Rasmussen has a new poll out on the way Republicans and Democrats perceive the tax system. Republicans believe that tax fairness is best achieved when everyone pays the same percentage of their income in taxes; Democrats believe that fairness demands that the wealthy pay a substantially higher percentage of their income in taxes.

This is not earth shattering news. But it is interesting to have numbers to back up one's casual perception. According to Rasmussen, 66 percent of Republicans agree with the statement that a flat tax is the fairest, with 25 opposed. On the Democratic side, 53 percent believe that progressivity is necessary for fairness, with 34 percent disagreeing. Thus it would appear that the Republicans' support for the flat tax is stronger than the Democrats' support for progressivity. This is observation is borne out in the combined data. Rasmussen finds that 48 percent of all Americans would favor a flat rate tax system versus 40 percent that advocate progressivity.

Perhaps the most interesting data in the poll, however, is that Democrats overwhelmingly believe that we do not at present have a progressive tax system. By a 53 percent to 28 percent margin, Democrats believe that those earning $50,000 per year now pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those making $200,000. By about the same percentages, Republicans have the opposite view.

Since this is a factual question, it is a simple matter to check and see which side is right. The best data we have comes from the Congressional Budget Office. Looking at the total federal tax burden, which includes income, payroll, corporate and excise taxes, we see that those in the middle quintile, with an average income in 2004 of $56,200, paid 13.9 percent of their income in taxes. Those in the top quintile, who had an income of $207,200, paid 25.1 percent.

Thus we see that the Democrats are simply wrong in their perception. Perhaps if more of them were aware of the true facts, they would share the Republicans' fondness for the flat tax and be less enamored of progressivity.

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