Friday, October 31, 2008

Three-in-Four Democrats Favor Soaking the Rich

A new Gallup poll on economic fairness finds half of all Americans saying government should tax the rich to promote fairness in the distribution of wealth. Especially noteworthy, the survey finds 75 percent of Democrats agreeing with the statement that government should redistribute wealth by taxing the rich:

Economic Redistribution

One of the more contentious points on the presidential campaign trail in recent weeks has been John McCain's continuing assertion that Barack Obama's tax plan, which would involve higher taxes for high-income families, is "redistributionist," with some McCain supporters going so far as to argue that Obama's tax plans would be "socialist." These disputes focus on the longtime argument in economic and political philosophy over government's ideal role, if any, in attempting to redistribute money and wealth through the use of taxes.

Gallup has from time to time asked a question that addresses this issue in part -- a question that Roper first asked in a Fortune Magazine survey conducted in March 1939, near the end of the Depression. The question is phrased as follows: "People feel differently about how far a government should go. Here is a phrase which some people believe in and some don't. Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich?"

This question is notable because it directly invokes the idea that government should intervene and redistribute wealth through taxes on the rich. The question phrase "heavy taxes on the rich" is certainly not one the Obama campaign would choose to describe its plan, which Obama repeatedly says would return high income tax rates only back to where they were under Bill Clinton in the 1990s, before the Bush administration tax cuts. Still, the question generally addresses the basic issue of taxing high-income individuals to transfer wealth in a society.
The main thing to take away from this particular component of the survey is the partisan split. While Americans in general seem to favor some governmental activism to redistribute wealth, Democrats do so overwhelmingly, and this fact has dramatic implications for government under a Democratic administration with large congressional majorities. As Gallup points out:

Although Obama has not advocated what he would call "heavy" taxes on the rich, the general sentiment that taxes on high-income families should be increased in order to help provide tax relief for those making less money is a part of his campaign platform.
John McCain has recently called Barack Obama "The Redistributor."

Left-wing partisans will resist the terminology, but Obama's tax plan is
a classic model of economic distribution from those with more to those with less. That's socialism, and we may very well achieve it come January 2009.