A new National Journal poll suggests that Obama is winning the debate over the Bush tax cuts:
As President Obama navigates a choppy economy in his reelection bid, he can rely on one comforting fact: Americans continue to strongly embrace his opposition to extending tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year.
A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows that only 26 percent of the public wants to see all of the tax breaks created during the George W. Bush administration, which are set to expire at year’s end, extended for at least another year. And only 18 percent want the tax breaks across all income levels made permanent, the position taken by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney...
In the poll, 47 percent of respondents said they wanted to see the tax breaks extended only for those earning less than $250,000.
Fewer than one in five support Romney’s position, which is to make all the tax cuts permanent. Meanwhile, nearly half support extending them for earners under $250,000.
The larger context, though, is important. Romney isn’t simply proposing to make the Bush tax cuts permanent; he’s also proposing an additional across-the-board tax cut on top of extending the Bush tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. A recent study found that under Romney’s tax proposals, 67 percent of the tax cut would go to those over $200,000.
Romney knows that cutting taxes for the rich further isn’t at all popular. So he has been saying that his plan wouldn’t reduce the share of the tax burden the rich pay, because he would close deductions and loopholes the rich enjoy to offset their disproportionate gains under his plan, with the result that everyone’s share gets reduced evenly. The only problem, of course, is that he won’t specify what those deductions and loopholes are, and says he sees no need to do so for the duration of the campaign.
The question is: Will the fact that the public sides with Obama on taxes matter in the fall campaign? This may all turn on how convincingly Obama can make the case that the money to pay for Romney’s tax cuts for the wealthy could come out of programs that Americans like and rely on. This is an argument that swing voters are receptive to. As that recent Democracy Corps focus grouping found, non-college whites in particularly are receptive to a message about taxes and entitlements, and “clearly fear that Mitt Romney and the Republicans will cut things that matter to them because they are not willing to raise taxes on the rich.”
So: Romney won’t say how his tax cuts for the wealthy would be paid for, or what revenues the rich will be asked to pony up in order to offset their disproportionate gains under his plan. He won’t share those details for the duration of the campaign. So where will that money come from, then? A good deal of this will turn on whether the press lets Romney’s lack of specificity continue to skate.