Now, while the talking points have been about the fairness of tax cuts for the wealthy or the wisdom of raising taxes on small businesses, there’s nothing like the looming elections to put a real “edge” on the issue. I’ll leave the debate about who’s wealthy what’s a small business, and which ones do the most hiring to the pundits, but the reality is that those tax reductions passed into law during the prior Administration (some a decade ago) are getting ready to expire. Consequently – if something isn’t done shortly, come January 1, it won’t just be those making more than $250,000 a year who will be facing higher taxes.
This week, I asked readers what they thought Congress and the President would do – and what they thought they SHOULD do. And you know what? They were different.
When it comes to what readers expected – well, the results were diverse. That said, a clear plurality (31.9%) thought they would preserve tax cuts for everyone – at least for awhile.
However, nearly as many – 24.7% – thought that the tax reductions would be preserved for those making less than $250,000, and targeted tax breaks for small business, while just under one-in-five (19.9%) thought they would only preserve the tax reductions for those making less than $250,000.
As for the rest of the results, 13.3% thought they would do nothing, 3.6% were expecting they would preserve tax cuts for everyone, ostensibly with some level of permanence.
The rest – just under 7% – opted for “other”, and this week that pretty much included folks who either said they had no earthly idea what lawmakers would do (“Haven’t a clue; and I think they don’t either!”, noted one), opined that they thought lawmakers would make some sort of provision to at least appear to cut taxes, only to increase them later, or simply said, as several readers noted, “make a mess.”
As for what readers thought lawmakers SHOULD do, the most common response – cited by 41.6% - backed the notion of preserving tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 and targeting tax breaks for small business.
That said, a full quarter (25.3%) thought that the tax cuts should be preserved for everyone – again, ostensibly for longer than just a little while, while roughly half that number (12.7%) also thought the tax cuts should be preserved for everyone – at least for a while.
Just under 10% thought they would only preserve the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, while only 4% thought they would do nothing.
The rest (roughly 9%) opted for “other” – ,most of these simply tweaked the compensation ranges in the choices provided (drawing the line for tax reduction preservation higher than $250,000), but others said they should preserve the tax cuts AND spend less, and others simply thought they would raise taxes. One went so far as to say “I don't think if I told you honestly - you could print it...”
I gave readers a chance to share their comments/thoughts about taxes, tax cuts, tax increases, Congress, elections, or life in general. I’ve included some of those on the pages that follow, but here are my favorites:
I'm tired of being treated by this administration as though my generation (I'm in my 20s) is too obtuse to see that our future is being spent right under our noses. It's like they're scooping up water in buckets from the Titanic, saying, "Nothing to see here, folks." We need lifeboats, not buckets.
Comments about Congress in general? Only if this site is rated "R" for maturity......
Warren Buffet for 2012, let him invest our way out.
But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “The big problem I see is that no matter what Congress decides to do, they will do it the end of December and no one will be able to calculate payroll correctly in January until the new withholding tables come out.”
Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!
Check some more verbatim comments on the following pages...
The issue is not that were not paying enough taxes. We're paying plenty. It's that the government doesn't want to rein in their spending. Everyone has had to cut back their spending the last two or three years except for this administration and Congress. They just don't get it!
I wouldn't mind taxes if the people spending my money knew what the "h-e-double l" they were doing or cared.
Congress should implement a lid of sorts on social security. Each year they should compute the average income. Seniors making more than this amount should have their social security payments cut. For every three dollars they make over the "average income", one dollar should be cut from their SS payments. This would ensure that those who really need it are getting it, while cutting down on the expenditures. People should be reminded that this was essentially meant to keep you out of the poor house, not to ensure you could go on lots of cruises after retirement.
I think it’s really sad that no one seems to want to look at the current tax system and find a way to make it so people actually pay a fair amount of tax. We have people making millions of dollars who barely pay a cent, hard working couples who get eaten alive just because they don't have kids, and others who work as little as they possibly can knowing the government is going to give them a bit check come tax time. Why Congress can't put their own political aspirations to the side (a common problem with everything they touch) to design a system that would be fair for everyone simply makes a mockery of the ideals our country was built on.
Since F.D.R. was responsible for the beginning of all these taxes, perhaps an article on the "skinny" on FDR would be appropriate; after all, he was NOT the nice guy everybody thought he was ... to my way of thinking - ALL AMERICAN - he slanted more toward socialisim; just like the guy in the white house now!
I sure hope Obama tried to raise taxes...in an election year, that spells victory for the GOP. It's been proven that revenues INCREASE with a tax cut. Obama just doesn't get it. As long as that means the end of his era, I am fine that he doesn't get it. Makes me wish Hilary Clinton had gotten elected. Right now, if she opted to run against him, I might just cross lines and vote for her. I don't think the Republicans could beat Hilary.
Without a clear objective, we will continue to get the kind of government policy we deserve, factionated and run by special interest groups and lobbyists; emotional rather than rational.
The American people were duped in 2008 and need to realize that massive changes are needed. Our children and grandchildren's futures are being robbed from them. This crazy tax and spend policy has to be stopped & reversed. Government has to get out of the way of the American people and let us rebuild our economy and lead the world with innovation and entrepreneurism.
Let's raise the taxes on members of Congress.
I would love for the government to astound me and think about something besides the next election, but I don't have much hope.
The entire debate will be "ugly". I think the nature will change after the elections and suspect that outgoing members on both sides of the aisle will vote their convictions instead of party line. This may (one can always hope) be a productive lame duck session.
Gee, is anybody out there thinking that maybe we could help dig ourselves out of this fiscal mess by leaving Iraq and Afghanistan? If we can't have "guns and butter", we should also not have guns and tax cuts.
I would really like to feel like I am part of the "evil rich" since I am labeled as such based on my earnings, but I am too busy paying for the mortgage, new gutters, washing machine repair, new shoes, school books, tuition, and the like for my kids! I am happy to have an emergency cushion, but other than that, I'm not feeling the rich.
Patriotic Americans (and those who pretend to be patriotic) should be willing to pay taxes to pay for the wars that help to keep us safe. That should be an obligation for people in every tax bracket, as we all benefit from the freedom and security that our military strength affords us.
Taxes should be cut even more and the government budget should be put to a general election vote.
Congress should stop with behavior that would shame kids in a sandbox. "Fiddling while Rome burns" should be replaced with "grandstanding on TV while the country implodes."
What's there to say that hasn't been said before?
The Will Rogers quote this morning said it all Nevin!
"Life in general: IT'S GREAT !
I have eighty-five years, and despite the hardships of the 20's & 30's, 3 yrs in the Navy during the 40's, burning the candle from 1946-1951 to earn a BBA, and an LLB in 1970, raising a family of three with a wonderful wife, I had the American Dream in 1985, at age 60. From there, it was all downhill. I lost my wife, my job, my retirement annuity, my savings, and had no income to pay my 25% of ""experimental"" medical expenses to save my wife. My only recourse, was to get a job, and here I am today, a Legal/HR Mgr. with more responsibilities ever imagined, due to governmental mandates on every individual, or business, small or large. I love it, and feel my years of experience, allow me to be productive, and also help younger co-workers accomplish the ""dream""."
I think the actions that Congress and the President take on taxes will be in large part as a result of the pressure they receive and the low approval rate of this adminstration. We have already seen that the stimulus funds really did nothing to invigorate the economy; an increase in taxes will further depress buying power and discourage economic growth.
Expiration of the tax cuts will hurt, but we really can't add to the deficit and the country couldn't afford them in the first place. Tax increases to reduce the deficit loom on the horizon, delaying it isn't going to make it any easier.
Our Government has lost contact with reality. This should have been the first priority at the beginning of 2010 but they wait until election time to even talk about the subject this is not only a crime in my eyes they should all be voted out and a whole new crew voted in they may make mistakes but at least they will be new ones!
Nevin, we need smart people like you to call for change in our political system. We are self-destructing and have been for decades. The party system should be eliminated, there should be no public financing of political candidates, and candidates should only be permitted to use certain media to discuss their viewpoints with others....and no more mudslinging. At some point, voters should actually consider the merits, ability, and experience of a candidate before casting a vote. I could go on but I feel like I'm ranting (e.g., beating my head against a concrete wall).
I am sickened by the arrogance and feelings of entitlement displayed by some of the wealthiest in our society. They need to contribute more to compensate for all the benefits they receive. I have high esteem for those who understand that they would not be where they are were it not for the contributions of those who have little.
No intelligent business person makes an investment or hiring decision based solely on expected tax rates. They use something closer to total expected return on invested capital.
I support preserving the lower tax brackets, and perhaps even lowering them more. However, the base income to which the rates are applied needs to be drastically broadened. Our tax code is far too complex as it stands. Several of the various income deductions (e.g. mortgage interest, medical expenses, child care, etc.) should be eliminated. The net result of whatever changes are made should be an increase in taxes because our national debt problem is only getting worse the longer we put it off. However, given the economic environment, it may make sense to phase in any changes (net tax increases) over the next few years to soften the blow to taxpayers.
Since any tax law that Congress is likely to enact would be even less progressive than the tax law that prevailed before the Bush Tax Cuts eviscerated the tax system, nothing is by far the best thing that Congress is likely to do.
Don't get me started!
To Congress: SLOW DOWN the spending, gentlepersons...
I think Congress and the gargantuan bureaucracy could do just fine if they managed the dollars that they have better. People who work hard for a living, and have for a long time, are told it is there duty to support people who don't, even if they have made bad personal choices which landed them in a bad situation. Allowing the tax cuts to expire will give the government more money to spend and they will...they will not decrease the deficit...but those of us who pay will have less to spend...which will have a negative effect on the economy again. I've been working since I was 11 years old and my parents didn't have much, but we managed. I'm tired, but apparently cannot be retired.
It's been proven throughout history that tax cuts stimulate economic growth by creating a climate where businesses are more apt to grow (and hire) and where individuals, with greater take-home pay, are more likely to spend. Why is that so difficult for the folks on the left of the aisle to understand?
If it were not an election year, they would just let everything expire. We are lucky. But, they must shrink government also.
Enjoy your life, taxes and all - you wouldn't enjoy the good, if you didn't have the bad & ugly...
We've had enough turbulence without adding more to the mixture with all the year-end adjustments individuals and companies would do if tax cuts allowed to sunset through inaction. The divorce rate would probably go higher as couples decouple (or don't get married) to avoid the $250K household income threshold. If it were inflation indexed, would be a different situation, but that figure does not represent the level of wealth it did when originally passed.
Whatever is decided with the tax cuts could have a huge impact on the November elections. However, before this was even brought up, people were angry about health care reform, economic stimulus and other issues so this may not sway people one way or the other. I just don't know if Congress really understands what an economic de-stimulus it would be to take away even a some of the tax cuts.
"We don't have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem. It's way past time to:
- slash spending,
- implement a flat tax so that all Americans share the burden of financing government,
- eliminate numerous federal bureaucracies (let's start with the Dept of Education and continue on with closing every other program not authorized by the Constitution),
- properly fund or eliminate Medicare and Social Security,
- impeach all of the congressional leadership for failing to fulfill their Constitutional obligation of passing a federal budget (no budget for last year; looks like none for this year),
- completely shut down the federal government until Congress passes a budget,
- repeal PPACA - it is a financial sham and will doom this nation,
- call for a Constitutional Convention,
- forbid anyone with a law degree from serving in Congress (the original 14th amendment).
This would be a good start on the road to recovery..."