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Rasmussen: Americans Favor Taxing The Banks

Rasmussen, typically a right-leaning polling outfit, finds wide support for the Obama Administration policy of a responsibility fee to recoup money lost in the TARP from the biggest banks and financial firms.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% of adults nationwide favor taxing the largest banks to recover the bailout money. Only 28% are opposed. However, by a 69% to 18% margin, Americans think this tax should apply only to banks that received a taxpayer bailout.

Additionally, 72% believe that other bailed-out financial companies should pay the tax. The president’s proposal excludes financial institutions like mega-insurer American International Group (AIG), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, all of whom received billions in taxpayer bailout help.

Because of the potential risk the largest banks present to the nation’s financial system, 49% are okay with making them pay a higher tax than small and mid-sized banks. Twenty-eight percent (28%) dislike this idea. While nearly half are supportive of a tax to cover the additional risk posed by very large banks, polling last fall found that just 29% thought more regulatory controls should be placed on big banks.

Forty-five percent (45%) of Americans now support the more dramatic step of limiting how big a bank can get while 33% are opposed to such a restriction.

The numbers are similar when it comes to placing limits on the kinds of investments banks can make: 49% like the idea, and 29% do not.

There is much greater support for charging banks that make risky investments a higher fee to obtain federal insurance guarantees. Sixty-six percent (66%) favor this kind of fee, and just 15% oppose it. Virtually all bank deposits are guaranteed by the federal government, and banks now pay a fee to fund this coverage.

By a 55% to 25% margin, Americans think large bonuses paid to bank executives should be taxed at a higher rate than other income.

Considering how difficult it is to poll on issues given a general lack of understanding of the complexities of public policy, I’d say these numbers reflect a general approval of virtually all the recent policies announced by the President to go after the largest banks. The “apply the tax to Fannie and Freddie” question is incredibly leading, and doesn’t supply the additional information needed about the responsibility for the financial crisis.

I know that mean ol’ Judd Gregg hates populism, but this shows that populist policies like this are actually, er, popular. Now, maybe the Obama Administration will not only implement them properly and for maximum effect, but begin to reconsider some other popular ideas that would make their entire agenda more palatable – like the public option.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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