President Barack Obama says he wants to end President George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Republican leaders say “no” to taxes. Americans say tax the rich. The debate over taxes has begun with intensity.

Obama called last week for tax reform and “to end tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans” at Northern Virginia Community College.

“We can’t just tell the wealthiest among us, you don’t have to do a thing. You just sit there and relax, and everybody else, we’re going to solve this problem. Especially when we know that the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care, or cutting children out of Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of Americans on Medicaid – seniors in nursing homes, or poor children, or middle-class families who may have a disabled child, an autistic child,” said Obama.

In another speech, Obama said that after the bipartisan “fiscal discipline during the 1990s” that the nation had lost its way. He said the nation increased new spending with two wars and the prescription drug program without paying for them.

“Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country,” said the president.

“We don’t believe that raising taxes is the answer,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “We won’t support tax increases.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We don’t believe a lack of revenue is part of the problem, so we will not be discussing raising taxes.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has put forth a plan to address the deficit that would retain the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and lower the tax rates for individuals and corporations from the present 35 percent to 25 percent.

In the midst of competing views over taxation come three public opinion polls showing support for increased taxes on the wealthy.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72 percent of Americans support raising taxes on those with a family income greater than $250,000.

The mid-April poll reported that 91 percent of Democrats favored such an approach, compared to 68 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans.

A McClatchy-Marist poll found that 64 percent favor higher taxes on incomes greater than $250,000 to address the federal deficit, compared to 33 percent who oppose such a plan.

Eighty-three percent of Democrats support raising taxes, while 63 percent of independents do. Only 43 percent of Republicans said they supported higher taxes on the higher income levels.

An earlier Gallup Poll reported that 71 percent of Democrats thought the government should “redistribute wealth” through taxation. Forty-three percent of independents and 28 percent of Republicans supported such action.

“The large group of Americans who make $75,000 and more oppose the concept of heavy taxes on the rich, while those making under $30,000 widely agree,” said Frank Newport, the head of Gallup.

Meanwhile, Associated Press reported on April 17 that the “super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.”

Editor’s Note: For a religious educational resource on taxation, consider Sacred Texts, Social Duty. The documentary explores how Jewish, Christian and Muslim people of faith read their sacred texts and what they say morally about taxation.

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