The PJ Tatler

Think Promising to Cut Taxes Will Help Conservatives? Think Again

Because the dirty little secret is, most people don’t pay much of anything in federal taxes. Even worse, they look at their “refund” — which is actually an interest-free overpayment loan to the government — as found money; for them, April 15 is not Tax Day, it’s the second coming of Christmas:

“Get your billions back, America.”

That H&R Block admonition–a clever ad campaign–shows the inherent conflict with the Republican Party’s anti-tax philosophy. For most Americans, April 15 is not a day to pay taxes. It’s a time to get a refund. An industry has sprung up to help Americans spend their refunds even before they have arrived.

This dynamic makes it hard for Republicans to pass comprehensive changes to the tax code, especially for individuals. There’s simply not a great appetite among most voters to change a tax code that doesn’t require them to pay all that much. A Pew Research Center study found that 53% of Americans believe they pay the right amount in taxes. Only 40% believe they pay more than their fair share.

But there is also a widely held perception that at the federal level, the tax system is broken. Sixty-four percent of Americans believe that corporate America doesn’t pay enough in taxes, even though the U.S. has the world’s highest corporate tax rate.

That was one of the many flaws of the Willard Mitt Romney candidacy: nobody except the those who actually pay taxes cares. And by those who actually pay taxes I mean almost nobody:

The Top 50 Percent of All Taxpayers Paid 97 Percent of All Income Taxes; the Top 5 Percent Paid 57 Percent of All Income Taxes; and the Top 1 Percent Paid 35 Percent of All Income Taxes in 2011.

Also remember that the income tax (a “progressive-era” amendment) doesn’t tax wealth, it prevents the middle class from ever accumulating wealth. That’s why rich Democrats like John Kerry, who married his money, or the Kennedys, who inherited it, don’t give a fig about the income tax. And why you’re never likely to see meaningful tax reform.