Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clinton, Obama, & McCain: The Good, Bad, & Ugly Candidate Tax Views

As the primary elections continue across the United States, I am keeping to my commitment to getting the candidate’s tax views more attention. So much attention is being placed on superficial topics that taxes are taking a back seat. Taxes and the economy will probably become a popular topic in the general election, but I strongly encourage every one to think taxes now! Read up on the candidate’s respective websites, and check out neutral information sources like

At this point in the game there are only three major candidates left in the race. Each have quite different tax views. Below are the good, bad, and ugly tax views of each major remaining candidate.

Hilary Clinton

The Good

Let Bush’s Tax Cuts Expire

Ms. Clinton adamantly claims that the middle class has been ignored by the current administration and seeks to strengthen and grow the middle class and restore the basic bargain: "if you work hard and do your part, you can build a better life for yourself and your family." One method of doing so would be to let the Bush tax cuts expire. This may be a controversial view, but most liberals will agree that it’s essential for the improvement of the American economy. These tax cuts only go to the extremely wealthy individuals in the country and do nothing for the hard working American class. Although some argue that cutting taxes for the rich stimulates the economy, since these tax cuts were enacted the national debt has only increased. Most Americans are quick to judge any tax increase because no one likes paying more in taxes. However, I doubt any one reading this blog would be affected, as letting Bush’s tax cuts expire would only raise taxes on the super rich.

The Bad

Maintain Current Social Security Cap

Clinton supports retaining the current income cap on the Social Security tax, which is a good idea. Currently income over $102,000 is not subject to taxation from the social security tax. Therefore the top income earners do not pay the social security tax on their full income. Increasing the limit on the social security cap, or removing it all together, would create millions of dollars in additional federal revenue.

The Ugly

Mandatory Health Insurance

With heath care issues on the top of every one’s mind Clinton recently proposed the "American Health Choice Plan" which revolves around an individual mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance. Her plan would give more choices to taxpayers seeking health insurance without quite making it universally available through he federal government. Clinton claims her program would cost about $110 billion per year, but has not yet given any specific information on how the plan would be funded. The concept is not so bad on it’s own, but the lack of funding information makes this an ugly tax view.

Barack Obama

The Good

Tax Wealth More Than Regular Wages

One of the tax cuts enacted by President Bush was to drop the tax rate on capital gains from 20% to 15%. This was another tax break that specifically targets the wealthiest in this country who do not earn wages, but rather live off of investments and accumulated wealth. There’s no reason that capital gains should be taxed so much less then regular wages, and Obama agrees. By raising the tax back to 20% some studies estimate that an additional $100 billion in revenue could be generated for the federal government.

The Bad

New Tax Credits

Obama's tax plan features a prominent "Making Work Pay" credit that would offset federal taxes on the first $8,100 of a taxpayers earnings. It would essentially generate a credit of up to $500 for single persons or $1,000 per family. According to Obama this credit would eliminate income taxes for at least 10 million low-income Americans. The idea of lowering taxes for low paid working Americans is considered great by many liberals, but there isn’t really a need for a new credit to accomplish this. Instead, why not expand the Earned Income Tax Credit or the standard deduction amount rather than trying to get a new credit passed by codgers.

The Ugly

No Taxes For Senior Citizens

One of Obama’s tax proposals is to eliminate all federal taxes imposed on senior citizens making under $50,000 per years and not requiring them to file tax returns. This may be a good way to get the senior vote, but it’s much more complicated than it seems. First of all, senior citizens often have income from multiple sources including capital gains, dividends, Social Security, retirement plans, etc. Determining their exact income would still require the same effort as filing a tax return. Additionally, this plan gives special tax treatment to a group if individuals based solely on their age, which seems like borderline age discrimination. Why should a struggling single mother have to pay taxes on her $49,999.00 income when a retired grandmother would pay noting on the same income amount?

John McCain

The Good

Investment Tax Cuts

McCain is a strong supporter of lowering taxes to encourage economic growth, which is the dominant economic stance of the Republican party. Not only does he support renewing the Bush tax cuts, but he also favors numerous tax cuts. McCain hopes to reduce taxes on Capital Gains, Interest, Dividend, Investment income, and even corporate tax rates. And as if his tax cuts weren’t enough, McCain also supports a new rule that would require a 3/5-majority vote to raise taxes. In summary, McCain is a strong supporter of permanent tax cuts, and the Republicans love him for it.

The Bad

Continued War Funding

McCain is a strong supporter of the American military and the "War on Terror," with promises of a continued military presence in Iraq. According to his website, he believes that the answer to our current national security problems is to not "roll back our overseas commitments," but to increase the size of our Army and Marine Corps and continue the current War on Terror. McCain has recognize there is a problem with current military spending but has not provided any information on how to continue the military efforts while lowering the current $12 billion-per-month budget.

The Ugly

No Pledge Against Taxes

Although liberals typically support raising taxes to stimulate the economy, this view is very unpopular among republicans. McCain is one of the only republicans who ran for president this year who declined to sign the pledge put forth by Americans for Tax Freedom not to impose any new taxes or increase existing taxes. The conservative wing of the Republican Party are almost always against increasing taxes and this lack of a commitment could hurt his chances of winning the presidency.

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