy as they are being made out to be. Or maybe just not that anti-government. As Mark Cuban, another of the ultra-rich, has said straight out in his own blog a couple months ago: “Pay your taxes. It’s the most Patriotic thing you can do.”
Now Gates, Buffett, and Cuban may not exactly be representative of all wealthy Americans. And who knows how reliable that Spectrem Group survey is. But if true, it’s noteworthy that a full two-thirds of millionaires think that if their taxes were higher that would help our economy instead of hurt it.
But what about everyday Republicans? I would have thought that a very strong majority of Republicans would oppose “increasing the taxes paid by people who make more than one million dollars a year.” This was the wording of the question asked in a CNN/ORC poll taken in mid-October. But instead about 56% of Republicans favored increased taxes for these high-earners, while 43% opposed them.
I don’t pretend to know what this means. It may be as simple as an attitude—even among Republicans–of “tax the other guy to plug the deficit.” There are only about 250,000 U.S. households with incomes of more than a million dollars, so they don’t get a lot of votes in a national poll. Whatever the cause for this willingness for a selective tax-increase among the Republican electorate, it seems to reveal a disconnect between them and their single-mindedly anti-tax representatives in Washington.