Eight years after bogus tea party rallies, tax marches target Trump returns

But as the New York Times reported on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, “What if a president cut Americans’ income taxes by $116 billion and nobody noticed?” As then North Carolina state representative Thom Tillis remarked, “This was the tax cut that fell in the woods—nobody heard it.”

In a troubling sign for Democrats as they headed into the midterm elections, their signature tax cut of the past two years, which decreased income taxes by up to $400 a year for individuals and $800 for married couples, had gone largely unnoticed.

In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know.

Believe it or not, those September 2010 results represented an improvement over a CBS News poll conducted that February. One-quarter of respondents said the Obama administration increased taxes, while 53 percent said they were unchanged. Only 12 percent rightly answered that federal income taxes had come down under President Obama.

The Tea Party thought taxes had gone up after the largest two-year tax cut in history,

But among the confused tea party crowd, that belief was akin to asserting the sun orbits the earth:

Of people who support the grassroots, “Tea Party” movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.

It’s no wonder that former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett aptly concluded, “For an anti-tax group, they don’t know much about taxes.”

As it turns out, their ignorance was even more profound than that. Thanks to the combination of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, the deep recession which began in late 2007, and those Obama tax cuts of 2009, the AP reported, “as a share of the nation’s economy, Uncle Sam’s take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.” In January 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explained that “revenues would be just under 15 percent of GDP; levels that low have not been seen since 1950.” That finding echoed an earlier analysis from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Last April, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded, “Middle-income Americans are now paying federal taxes at or near historically low levels, according to the latest available data.” Or as former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett again explained it in the New York Times:

In short, by the broadest measure of the tax rate, the current level is unusually low and has been for some time. Revenues were 14.9 percent of G.D.P. in both 2009 and 2010. Yet if one listens to Republicans, one would think that taxes have never been higher, that an excessive tax burden is the most important constraint holding back economic growth and that a big tax cut is exactly what the economy needs to get growing again.

Here’s how Michael Ettinger of the Center for American Progress put it in 2010: “The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts.”

Nuts, indeed. Almost as nutty as the Trump White House talking point that “nobody cares” about the President’s tax returns. Eighty percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, say otherwise.

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