61 percent say tax the rich to fix budget deficit

By Daniel Tencer
Monday, January 3, 2011 18:57 EDT
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Americans of all income levels overwhelmingly favor raising taxes on the rich over any other method available to reduce the budget deficit, a new poll has found.

According to a survey conducted for Vanity Fair and CBS, 61 percent of Americans prefer increasing taxes on the wealthy as the first step to balancing the budget. By comparison, only 20 percent chose the second-most popular option — cutting defense spending.

Cutting Medicare and Social Security — the other two options — got four percent and three percent support, respectively.

Even among the relatively wealthy — those earning above $100,000 — 46 percent said they wanted to see tax hikes on the wealthy before any other steps were taken.

The poll suggests Republicans may find themselves taking an unpopular stance when they challenge President Obama and the Democrats on the issue of raising the debt ceiling, as they have vowed to do.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday he would work to block attempts to raise the debt ceiling if Democrats didn’t agree to Social Security reform. Coming as it did right after the GOP struck a deal with Obama to extend Bush-era tax cuts, at a cost of $858 billion, the move to reduce Social Security costs will likely be met with stiff opposition.

Austan Goolsbee, President Obama’s senior economic adviser, on Sunday warned that a Republican effort to stop a rise in the debt ceiling would lead to the US government defaulting on its debt. Goolsbee said it would be “the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”

The current US federal deficit ceiling is $14.3 trillion. CBS reported Monday that the US debt has reached $14 trillion.

Polls taken before the tax cut extension indicated that Americans largely opposed the Republican plan to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest earners, prompting many Obama supporters to express disappointment when the White House agreed to an across-the-board tax cut extension.

However, observers have since said that the White House may have taken a strategically smart approach, as the tax cut deal was followed by a number of legislative victories for the Democrats, including the passage of the arms reduction treaty with Russia and the repeal of the military’s ban on gays serving openly.

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