Fifty-four percent of those surveyed for an Associated Press-GFK study this week said their tax bills were "somewhat fair" to "very fair," while 48 percent of the 1,000 respondents characterized their taxes as being "unfair."
Adults under 30 and seniors 65 and over were much more likely to say their taxes were "fair" than those in their peak earning years. And there was little difference in perception of fairness across income levels.
Due to America's progressive tax system, there ARE, however, significant disparities in the PROPORTION of the total tax burden shouldered by those making a lot and those who don't.
According to the IRS, those reporting adjusted gross income of more than $380,000 – the top 1 percent of taxpayers -- paid nearly 40 percent of all taxes in 2008, the most recent year of available data.
The top 50 percent of wage-earners accounted for more than 97 percent of tax receipts; and the bottom 50 percent paid less than less than 3 percent of the nation's total taxes.
When asked in the Associated Press poll if taxes should be raised to reduce the deficit, 62 percent of those surveyed said government services should be cut instead.
And in the wake of last week's 11th hour agreement averting a federal government shutdown, the Obama Administration and House Republicans unveiled plans this week to stop the hemorrhaging of government red ink.
President Barack Obama unveiled a White House budgetary counter-punch this week in Washington. Speaking at George Washington University, Obama unveiled his vision for reigning-in America's ballooning debt projections over the coming decades.
President Barack Obama: "It's an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in tax expenditures -- spending in the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, protecting our commitment to seniors and protecting our investments in the future."
Over the next decade, Obama's plan would slash domestic discretionary spending by $770 billion but the President says clean energy initiatives, infrastructure investment, and broadband access would be exempt from the cuts. While it's unclear whether any USDA programs would face the budget axe under the Administration's plan.
However, the White House would trim $400 billion in new defense spending, extract $480 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid, and END Bush-era tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000 a year.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House: "I think the president heard us loud and clear. If we're going to resolve our differences and do something meaningful, raising taxes will not be part of that."
Congressional Republicans blasted Obama's proposal as a "disappointing" follow-up to Representative Paul Ryan's budget proposals last week. The Wisconsin Republican unveiled plans to dramatically slash domestic spending, overhaul Medicare towards a voucher-based system and prevent any tax increases over the next decade.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin: "I don't think raising taxes is a good idea in this economy. We need to have economic growth and job creation. Raising taxes on businesses at a time when they're struggling to compete in the international economy doesn't work.
The other problem, I'd say, is this: We don't have a problem with these deficits and debt because people don't pay enough taxes. The problem with our deficit and debt is because Washington spends far too much money. We're spending all this money we don't have. And it's that spending that is the core root cause of our problem."
The Obama Administration criticized the Ryan plan for its stance against any revenue increases for the federal treasury. In his budget speech this week, Obama said spending cuts alone can not balance America's multi-trillion dollar debt.
President Barack Obama: "They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that's paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That's not right. And it's not going to happen as long as I'm President."
The president also quoted Republican and former White House budget man David Stockman during his critique of the Ryan plan.
President Barack Obama: "Ronald Reagan's own budget director said, there's nothing "serious" or "courageous" about this plan. There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know."
Despite a compromise agreement between Obama and Congress last week to fund the federal budget through the fiscal year, government spending is still running an historic deficit. Federal expenditures are expected to hit the so-called debt ceiling, a legislative cap on borrowing, in the coming weeks. The debate could spark the most partisan rancor yet between Congress and the White House.