The passage of the new tax reform bill revealed how Americans feel about the economy, inequality and what steps should be taken to create a fair system for all. On one hand, the bill is unpopular with Americans. A December 2017 Gallup poll found 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the tax reforms. On the other hand, upon a closer look at the numbers, polls show a deeper divide based on partisan lines. A whopping 70 percent of Republicans approved of the plan, while only 7 percent of Democrats were in favor of the tax reforms.
Despite the seemingly fractured reception of the bill, research from Public Agenda that examined public opinion on opportunity and inequality in the United States revealed a variety of thoughts about the U.S. tax system, which ebbed and flowed across party lines. The findings offer a more nuanced perspective about taxes that doesn’t necessarily fit with the story of deeply-divided views on reforms based on political affiliation.
The Fix We’re In, which included focus groups from across the country, found “…people believe that moderate tax increases on the rich are warranted … to raise everyone else up through needed investments in opportunity and to make sure that all Americans contribute their fair share to support the common good.”
This belief is in stark contrast to the new tax bill, which includes a corporate tax reduction from 35 percent to 21 percent. However, authors of the bill say tax cuts for corporations will benefit the economy and workers by allowing companies to hire more workers, increase salaries and make investments. The bill also lowers tax rates for middle-income Americans. Under the new provisions, tax rates are lowered between 1 to 4 percent based on the filer’s tax bracket and standard deductions are doubled, with each provision expiring by 2025.
Many Americans feel stuck in a bad economy that’s only getting worse because of an “impenetrable and disempowering political system.” Republican and Democrat participants expressed frustration with a system that provides limited opportunity for mobility because of public policies that they believe only serve the rich and their interests, instead of “regular Americans.”
“The wealthy are getting wealthier because they don’t pay taxes,” one Republican focus group participant said. “They know how to work the system.”
“I don’t think the economy is working that well for Middle-America, the common man,” another focus group participant – an Independent, said. “I think everyone’s really struggling to make ends meet.”
While the debate on who should pay more taxes and why continues on a national scale, one thing to keep in mind is that the solutions to complex issues are rarely black and white, and more often than not, will elicit a range of feelings that Americans, regardless of political affiliation, all share.