Maybe that old saying that there are three kinds of lies: "lies, damned lies and statistics" should be rewritten to include "polls."
Two recent public opinion surveys reveal conflicting points of view on proposed taxes.
An Associated Press-GfK Group poll released last week found that 65 percent of U.S. adults support President Barack Obama's proposed Buffett Rule.
This plan, named after the multimillionaire financier Warren Buffett who said his taxes were too low, would require individuals making more than $1 million a year to pay at a tax rate of at least 30 percent.
But don't go citing that poll just yet.
A few days later, a survey by the Capitol Hill newspaper "The Hill" found that three-quarters of likely voters believe the country's top earners should pay lower, not higher, tax rates than they currently face.
When asked what would be the "most appropriate" tax rate for individuals making $250,000 or more, the largest plurality of those surveyed, 23 percent, said it should be 25 percent. Another 21 percent said it should be less than 20 percent. Seventeen percent said the rate should be exactly 20 percent. Fourteen percent support the 30 percent rate.
All of those rates are less than the current top ordinary income tax rate of 35 percent.
Just 13 percent said that the 35 percent rate is appropriate. And only 4 percent want the top tax rate hiked to 40 percent.
"You’ve got 75 percent of the answers are suggesting high-income people should have a lower tax rate, and that’s an astonishing result," Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP, told the newspaper.
Yeah, Clint, my head is spinning, too.
Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan adviser and Treasury official under President George H.W. Bush, thinks that perhaps people are underestimating how much the rich pay now.
Maybe their confusion comes from the various tax rates paid by the men seeking the Republican presidential nomination. All are wealthy and their tax rates range from around 14 percent for Mitt Romney to 28 percent for Rick Santorum to 31 percent by Newt Gingrich.
Or maybe it's just that all the campaign talk of taxes, combined with folks working on their own 1040s, has them wanting everyone's tax rate, rich or decidedly poorer alike, less.
Were you asked for your thoughts in either of these polls? Me neither. But now's your chance to have your say. What do you think is the proper tax rate for wealthier taxpayers?
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