The American Public Has a Plan to Cut the Deficit: Higher Taxes

Yuval Rosenberg

As evidenced by the CBO numbers above, lawmakers may be placing little importance on the rising deficit, but the American public apparently takes a different view. Writing at The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, Steven Kull, the director of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, points out that a Politico-Harvard telephone poll conducted last December found that reducing the deficit was among the top three priorities Americans laid out for the new Congress.

To find out just how the public would handle the federal tax and spending decisions, Kull’s program conducted a survey of its own this past spring, giving 2,403 voters a chance to craft their own budget. The result: “Given options for changing discretionary spending and/or general revenue, majorities overall cut the deficit by $544 billion. Republicans cut it by $401 billion, while Democrats cut it by $663 billion.”

Taxes, taxes, taxes: Democrats and Republicans overlapped on $376 billion in deficit reduction measures, with voters in both parties agreeing to raise taxes on high earners. “Bipartisan majorities reversed the 2017 tax cuts for incomes over $200,000, generating $111 billion: That included 64 percent overall, 54 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats, with even larger percentages rolling back the tax cuts for higher incomes,” Kull says.

Three in five of those polled also decided to eliminate the lower tax rate on capital gains and dividends for those earning more than $200,000 — a change that generated another $122 billion. And three-quarters of poll respondents introduced an extra tax of at least 4% on incomes over $5 million, generating another $13 billion. The poll also found solid majorities would impose surtaxes on corporate profits above $100 million and a financial transactions tax on stock, bond and derivative trades. Sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco also proved popular.

Spending cuts, on the other hand, “played a relatively minor role,” Kull says. “The biggest target was defense spending — 56 percent of respondents cut the base defense budget by at least $42 billion, in addition to some other cuts to military spending, but 53 percent of Republicans cut it by $7 billion.”

You can try building your own budget here.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for our free newsletter.