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The Myth of the Tax Revolt

According to conservatives, a tax revolt is sweeping the country as Americans conclude that their tax dollars are being spent unwisely. Well, it’s true that no one likes paying taxes and the public does believe there is considerable waste in the system. But that’s different from the conservative caricature of the outraged citizen in full-scale revolt against federal government taxes.

Consider these results from the latest CBS/New York Times poll. The poll asked the public whether the income taxes they are paying this year are fair or unfair. The public judged their income taxes to be fair by a wide 62-30 margin.

Do you regard the income you will have to pay this year as fair, or not?

The public was also asked whether “government programs like Social Security and Medicare” are worth the taxpayer costs to keep them going. The public’s response: 76 percent think the benefits of these programs justify their costs to taxpayers, compared to just 19 percent who think otherwise.

Do you think the benefits from government are worth the costs for taxpayers?

So don’t believe the hype. Americans will never love paying taxes. But they do recognize that paying taxes has a great deal to do with fairness and supporting worthwhile programs. That’s a fact, albeit an inconvenient one for conservative mythology.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.