President Obama speaks at the Georgetown Waterfront Park on July 1. Wanting to increase U.S. transportation spending with corporate tax reform, he pressed Congress to approve his transportation-spending plan. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

We're headed for another debate about taxes, after President Obama laid out his vision last week for a retooled tax system. This vision includes, as it has before, some tax increases.

Which, of course, is the GOP's red line. Here's how Grover Norquist, the country's most prominent anti-tax-increase activist, put it over the weekend.

The point is well taken; almost all of the Republicans in Congress have signed Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes. And indeed, it's only really newsworthy when they don't sign it, as Jeb Bush has declined to do.

But as for Norquist's other point -- that only four percent of Americans favor tax increases: That's true only in the most general sense. And in fact, Americans and even Republicans are quite okay with raising taxes, particularly taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations.

Case in point is a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week. It asked Americans whether they thought corporations paid their fair share of taxes, too little or too much. And 65 percent of Americans said they paid too little.

Even when it comes to Republicans -- the party that has made a name for itself as the small-government, low-tax party -- a plurality (43 percent) say taxes on corporations are too low, while one-third say they pay their fair share and 14 percent say they pay too much.

Here's how that looks:

This is hardly a new phenomenon, though. It also cropped up when the White House pushed -- ultimately successfully -- to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Last year, Gallup showed that 61 percent of Americans said upper-income Americans paid too little in taxes, and that was even after the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans were allowed to expire. Forty-five percent of Republicans agreed.

Even 23 percent of people -- and a 40 percent plurality of Republicans -- said lower-income people paid too little in taxes.

So, to sum  up, these polls show at least 40 percent of Republicans think taxes are too low on each corporations, the wealthy and the poor.


When the tax debate begins to rage in the weeks ahead (Obama will deliver his budget proposal on Feb. 2), it's worth keeping in mind that Americans of all stripes generally favor lower taxes.

But even plenty of Republicans are apparently willing to grant some waivers on Norquist's pledge.