April 17th, 2010
07:37 AM ET

Dear President Obama #453: Our taxes are lower? Well, let's see...

Reporter's Note: President Obama is hearing a lot of talk about taxes these days. And now he can read about the subject too in my latest letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I have been listening to this vigorous argument (especially by Democrats) that taxes are lower these days despite the uproar to the contrary from Republicans and Tea Party types. The implication is along the lines of, “See how silly people can be? Why they are actually paying less tax and yet they foolishly think they are paying more! What a bunch of ingrates…”

Enough experts on the matter agree this that is true, that I started wondering: If that’s the case, then why are so many people convinced it’s not? I have a great deal of faith in the wisdom of the American populace (a viewpoint which I suspect a good many in the political crowd here do not share) so I am not willing to say that they are simply being obstinate. So after some consideration, I think I have come up with some ideas about why people feel this way.

First, some people are actually angry about taxes that are coming…not taxes that are already here. Let’s face it, people know that some tax cuts are expiring, that higher taxes are in the runway approach for wealthier folks to pay for your health plan, and plenty of voters suspect that you and your fellow Dems are going to get pretty itchy to pull the “new tax trigger” if the deficit keeps soaring. So they are wrong to say taxes are higher now…but it’s not altogether unreasonable for them to fear higher taxes are on the way.

Second, when you include all federal, state, and local taxes, it becomes a bit murkier to say “taxes are lower” in the aggregate. That depends on where you live, what you own, and what you make. Let alone whether you stumbled into the AMT. The point is, we don’t live in vacuums; for many folks taxes are taxes are taxes and they group them into one concept. They have a general, visceral sense of how much money they pay to government at all levels, and when they say “taxes” that’s what they mean. And for one tax in that group to be lower doesn’t matter much if another is higher.

Third, some of that “taxes are lower” talk seems a little like a pea and shell game. As taxpayers have pushed back against government at all levels to bring costs under control, in plenty of cases the governments have just transferred their costs to taxpayers in different ways. Let’s say my federal, state and local governments hold the line and do not raise my taxes by $100 this year; but they simultaneously push up the fees and charges I will pay for all sorts of services… from getting a fishing license or passport, to parking fees…by $300; does it really matter to my bank account that the extra expense is not called a tax?

As a result of all this, I think that plenty of regular Americans who may not even have a strong political point of view, might have plenty of good reasons to feel as if their “taxes,” meaning the overall amount of money they are paying to all types of government agencies, are getting higher.

And of course I may be wrong. But I suspect that’s what is at work here.

Hope all is well with you and that you can find a moment to call this weekend. I’m around and now feeling too taxed at the moment. Ha!



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Bob

    want to know how you compute the "averages"? My tax rate is 26% and is bigger this year then last and I made 15,000 less then last year!

    April 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    When you hear the GOP sqawking that should be enough of an indicator to anyone that President Obama is winning and they are poor losers.

    April 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  3. Marti Johnson

    Why was there silence when the previous administration broke all the rules and the US Treasury? This is not about higher taxes or spending more. It is deep-seeded hatred and zero tolerance for a different man in the Oval Office. No matter what good he does for this country, Obama will face persecution.

    April 17, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  4. beth

    Well, for many taxes may not be higher but for self employed and/or small business owners taxes are higher. I swear they are trying to put us out of business no matter what they say out loud. They sure must love the big box stores and big industry.

    April 17, 2010 at 8:04 am |