2001 Bush Tax Cuts Summary

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Larry Bartels, Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker seek to explain why the general public seemingly favored the 2001 Bush Tax Cuts, a policy that disproportionately favored the wealthy elite and reduced funding for social programs while increasing the national debt, even though the tax cuts were in direct conflict with the economic self-interest and policy preferences of most voters, such as: government programs and deficit reduction. Bartel’s primary argument centers on pervasive misinformation and/or ignorance of the electorate surrounding the 2001 Bush Tax Cuts. Hacker and Pierson cite elite manipulation as the primary reason for the public’s perceived “support” of these cuts; altogether, both seem to agree that rampant misinformation or the absence…show more content…
Many citizens were simply unaware of the crucial elements of the tax policy: corporate dividends, program length or longer term beneficiaries of the policies, and those who did relied on partisans. (Bartels 177). He cites the same survey to offer an explanation for the support of a policy that conflicts with relevant policy preferences; specifically, he states voters had an “unenlightened self-interest” and some had formed a “simple-minded” opinion on the policy (175). Those who felt they paid too much in taxes generally supported the policy, this perspective was more pertinent than even political ideology and partisanship (179). Overall, Bartel’s argument was that policy ignorance and misinformation, combined with “misguided” views about personal taxation led to the public “support” of the 2001 Bush Tax cuts. Hacker and Pierson provide an institutional explanation for public support of the 2001 tax policy. R. Douglas Arnold cites: discernibility, traceability and accountability as necessary to hold incumbents responsible for policy choices. When these valuable resources are absent, politicians are able to hedge their own culpability to their constituents. Voter knowledge is critical to assumptions (4 & 5) of…show more content…
Bartels focuses on unenlightened self-interest whereas Hacker and Pierson focuses on the role of elite manipulation. Bartel rebuts, “I believe that it is a mistake to suppose that any specific package could be said to represent “popular wishes” or “majority views” (Bartels 175). He believes that misinformation is the source of the support, and explains that the personal views that Americans have about their own taxation colored their opinions about the Bush tax cuts; further, those who knowledgeable that supported the cuts tended to be partisan. Bartels never seeks to explain why people are uninformed only that they use their limited information to form “simple-minded” opinions. I find that it is important to address the source of that misinformation/ignorance. Hacker and Pierson comment, “Bartels... Does not contradict our most fundamental point: that public opinion on tax cuts was deliberately shaped by political actors framing policy design to confuse voters, elevate surface support for any tax cuts, and betray clearly expressed public priorities. Though differing explanation are provided, the most compelling counterargument to Bartels centers on the reason why the public is so misinformed.” (Hacker, Pierson 38) Bartel’s claim that voters are unenlightened and make decisions based on this pre-condition is redundant, clearly both articles speak to the political impact

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