Steve Benen: The latest CBS News poll asked national respondents whether they’d support higher taxes on millionaires to lower the deficit. The results weren’t exactly close:
….it appears “class warfare” is pretty popular with the American mainstream … Why are Democrats, from President Obama on down, so unafraid of this issue? Because they’ve seen polls like this one, and know most Americans agree with them.
Michael Scherer (Time): When Barack Obama talks about taxes these days, he likes to talk about Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett’s secretary …. but if Mitt Romney is able to clinch the Republican nomination for President next spring, Obama will have a better example to talk about.
That’s because Romney, a wealthy man whose income mostly comes from long-term investments, is exactly the sort of “millionaire and billionaire” that Obama likes to hold up for scrutiny, since the source of Romney’s income allows him to pay a lower percentage of his money to the federal government each year than many middle-class wage earners.
…. People who earn as much money as Romney typically make most of it in capital gains and often deduct more than they earn in royalties, salary and interest. In other words, they never pay the 35% rate that their income would be subject to if they just got a paycheck like most Americans.
…. Should Romney win the Republican nomination, he will face substantial pressure to release his own tax returns. Usually such disclosures are little more than formality, but in Romney’s case, it would land him in the middle of one of the biggest policy debates of this election season.
…. any tax reform plan put forward by Obama would likely have a significant impact on Romney’s returns. And perhaps more importantly, if Romney wins the nomination, Obama will have a great line to use in debates and on the stump. He wouldn’t just be running against Romney, he’d be running against the large tax advantage that a millionaire investor’s income provides.
Greg Sargent (Wasington Post): Fact check of the day: CNN takes apart the ubiquitous GOP claim that tax hikes on the rich would be damaging to small businesses and the nation’s “job creators”:
In sharp contrast to the rhetoric, current data suggests small businesses don’t create an outsized number of jobs, very few small business owners fall into the top two tax brackets, and tax cuts for small businesses are ineffective stimulus measures.
Relatively few small businesses would be affected: Extending the tax cuts for top earners for another decade would come at a significant cost – nearly $1 trillion in added debt over a decade. But small businesses wouldn’t see much of that cash. Only 2.5% to 3.5% of small businesses would be affected by an increase in those two rates.
People Press: As the nation prepares for another round of deficit reduction debates, the public’s confidence in congressional leaders, particularly Republican leaders in Congress, has plummeted. Just 35% say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Republican leaders in Congress to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the federal budget deficit, down from 47% in May. Fully 62% say they have little or no confidence in the Republican leaders on this issue.
Public confidence in Barack Obama on the budget deficit, by comparison, has remained largely unchanged. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 52% express at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to dealing with the deficit, virtually unchanged from 55% earlier in the year.
The drop in confidence in GOP congressional leaders is broad based, even occurring among Republicans themselves …… Democrats offer a more positive assessment of their leaders’ handling of the deficit than Republicans do of theirs. Fully 84% of Democrats have at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing regarding the deficit, and 75% are confident in Democratic leaders in Congress….
…. The survey also finds continued public support for raising the tax rate on high incomes as a way to reduce the federal budget deficit and the size of the national debt. Two-thirds (67%) approve of raising the tax rate on incomes over $250,000 as a means of reducing the national debt … Just 30% disapprove…
Paul Krugman: Well, it seems as if a number of people in the media have decided that (President) Obama was fibbing when he said that some millionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries – because, as the usual suspects triumphantly declare, on average millionaires pay higher average taxes than middle-income Americans.
This is, of course, stupid: the operative word is SOME.
And we’re not talking about one or two exceptional guys, either … If you look at the numbers since 2004, you’ll see that in a typical year between 30 and 40 percent of those super-high-income players paid an average tax rate of less than 15 percent; most of them paid less than 20 percent.
…. what becomes clear is that the Obama/Buffet claim is absolutely, totally true.
So why the attack? Probably because it’s such an effective line. And we can’t have populism that actually strikes a chord with the public, can we?
NYT: President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials.
…. the proposal adds a new and populist feature to Mr. Obama’s effort to raise the political pressure on Republicans to agree to higher revenues from the wealthy in return for Democrats’ support of future cuts from Medicare and Medicaid.
Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule”, in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.
… The Obama proposal has little chance of becoming law unless Republican lawmakers bend. But by focusing on the wealthiest Americans, the president is sharpening the contrast between Republicans and Democrats with a theme he can carry into his bid for re-election in 2012.
It could also reassure Democrats who have feared that Mr. Obama would agree to changes in programs like Medicare without forcing Republicans to compromise on taxes.
David Nakamura (Washington Post): President Obama would fund his $447 billion plan to create jobs largely by raising taxes on wealthier families, White House aides said Monday after the president again called on Congress to support the package.
… Aides revealed for the first time that the plan will include limits on itemized deductions for individuals who earn more than $200,000 a year and families that earn more than $250,000.
Eliminating those deductions will bring in an additional $400 billion in revenue, said Jack Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The administration also is recommending closing oil and gas loopholes and changing the depreciation rules for corporate airplanes. All of the new rules, which would take effect in 2013, would bring in an estimated total of $467 billion, more than enough to pay for the president’s jobs bill, Lew said during the White House’s daily press briefing Monday.
Obama has proposed similar tax hikes on the wealthy in the past, but they were rejected by Congress.
…. The President is scheduled to visit a high school in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday and to travel to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina on Friday to tout the plan.
Steve Benen: …. the Obama administration’s approach to financing is heartening – there’s been all kinds of scuttlebutt about the White House proposing regressive policies to pay for the jobs bill, and the rumors were wrong. The president and his team are pushing the better – and incidentally, more popular – financing option.
And the more the GOP opposes this approach, the more Obama will pose the options the way he did on Thursday night:
“Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both.
Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.
….These are real choices that we’ve got to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.”