How Americans Think about Taxes: Citizens, Elites, and the Politics of Taxation

Date: 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Andrea Louise Campbell

Andrea Louise Campbell, MIT

About the Seminar
In this seminar, Professor Campbell shares excerpts from a new book project exploring the nature of Americans’ attitudes toward taxes and the implications for the politics of taxation. First she uses insights from cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to explore the ways in which the designs of taxes and elite rhetoric can obscure individuals’ self-interest and produce tax attitudes that stray from citizens’ material stakes. Armed with this information about how Americans think about taxes, she then takes an over-time perspective in examining why taxes are so prominent in American politics. A confluence of economic and political events raised the salience of taxes and discontent around them, which Republican politicians in particular capitalized upon, taking advantage of Americans’ confusion about taxes to keep the middle class on the tax-cutting band wagon while enacting enormous cuts for the rich. She will conclude the seminar with the implications for the Obama presidency and the meaning of different paths forward.

About the Speaker
Associate Professor Campbell’s interests include American politics, political behavior, public opinion, and political inequality, particularly their intersection with social welfare policy, health policy, and tax policy. She is the author of How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Citizen Activism and the American Welfare State (Princeton, 2003) and, with Kimberly J. Morgan, The Delegated Welfare State: Medicare, Markets, and the Governance of Social Provision (Oxford, 2011). Her research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Political Behavior, Comparative Political Studies, Politics & Society, Studies in American Political Development, and Health Affairs, among others. She holds an A.B. degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and served on the National Academy of Sciences Commission on the Fiscal Future of the United States.