People Just Love Tax Hikes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 11 2013 3:44 PM

People Just Love Tax Hikes

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Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol March 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

John Boehner (or a handyman) tweets about a McClatchy poll. It proves, in the words of the pollster, that Americans "are not in a mood to increase taxes." Sure enough, "voters by 53-37 prefer to reduce the deficits by mostly cutting government programs and services rather than mostly by raising taxes."

But that's not all it says! McClatchy asked whether voters preferred to raise taxes or to cut various things that government pays for. Social Security? By a 60-33 margin they prefer tax hikes. Medicare? Give 'em tax hikes, 57-36. Medicaid? It's closer, as you'd expect from a program that the wavering voter understands as a giveaway to poor people, but tax hikes still win the round.

Isn't that great for the White House? Not really. The natural policy response to these poll numbers would be to raise the cap on Social Security taxes. Right now, income over $113,700 isn't hit by the tax. (FICA's probably the most regressive tax that liberals wholeheartedly support.) Huge majorities of voters want that cap to be increased. Yet that's not what Democrats talk about when they talk about raising taxes. They talk about the similar, but not directly related, dreamy taxes on millionaires. Meanwhile, the NRSC is pre-accusing Democrats of introducing a budget "while ignoring a Medicare crisis that even President Obama admits can't be solved by raising taxes."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.