Gallup is out with its fairly regular Tax Day polling showing that 50 percent of Americans believe the amount of federal income tax they have to pay is too high. On its own, pollsters say, this figure doesn’t really tell us much. Only by looking at data over time can we determine what this figure means.
Or can we?
In April 2012, near the end of President Obama’s “socialist” first term when the top marginal tax rate was 37.9 percent on regular income, 46 percent of Americans said their federal taxes were too high — tied for an all-time low. Back in 1985, during the supply-side glory years of Ronald Reagan when the top marginal tax rate was 50 percent on regular income, 63 percent of Americans said their federal taxes were too high. Five years later, in 1990, after even more tax cuts had pushed the top rate down to 33 percent, the percentage was exactly the same – 63 percent. And way back in 1947, shortly after the (by today’s GOP standards) practically communist FDR/Truman years had jacked the top marginal tax rate to 86.5 percent on regular income above $200,000 per year, 54 percent of American taxpayers in a slightly different sample said their taxes were too high. This is almost precisely the same percentage of Americans (53 percent) who felt that way in 2007 after multiple rounds of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts:
Doing a rough calculation of the numbers provided in the most recent Gallup release, the average percentage of Americans across the 48 polls listed from 1947-2013 who say the amount of federal tax they pay is too high is 58 percent — or the exact percentage of Americans who felt that way in 1967 when the top income tax rate on regular income was a lofty 70 percent and in 1997 when it was 43.7 percent.
Apparently, there’s no rhyme-or-reason at all to Americans’ views about federal taxes as they relate to the actual top income tax rate. Supply-siders everywhere don’t know whether to cry or rejoice.