The latest poll numbers show that a record number of Americans favor raising taxes on the rich as a solution to our budget problems. With the fiscal cliff just weeks away, one question remains: Who cares? Probably not Capitol Hill, unfortunately.
There's little question about how the everyday American feels about all this. According to a new poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, over three quarters of Americans favor tax hikes for the wealthy as a solution to avoid the fiscal cliff. That includes a striking 61 percent of Republicans who'd choose this path to avoid another recession and other unspeakable economic tragedies that economists warn are imminent if we do fall of the cliff. Around the same share of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, are willing to compromise in order to avoid a potential economic catastrophe. To put those numbers into perspective, that's roughly the same percentage of Americans who viewed Russia as a threat during the twilight of the Cold War.
The notion that most Americans are willing to take a tax hike in order to avoid the fiscal cliff is not a new one. It's actually been around since the summer, but the share of Americans favoring that option is reaching a record high -- it's up ten percent in the last week alone -- as Congress continues to trip over its feet in negotiations. Heck, even CEOs say they'll pay more taxes! Which leads to a kind of confusing crossroads. If an increasing majority of Americans favor tax hikes and just as many say they'd be willing to work with the other party to find a solution, then what the heck is keeping our lawmakers all tangled up on Capitol Hill? After all, if we do tumble over the fiscal cliff, then the Bush tax cuts expire, and everybody has to pay more.
It's complicated. Most recently, the negotiations have faltered over the amount of tax increases Republican lawmakers will tolerate, a debate that boils down to whether or not we should raise taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year. House Speaker John Boehner, whose job is sort of on the line here, has been in and out of meetings with President Obama for the past week, but it doesn't seem like the two parties are any closer to an agreement. As the polls have continued to skew towards Obama's plan, the Republicans seem more and more adrift. In the same WSJ/NBC poll, twice as many Americans believed the president could solve this problem than those who thought the Republicans could do it. Everyone seems to be working very hard, but it might be time for the power brokers to put their ears to the ground.
Of course, everybody says that they're committed to solving this problem. "We are going to stay here right up to Christmas Eve, throughout the time and period before the New Year, because we want to make sure we resolve this in an acceptable way for the American people," said House Majority leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday. He and his colleagues might want to take a look at the polls and rethink the last part of that statement. Or at least rethink who they're fighting for.