While the taxman keeps coming, we now care a little bit less.
Everyone dreads April 15, but for decades, Republicans turned distaste for taxes into votes against Democrats. We were decried as the party of higher taxes, while Republicans championed Richard Nixon’s immortal slogan, “It is time to get big government off your back and out of your pocket.”
Races at all levels, at least sometimes, hinged on taxes, usually to the detriment of the Democrat. Almost every cycle, millions of dollars in ads attacked Democrats for supporting some tax or other. In 1946, Republicans developed an 18-point lead as the party better able to deal with taxes; Democrats lost 54 House seats, in part as a result. Though the question was asked only intermittently, Democrats maintained an edge as the party better able to deal with taxes through most of the rest of the ’50s and again in 1978, then through the early ’90s. However, in 1994, when the GOP opened a 10-point lead on taxes, disaster struck with Democrats again losing 54 house seats, partly as a result.
In the last couple of election cycles, though, the air has slowly, though not completely, seeped out of the tax balloon, as evolving public opinion has reduced the power of this standard GOP attack.
Gee, I wonder public opinion has shifted?
While no one wants to pay more taxes, the perceived burden has diminished. Earlier this month, 53 percent of respondents told Gallup the amount they paid in federal income tax was too high. Though still a majority, it represents a significant decline from the two-thirds who thought their taxes were too high in the late ’90s. In 1993, 67 percent of Americans told Harris they “had reached the breaking point on the amount of taxes they paid.” A decade later that figure dropped by 15 points. CBS found 49 percent saying they paid more than their fair share in 1997, but just 37 percent taking that position this month.
Why has the perceived burden of taxes diminished? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the actual burden has diminished? What happened in that decade? Oh yeah, we had a tax cut that was opposed by almost every Democrat. Maybe that has something to do with Americans being less concerned about taxes?
Democrats will likely look at this and decide it's okay to raise taxes. They should look at it and worry that if they raise taxes, they'll start losing elections again.