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A little over a week ago, in a speech in support of his jobs plan, President Obama included a bit of populist rhetoric that immediately garnered a lot of attention:

And any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s hard to argue against that. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it.

This distillation of common sense, appropriately enough, became known as the "Buffett Rule" and was greeted enthusiastically in many quarters. But we wanted to see just how popular the idea is, so we included a question on our weekly national poll to test it out.

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 9/15-18 . Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (no trendlines):

Q: Do you support or oppose ensuring that people who make over a million dollars a year pay the same percentage of taxes or more on their total income as those who make less than a million dollars a year?

Support: 73
Oppose: 16
Not sure: 11

That's some of the strongest support I've ever seen for a proposal which would, of course, raise taxes. Though the Beltway press never discusses it, the idea of increasing taxes on the rich invariably polls very well, but here support is stratospheric. I think the Buffett Rule's explicit appeal to fairness is the key factor — as the president says, it's just hard to argue against.

Indeed, every demographic sub-group favors the idea. Republicans back it 66-17. Hell, even self-identified tea partiers, the weakest supporters, are at 52-29. Oh, and those making over $100,000? 73-16.

Of course, we all know that Republicans in Congress don't care what Republicans in real life think, and they'll block anything that even resembles a tax hike. But this poll demonstrates that the genius of the Buffett Rule is in its value as a political weapon. Obama is putting some serious rhetorical screws to the GOP, and both he and they know it. This is a great example of how pushing a seemingly "hopeless" idea can pay political dividends by showing ordinary people that you're fighting for them — and by showing exactly how Republicans are fighting against them. It's the kind of thing many progressives would like to see more of, so I'm heartened that the president is on the offensive here. All I can say is: More like this, please.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The wording of the question is excellent (11+ / 0-)

    Kudos to the pollster.

    There are a million ways to spin this question depending on what answer you are trying to illicit.  This is very straightforward and explains the issue such that just about anyone can really understand it.

    Well done.

    •  Thanks (11+ / 0-)

      We grappled with the wording quite a bit before settling on this. We always strive to make our phrasing as unimpeachable as possible — we want to know what people really think, after all.

      This one was a little tricky because Obama was talking about income taxes, but rhetorically, he can reduce that to just "millionaires." (A smart move.) We had to specify "people who make over a million dollars a year," because of course you could be worth a million bucks but have earned $0 in the last however many years. Obama doesn't have to be quite so pedantic in his speeches, nor should he be.

      On the flipside, it really is a simple concept! So we had that going for us.

      Political Director, Daily Kos

      by David Nir on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:40:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As a survey researcher, I know how hard it is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        David Nir

        to word questions.  This one was a little confusing, but I honestly couldn't think of a better way to do it.  And if it confused people, I think you would have had a much more namby-pamby response.
        Using millionaires was necessary because of what you were tying it to and to make the concept simple and straightforward, but I bet most of the supporters would also support fair taxes on those making $250,000 and above.  In fact, in the middle of the country, that income break could be even lower.
        (In the D.C. suburbs, where I live, $100,000/year is not at all a high salary -- many desperately stretched people, both adults in the family working full time, make $100,000.  But they're also paying $4,000 or $5,000/month, or even more, on a mortgage (on a modest home).  And they have to pay utilities, buy food, gas and pay for childcare in a high cost area.  But in other parts of the country, that $100,000/year is a pretty decent income.)

        If, in our efforts to win, we become as dishonest as our opponents on the right, we don't deserve to triumph.

        by Tamar on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:59:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          As I note elsewhere in the thread, there's generally huge support for tax increases for $250K+ earners. But like I say, we wanted to hew as closely as possible to the president's actual rhetoric, since that's what's on the table.

          Political Director, Daily Kos

          by David Nir on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:19:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sounds like support to raise limit on SS taxes (0+ / 0-)

      SS taxes are our most regressive taxes. I know Sanders has a proposal to resume SS taxes on income over 250k to honor Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on those making under 250k but that would just create a bizarre loophole in which people with incomes between the current SS cut off (about 107k) and 250k would be paying a significantly lower rate on their income then those below the cut-off.

    •  The question is fucking stupid (0+ / 0-)

      "support" is consistent with either of these two contradictory positions:

      1.   there should be a higher rate for incomes above $1,000,000.

      2.   there should not be a higher rate for incomes above $1,000,000.

      "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

      by Old Left Good Left on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:55:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's the fairness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Southside, Superpole, socal altvibe

    We've been brainwashed to think that taxes are not fair as long as they are high and therefore raising them isn't a good idea.

    Most people want a "fair" tax code, they just don't know what that looks like and all they understand is 43% is more than 16%(not intended to be actual numbers) and that isnt' right.  There is no basic understanding of economics and that those percentages don't even matter with all the tax breaks we have.

    I say we need to hit the "fair" terminology hard and really hit the flaws in out system. We're not talking about killing jobs we're talking about being fair.

    •  Flat taxes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Superpole, TheUnknown285

      People continue to be seduced by the "appeal" of a flat tax, like Cain's 9% income tax, because people don't get economics.  There's a floor beyond which you can't reduce your living expenses.  

      If you make $20k and pay 9% in income tax, you're going to have to try to live on $18,200 a year.  About $1,500 a month.  Say you pay $500 a month in rent.  $300 a month for groceries.  Public transit to and from your job - say $100/month.  Utilities - $120/month.  $500 a month for health insurance; oh, wait, you can't afford that.  No health insurance for you.  But you're still going to need health and dental care, say it averages $100/month.  You need clothes and shoes, say $30/month.  Child care?  Well, that would cost every penny you have left.

      Now figure you make $500k a year.  You pay 9% in income taxes, leaving you with $455k a year.  Almost $38k a month.  You live in a nice house, but even a million dollar house costs you, what, $4k/month in mortgage?  Maybe you spend a thou a month on food.  Utilities, sure, vehicles, gas, etc.  But I bet you'd be hard-pressed to even spend $34k a month.  You can live very, very comfortably with that kind of money.  You can eat very well, be toasty warm, and still have cash to sock aside in trust funds for your kids, gambling on the stock market, etc.  

      The idea that it's as "fair" for the $500k income-earner to pay the same tax rate as the $20k wage earner overlooks that there is a floor below which you cannot reduce your required expenditures, such that all of your income is consumed in just surviving at the $20k level, while you could literally carpet your home in dollar bills at the $500k level and still be able to set up a trust fund for your kids.

      Thought is only a flash in the middle of a long night, but the flash that means everything - Henri Poincaré

      by milton333 on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:57:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  exactly right (0+ / 0-)

      Americans don't want to soak the rich. We all would like to be rich one day. This is about the rich chipping in a little bit.

      Over the next several weeks look for the GOP to push to stop this. Look for commercials from FreedomWorks and other groups. They are going to push the idea that can't tax the job creators during a recession. I hope that we have something clever ready and waiting to push back with.

      Be involved!

      by ecthompson on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:59:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  EVERY Senate and House candidate (10+ / 0-)

    Should be asked EXPLICITLY whether they support this bill or not.

    EVERYBODY. No exceptions. No waffling. No vague wishy-washy answers.

    Yes or no.

    If you're against it, and you're a Democrat, you'd better expect to face a backlash.

    As for the Republicans are concerned? Well, Norquist help you if you're for it.

  •  Buffeted. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    milton333, Tamar, Superpole

    The answer is blowing in the wind.

  •  Golly David......What is it about 'ALL IN' don't (0+ / 0-)

    you understand?....;-)

  •  Certainly better late than never. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, lone1c

    Now, he has to see this through.

    2012 will likely be decided in the next three months.

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:38:43 AM PDT

    •  He doesn't even have to win. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      milton333, Geekesque

      Just force votes in the Senate and House—even if it fails, it still needs to be voted upon.

      If Boehner and Cantor refuse to bring it up, call them on being cowards who want to help the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

      Badger the Senate to make sure it gets an up and down vote. None of this polite filibustering that doesn't get noticed.

      Once it's voted upon, well, then it's not Obama's fault if it doesn't pass. But then the Republicans (and any foolish Blue Dog-esque Democrats who may have been stupid enough to join them) should then realize they're declaring war on the middle class.

  •  Wording... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Nir

    "That's some of the strongest support I've ever seen for a proposal which would, of course, raise taxes. "

    I'm not so sure.  Grammatically, it could either mean raising Buffet's taxes so he pays the same percentage as his secretary, or lowering hers so she only pays the same percentage as he does.  It's hard to know how the respondents interpreted the question.

    •  Possible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As I note upthread, this was a somewhat tricky question to word. But we did include "same or more", so I think that gets at the idea a bit better. We didn't want to go further than this because, after all, even what the president said could be interpreted in the alternate way you suggest.

      I do think most (probably the vast majority) are viewing it the way I am (tax increases on the rich) because the numbers look a lot like what you get when you ask a straight up tax-hike question, only better. For instance, Siena asked in the very red NY-26 earlier this year:

      however, they strongly support increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (62-35 percent)

      It's possible the added boost comes from people who view it as a potential tax cut idea, but I'd point out that America as a whole is a lot less red than NY-26.

      But either way, I'll take it. It's still a popular idea regardless of how people interpret it.

      Political Director, Daily Kos

      by David Nir on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:47:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fail (0+ / 0-)

        Warren Buffett doesn't pay a lower overall tax rate than his secretary because he makes over a million dollars.  He does so because his income is primarily from capital gains and dividends, which are preferentially taxed at 15% (or lower).  So a "support" answer for your question is consistent with maintaining the current tax system, lowering the tax rate on ordinary income, increasing the tax rate on capital gains and dividends, or allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire (if they do, the maximum tax rate on capital gains goes to 20%, dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, and the top rate of 39.6% on ordinary income will be reinstated.)

        Is there a better question?  How about:

        Many wealthy people pay low rates of income tax on their incomes because they benefit from deductions and special low tax rates on their investment income.  Do you support changes to the tax system that will increase income taxes on wealthy people so that the tax rate they pay is at least 28%?

        "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

        by Old Left Good Left on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 11:19:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Job Creators (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm sure that some repubs will cry about not taxing the 'job creators'. I would like to say that if my tax rates were as low as some billionaire's are, I might be able to be a job creator, too.

    •  I am a job creator (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Krush, Marjmar, socal altvibe

      The kind who looks at the bank balance every day and mentally heaves a sigh of relief knowing I've got enough to make payroll for my seven folks come next payday.

      My spouse and I are in the top bracket.  But cutting our taxes won't do jack to help us create more jobs.  Honestly we'd just bank it or reduce some debt.

      If you want me to grow my business, a tax cut (and please dear god health care) for the middle class and modestly affluent is the ticket.  They need to feel secure enough to spend (that's where health care comes in) and have a few bucks in their pockets.  When they do they spend them around town, and then the owners of those businesses come see me for my services.

      It is really a trickle up thing.  

      I will say the modest payroll tax cut has helped my employees.  The notice (and spend) a few extra dollars in their paychecks.

      Newt Gingrich: Believes marriage is between one man and a series of ever younger women. Wife #1 born ~ 1936, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #2 born ~1947, divorced when in her mid-40s...Wife #3 born ~1966.

      by trillian on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:01:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great News! (0+ / 0-)

    What about support for the idea in Congress? Maybe it's just my own rather jaded view but I think most members of the Democratic Party will claim to be in favor while looking for a way to not vote for it while the republicans will be against it as penalizes the "job creattors".

    For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. H. L. Mencken

    by irate on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:42:42 AM PDT

  •  i have believed all this time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    since the rise of the No More Taxes tea-party agenda, that low-information voters were buying the concept that if taxes were raised on their bosses, they would get laid off; and what they really never comprehended was that their bosses are laying them off anyway; and they are paying less in taxes than they are.  That fundamental unfairness does break through the low-information voter reflex of appeasing the rich so they won't suffer at their greedy hands.

    "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

    by louisev on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:45:22 AM PDT

  •  i cannot share in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    enthusiasm over rhetoric.

    Rhetoric doesn't pay bills.

  •  Make the idea popular enough and even the GOP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    will get out of the way, else their strategy of trying to blame the bad economy on Obama will backfire completely.

    I support torturous regimes! Also, I kick puppies.

    by eataTREE on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:47:47 AM PDT

  •  Good post. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    President Obama is doing really well lately.  Yes, Keep it up!

    More jobs equal less debt, even our kids can understand that.

    by TomP on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:51:02 AM PDT

    •  Obama needs to keep pushing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The president must keep pushing. He needs to ask Congress to stay in session. He needs to push for more legislation that will help the middle class. He needs to push to rebuild America. We need more. He needs to push for more. Make the Republicans vote against the American people, time and time again. PUsh, Push, Push.

      Be involved!

      by ecthompson on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:02:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  not so fast, you could cut taxes (0+ / 0-)

    on the middle class down to the zero percent or whatever that millionaires pay, too.

    Two ways to reach "fairness" and I am sure te Republicans will seize on that.

    Intelligent, passionate, perceptive people will always disagree, but we should not let that disagreement, however heartfelt, lead us to become deaf to those better angels of our nature.

    by Mindful Nature on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 09:56:49 AM PDT

  •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "I'm heartened that the president is on the offensive here. "

    too little, too late.  It cost him nothing to say it, could have been taking this position all along.

    don't be too "heartened" -- this is B.O. the candidate, not B.O. the Prez.

  •  While I don't support removing the FICA (0+ / 0-)

    cap on SS, we can use what's paid in "total federal taxes" as  a way to sell raising the income tax on earners over $106k by an equivalent amount (6 points, or if we want to include employer contribution, 12 points).

    Hell, marginal income over $106k should be paying Clinton-era rates plus 12 points anyway; and marginal income over $1M should be paying 10 points above that

    Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

    by Robobagpiper on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:02:08 AM PDT

  •  Strongest number from the whole poll (0+ / 0-)

    Everything else continues to be blah. Even the generic ballot got worse.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:17:35 AM PDT

  •  Isn't this exactly what Republicans have done (0+ / 0-)

    since the 1980s with abortion.  The possibility that abortion could really be outlawed has been nil.  But that hasn't stopped Republican after Republican from making the issue central to their political personas.  

  •  Lowering the tax rates of the 1%ers (0+ / 0-)

    is just a round-about bribe to induce corporations and businesses to keep pressure on the work force and keep them voting 'right.'

    The officers of our public and of our private corporations do a sort of good cop/bad cop routine to keep the low-information voters in line.
    That private corporations are calling the shots is a charade.  Legislators hold all the cards because they're the ones that can pass legislation to advantage one corporation or sector, or not.

    by hannah on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:22:06 AM PDT

  •  Probably somewhat related but Obama is creeping up (0+ / 0-)

    in the daily Gallup poll.

    It's now 42%-49%. Nothing to write home about quite yet but a better spread than the 15% spread he was featuring very recently.

    Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one. ::Goethe::

    by Jeremy10036 on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:26:17 AM PDT

  •  This is how it works (0+ / 0-)

    Though a rather simplistic offering, this is how the wishes of the mighty 73% in favor of this proposal will be carried out: advertising.

    By "advertising," I don't simply mean political TV and radio ads. I mean that on the lips of every Democratic legislator (in the appropriate districts -- I realize that politics makes this unlikely to be a universal message, though in reality it should be) and the Dem Party in general.

    Keep speaking about the "Buffet Rule" -- and spell out exactly what it means -- at every opportunity.

    How did the Republicans successfully attach the "tax and spend" meme on the Dems for the past 30+ years? They repeated it every chance they got. They repeated it so much it was sickening to hear about it. But the label stuck and the Dems have suffered for it ever since.

    We need to do the same in return regarding the "class war" and how the "Buffet Rule" will bring some equity (not to mention revenue) to the table.

    And while they're at it, Dems should attach the "The GOP have pledged to cut YOUR Social Security, YOUR Medicare, YOUR Medicaid" meme to their opponents, as well.

    First of all, and most compelling -- it's true. Secondly, seniors have proven to be one of the most consistent voting blocs, and this is one message they'll react to!


    Has anyone seen the president I voted for?

    by RevJoe on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:31:58 AM PDT

  •  You're Not Paying Attention (0+ / 0-)

    We The People have also for some time now been demanding, among other things, an end to the terminal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The end of these equally hideous disasters is nowhere in sight.

    Again, the massive disconnect here is Congress' job is do what is best for all of the people, all of the time. it's not their job to do what a small percentage of the people, the wealthy class- wants. That is what they are doing.

    I think you know by now nearly half of the senate are millionaires. Their support of the Buffett Rule would mean raising taxes on themselves.

    Uhhhhh, doubtful.

    Thus we can talk about what the people desire 'til the cows come home... with an entrenched, corrupt, do-nothing congress in place- it's not happening.

    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:44:35 AM PDT

  •  When I first saw the title (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I thought of the "Jimmy Buffet" rule.

    It's 5 o'clock Somewhere

    Time for a margarita.

    "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry" - Frank Zappa

    by Da Rock on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:59:11 AM PDT

  •  The Question is seriously flawed (0+ / 0-)

    And not worthy or building an entire reelection campaign on...

  •  Those folks making over $100k but less than $250k (0+ / 0-)

    are an optimum target for this idea.  Of all us wage-earning taxpayers, those folks get hit the worst. Taxes peak for them, and drop off sharply as one ascends the next rungs of the income ladder. And the kind of folks who can earn that kind of money tend to be smart enough to know how screwed they are a tax time. Good demographic to corner.

    “The greatest evil perpetrated, is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.” - Hannah Arendt

    by treesrock on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 03:01:10 PM PDT

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