Taxes and Traction

May 19, 2000

Do Americans care about high taxes anymore? Oh, they complain about taxes. But when Congress tries to pass a bill to reduce taxes or eliminate the marriage penalty, there is a collective yawn. Why can't tax reduction get any traction?

I posed this question recently to House Majority Leader Dick Armey. He argued that since Americans were doing well financially, they felt they didn't deserve a tax break. But secretly some of them would like one.

Poll after poll shows that taxes are no longer a burning issue for most Americans. Although they might secretly like a tax break, few will say so to a pollster. This is not great news to a Republican Congress that labors to remove the marriage penalty, cut taxes, and even sunset the IRS code. And it may explain why many of the tax cut proposals put forth by candidates are rather anemic.

One of the arguments for a tax cut was to stimulate the economy. Today's hyperactive economy hardly looks like it needs stimulus. And there are always proponents of big government who are ready and willing to warn of the dangers of a tax cut.

But even if tax cuts can't get much traction, tax fairness seems to resonate with the voters. Most would agree that the tax code is complicated and confusing. But don't blame the IRS for that. Congress and the president are the ones who add tax gimmicks and loopholes. Both see the tax system as a tool for social and economic engineering.

Voters may think that taxes are too high and tax code is too complicated, but most won't say so to a pollster. And if that continues, then taxes may not get much traction during this election year.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.