The Post’s Cooked Poll and Obama’s Tax Class Warfare

The paper misses the larger point about Americans' distaste for using the tax code for class warfare.

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The Washington Post carries a bizarre piece today about the seeming disconnect between Barack Obama's tax plan and voters' perception of it. The crux of it is that, according to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, 51 percent of potential voters believe their taxes would rise under Obama, while just 33 percent said the same of John McCain.

This prompts a lengthy defense of Obama's tax plan, full of imbalances and outright whoppers. For instance, the article notes that Obama "is fighting the widespread perception that he would jack up tax rates upon taking office." It's hardly a widespread perception—Obama himself has said over and over that he would raise taxes on the top 5 percent of earners. So is it any wonder that a candidate who has pledged to raise taxes on one group stokes fears that he'll also raise others? The larger mystery is why a candidate who has pledged to unequivocally cut taxes (McCain) is still regarded with suspicion by a third of voters.

Nevertheless, the reporters write, the poll results "are likely to be particularly frustrating for Obama, who has failed not only to break through on taxes but also to capitalize on McCain's perceived weakness on the economy, the central issue of the campaign."

But the Post's poll results don't demonstrate McCain's "perceived weakness the economy."

Here was the question: "Do you think (NAME) does or does not understand the economic problems people in this country are having?" Obama bested McCain 74 percent to 53 percent. But the question concerned microeconomic difficulties, not macroeconomic solutions. Voters might think Obama better understands their frustrations over the rising price of bread, but that hardly means they believe he knows how to right the economy.

The better poll question would have been, "Do you believe that raising taxes on some would improve the economy?" And pretty clearly, the Post's reporters think so. How else to explain the following paragraph? [Emphases added.]

McCain has also increasingly won the confidence of voters to handle economic issues. This comes despite a deepening economic downturn and rising unemployment—problems that Obama and other Democrats have blamed on President Bush—as well as McCain's own rhetorical stumbles, including his failure to recall in an interview last month how many houses he owns.

Now flip it:

Obama has also increasingly lost the confidence of voters to handle economic issues. This comes amid a deepening economic downturn and rising unemployment—problems that Obama and other Democrats have blamed on President Bush—as well as Obama's own rhetorical brilliance.

While the Post's reporters waste column inches marveling why a candidate who has pledged to raise taxes on one group is viewed by voters as likely to raise taxes on them too, the real story seems to be that voters don't believe raising taxes on anyone is the solution to a poor economy. A Rasmussen poll released Tuesday determined just that, showing 62 percent of respondents believe economic growth is more important than class warfare.

Voters recognize what the true engine of economic growth is in America. Here's a hint to the Post's reporters: It's not a wasteful, even more bloated federal government.