Another Poll Exposes the Steep Toll of Fake News About Tax Cuts

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, file photo, the sky over The Capitol is lit up at dawn as Senate Republicans work to pass their sweeping tax bill, in Washington. Congress' last major tax overhaul, three decades ago, was everything this year’s version isn’t. The Tax Reform Act …
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Half of Americans predict that the tax bill Congress is close to passing will raise their taxes, a view that is contrary to all serious studies of the tax bill.

According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation’s assessment of the Senate version of the bill, just 8.1 percent of Americans would  see their taxes rise under the Senate bill. That number is likely lower now that the child tax credit and deduction for state and local taxes have been expanded in the final version of the bill.

Yet a Monmouth University poll shows that 50 percent of the public say they expect their taxes will go up.

Just 14 percent say their taxes will go down, according to the Monmouth poll. The JCT estimates that 61.7 percent of taxpayers will get a tax cut. And, again, that number is likely to be higher due to the expansion of credits and deductions in the final bill.

Public ignorance about the reality of tax cuts has become markedly worse in recent weeks. An earlier poll by CBS News showed that 22 percent expected their taxes to fall under the bill and 44 percent expected their taxes to rise.

The results of the poll show that news outfits have failed to inform the public about the tax reform bill. Instead of understanding how the bill will actually affect them, the public appears to have absorbed the talking points of the Democrat opposition.

Given this widespread misunderstanding, it is not surprising that 47 percent of the public disapprove of the tax reform efforts, and just 26 percent approve. Just 29 percent say they want to bill to succeed (a bit mysteriously, since that’s three percent higher than the approval figure), and 39 percent say Congress should scrap the bill and start again next year.

One potential source of the public confusion on this issue could be the fact that many of the tax cuts for individuals are set to expire sometime over the next decade. The expiration of those cuts would, if it occurred, raise taxes on many Americans. But Republican lawmakers have already vowed to fight against the expiration and no Democrats have said they figure allowing the cuts to expire. Most “temporary” tax cuts get extended or made permanent. And that seems highly likely in the case of the current bill, given that no lawmakers advocate permitting the expiration.

The official Congressional scorekeepers, however, are required to adopt the improbable outcome that tax bills will operate exactly as written. No serious economist would use that as a reliable forecast, however.

What’s more, even if tax cuts did expire, most taxpayers would still have paid lower taxes over the ten year period that forecasters use to evaluate tax and budget plans. Which means that even in the worst case scenario, far fewer Americans would see a tax hike than polls indicate expect tax hikes.

But the public has been led to believe that the least likely outcome–and one that would not, in any case, happen for several years–is not only certain but immediate.

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