April 6th, 2010

Tax, Schmaxes

http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/18/tea-party-ignorant-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

Bruce Bartlett reports on David Frum (yes, guy who lost his job for saying the Republicans took a huge risk and lost on it), who sent interns down to ask some Tea Partyiers on March 16 in Washington two questions:

"Tea Partyers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product."

Depending on how you interpret this, different answers are reasonable -- but the 57 people who answered the questions (out of a crowd of a few hundred) overshot by any interpretation. By a lot.

"Tea Partyers were asked how much they think a typical family making $50,000 per year pays in federal income taxes."

Again, interpretation is possible, but again, _way_ _way_ _way_ overestimated. Which is sort of weird -- you'd think people would have some sort of sense of this at least.

Mr. Bartlett concludes: "It only takes a little bit of time to look at one's tax return to see what one is actually paying the Treasury, calculate the percentage of one's income that goes to taxes, and compare it with what was paid last year and the year before. People may then discover that their anger is misplaced and channel it into areas where it is more likely to bring about positive change."

It's three pages and totally worth reading.

The comments thread is, however, not worth reading, except as an exercise in exactly the kind of non-thinking that Bartlett (and, for that matter, Frum) is attempting to redirect. Bartlett is not wrong about what the problem is, but the odds of what he has to say having any impact on the people in question are slim. Or perhaps, none.