Aspirations/Assumptions

The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama’s proposal to let tax rates rise for the highest-income Americans, as Republicans held firm in their push to continue all of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Misty and I often discuss what we call “aspirational voting,” that is, that some people vote because they believe they will some day benefit from the policies supported by a certain politician or political party. This is obviously most true when it comes to the poor voting for Republicans, as shown by party members’ vote against extending tax cuts for those individuals below $200,000 (below $250,000 for families). They seem unwilling to allow any extension unless those making above those amounts also receive an extension. An alternative plan to only end the extension for those making over $1 million was also defeated by Republicans (and a few Democrats).

How does aspirational voting play into this (the same could be said for health-care reform)? Those Americans opposed to letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for citizens making the amounts noted above are obviously hoping (or, more likely, assuming) that they will some day earn over $200,000 a year and, thus, benefit from the tax cut.

There’s a simple solution for this, though. It doesn’t even really require math.

Just look at your current age and income. If you’re 40 and making $60,000 a year, do you think it likely you’ll hit the $200,000 mark any time in the near future? Ever? Unless your spouse is making $100,000 or more, I have to argue that it is unlikely. (And even if he or she is, you both have to make more than $250,000 to benefit from the tax cuts Democrats are willing to let expire.)

And here’s an even more sad fact:

If Congress does not act, the tax rates expire for everyone on Dec. 31, meaning an increase across the board. The rate in the lowest bracket would rise to 15 percent from 10 percent and in the highest bracket to 39.6 percent from 35 percent. [Emphasis mine.]

If the impasse continues, and all tax cuts expire, the lowest earners’ income taxes will rise to a greater extent than the wealthiests’ — 5 percent versus 4.6 percent.

I know this isn’t a pleasant way to look at this issue, but it is the best way, in my mind. Look at your age, look at your current income and consider how much youreally think your income will increase by the time you die. I think a large portion of those supporting the Republicans’ efforts will find themselves on the wrong side of their own pocketbooks.

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