Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Losing Confidence in Congress?

We consider ourselves blessed to live in a country with a representative form of government, which is supposed to be responsive to the interests of the people. Our belief in this form of government is strong – so strong that we fight wars to help bring this to others. And yet we also make fun of our representatives – quite often in fact. One reason to love this form of govenrment is that we can do this without ending up in the gulag. For those who remember Yakof Smirnof, “I love this country.” (What is he up to these days any way?)

A recent survey by the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to the study of taxation, suggests we don’t have much confidence in our representatives these days – at least when it comes to controlling their spending. The survey also suggests that there is popular sentiment for shrinking government as a way to deal with the deficit.

In particular, consider these questions:
Q727. This year the U.S. budget deficit will be $340 billion, or $2,470 per individual tax return. Some people say it is important to balance the budget. Thinking about your own situation, would you be willing to pay an additional $2,470 in federal taxes to eliminate the deficit and balance the budget?

Yes, I would be willing to pay the additional tax.
No, I would not be willing to pay the additional tax.
Not sure
Source: Tax Foundation

Q729. If you paid that extra $2,470 in additional taxes, which one of the following do you believe today’s Congress would do? (Base: Willing to Pay Tax)

Mostly increase spending and not pay off the deficit
Pay off part of the deficit and increase spending with the rest
Pay off the entire deficit
Not sure

(The study summary can be found here:

Q727 is understandable – most folks I know have somewhere they would rather spend $2470. (Most people with kids would definitely relate.) Alternatively, they may be among the group that have a zero or negative tax burden. They just would not have the money to make this contribution.

But if we look at the 9 percent, and if we take them seriously, we should note that there is nothing stopping them from making a voluntary contribution. That should generate a cool $34 billion.

But if we see the results in the next question, we may understand why they don’t do this. Most people think that the Congress would increase spending and not pay off the deficit. In other words, we don’t really think these guys can resist the temptation to spend. It is like an alcoholic working at a bar – too much temptation.

And as far as that spending goes, most people also don't think they are getting good value from their taxes. Consider this question:

Q635. How would you rate the value you personally get from the taxes you pay to the federal government?
2006 2005

27% 25% (Total Excellent or Pretty Good)

65% 66% (Total Fair or Poor)

8% 9% (Total Not sure)
Source: Tax Foundation

Only about ¼ think they are getting excellent or good value from their taxes; two thirds think not. This suggests popular sentiment for shrinking government. But of course, the real test of this view is how people behave in the voting booth.


No comments: