Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation

Agresti, J. D. (2019, February 18). Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation. Retrieved from
Agresti, James D. “Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation.” Just Facts. 18 February 2019. Web. 20 March 2019.<>.
Chicago (for footnotes)
James D. Agresti, “Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation.” Just Facts. February 18, 2019.
Chicago (for bibliographies)
Agresti, James D. “Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation.” Just Facts. February 18, 2019.

By James D. Agresti
February 18, 2019

Public opinion polls show high levels of support for raising taxes on the wealthy, and some people are touting these results to advance progressive tax policies. Such polls, however, are tainted by the common myth that the rich pay a lower average effective federal tax rate than the middle class. This belief has been widely spread by the media, but data from the U.S. Treasury, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Tax Policy Center prove the exact opposite is true.

Politico recently published an article by Ben White titled “Soak the Rich? Americans Say Go for It.” According to White, “the prospect of 70 percent tax rates for multimillionaires and special levies on the super-rich draw howls about creeping socialism and warnings of economic disaster,” but “when it comes to soaking the rich, the American public is increasingly on board.”

White bases his claim on a new Politico/Morning Consult poll “that found 76% of registered voters believe the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes.” He also cites a recent Fox News survey showing that “70% of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning over $10 million,” and “54% of Republicans” agree with this.

Politico also reports that these polls show support for the tax proposals of Democratic politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described Democratic socialist.

However, Politico fails to mention that these polls align almost perfectly with the portion of voters who have been misled to believe that the top 1% pays a lower average federal tax rate than the middle class. A recent scientific survey commissioned by Just Facts shows that 75% of voters believe this untruth, including 90% of Democrats, 61% of Republicans, and 78% of third-party voters.

This enormous disconnect between perception and reality accords with a deluge of misinformation by media outlets, which have repeatedly reported tax rates that exclude large portions of people’s taxes and/or incomes. A small sample of the perpetrators includes the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Newsmax, the Providence Journal,, PolitiFact, CBS News, and Agence France-Presse.

Comprehensive, accurate tax rates must account for all taxes and all income. This includes hidden taxes, capital gains, loopholes, deductions, and benefits that are typically not taxed, like employee health insurance. The U.S. Treasury, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Tax Policy Center have conducted such analyses, and all of them find that the wealthy pay far higher effective federal tax rates than middle-income households:

The complete range of their findings shows tax rates for middle-income households between 12% and 14%, and tax rates for the one percent from 34% to 38%. In terms of ratios, they find that the average federal tax rate on the richest one percent is 2.4 to 3.3 times higher than middle-income households.

By feeding falsehoods to respondents, pollsters can severely distort the results of their polls. The press has done that on a wholesale basis with the American public on this issue and many others.

5 thoughts on “Support for “Soaking the Rich” Is Rooted in Media Misinformation

  1. Until the mainstream media decides to publish FACTS instead of FAKE NEWS, and people decide to discover TRUTH instead of chasing DRAMA, it’s nearly impossible to educate people.
    Tax the rich IS supported by lobbyists, bundlers, politicians, and the pseudo-non-profits that funnel “tax-free” millions of into political campaigns. Obviously, if THEY would be paying these higher taxes, they would not support it. They’re in this game for money and power. The “correct” politicians will make sure they are amply rewarded.

  2. The fact is that a progressive tax system requires the rich to pay a higher percentage and the charts presented are accurate, EXCEPT, that a few of the 1% find ways to pay little or no taxes due to special provisions commonly known as loop holes. If a true flat tax of 16% was levied with no exemptions it would be fairer because those at the lower end of the pay scale get much more in government benefits than the higher scale. Sweden requires those making less to pay more than we in the USA do and this makes sense since they benefit form all sorts of government programs. The top 1% can afford tax accountants and lawyers to find the loop holes in the massively complex tax system we have and the upper middle class pay the heaviest burden. FOR EXAMPLE, I know for a fact that a person making 150 Thousand a year pays the same in Social Security Taxes as the richest person in America due to the stupid cap system. Just keep tax rates FLAT AND remove the social security payroll tax cap. Since everyone will benefit from social security, that is the most logical approach and the deficit issue goes away since money will flow into he treasury just as it did under JFK, when he got rid of the punitive tax rates of the old days. I am old enough to know better. The tax rates in the past killed jobs because people just avoided doing business with America. Look how Europe is still anemic. GET RID OF UNNECESSARY COMPLEXITY.

    • If, as the graph above state, the 1% still pay over 45% of all federal income taxes either they can’t use loopholes or the IRS is lying. Which is it?

  3. I’m not for “soaking the rich but what is wrong with them paying the same tax a poor worker pays? What is wrong with a flat tax? Seriously, someone explain it to me like I’m ten years old because, currently, I really don’t get it. Unless it’s like Leona Helmsly said: “Only little people pay taxes”. THAT, I understand. I am very familiar with the “little people” getting screwed.

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