Debate Observations -- What Exactly Is "Middle-Class"?

[ Posted Thursday, April 17th, 2008 – 15:00 UTC ]

Last night's "probably the last one" Democratic debate, hosted by ABC and moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, has been generating a lot of sound and fury in Blogville today. The chest-beating and garment-rending has been loudest from Obama supporters, who feel their candidate was subjected to too many stupid "gotcha" questions, but even Clinton supporters are noticing how shallow and uninformative the first half of the debate was.

So if you're looking for that sort of thing, it's out there everywhere. Here instead, I'd like to address an actual question that was asked last night about actual policy that received actual answers from both candidates. Call me contrarian, I don't mind.

I know this goes against the grain for commentary on this debate, so I'll open with one cheap shot that everyone else seems to have missed -- the rank stupidity and ignorance of one of Charlie Gibson's first questions.

It was actually a followup to a tactic that I suggested a long time ago (2/7/08) for Obama to use in a debate (long before Mario Cuomo, who seems to be getting the credit for the idea) -- announce that if Obama is nominated he will name Clinton as his running mate, and then challenge her to make the same pledge. I thought this was a good idea, for either of them, two and a half months ago.

But to be extra-contrarian, I will now say that the time for doing so seems to have passed. Back then, I wrote:

I guarantee one thing, though. This would be the 15 seconds of this debate that everyone would see on the news that night. And I predict that it would mean the rest of the primaries would be a cakewalk for Obama.

There is a huge number of Democratic voters who are seriously conflicted over which candidate to vote for. True, there are staunch Hillary supporters, and a vocal Barack base as well. But there are also a whole lot of Democrats in the middle -- seeing good things and bad about both candidates -- who are so up-in-the-air that they're waiting until the last minute (there in the voting booth) to make up their minds. Given the promise from one of the candidates that a vote for him would also wind up being a vote for her as well, I would be willing to bet that it would turn this tide toward Obama.

Now, I'm not so sure. That group in the middle who are undecided has had ten weeks of time, during which the base of both candidates have grown (and grown stauncher and more vocal in their support), while the undecided group has shrunk. So I think the window of opportunity for this gimmick has already closed.

In any case, Charlie Gibson asked the question of both of them, and when neither gave a clear answer, pressed them on it. Because the debate was held in Philadelphia, "the Constitution" was some sort of weird thematic "hook" that ABC was pushing, and Gibson tried to use this in an elitist smartest-kid-in-the-class way. The only problem, he got his facts massively wrong. On two levels. The stupidity he displayed was of monumental proportions. Here is his question:

MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, Governor Cuomo made that suggestion because he's not so sure. And other Democrats are not so sure.

Just to quote from the Constitution again, "In every case," Article Two, Section One, "after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the vice president."

If it was good enough in colonial times, why not in these times?

OK, let's dissect that. Article II, Section One does indeed state what Gibson says it does. But it is an absolutely meaningless citation, for two glaring reasons.

Reason number one: The Constitution says absolutely nothing about primaries. Nada. Not one single word. It doesn't even say anything about the concept of political parties, much less primary elections. Primaries are an intra-party affair and have nothing at all to do with the general election and the electoral college, which is the part of the Constitution Gibson is quoting. This isn't even apples and oranges, this is apples and aircraft carriers. Gibson is asking them who they would name as their running mate, and not who the electoral college is going to elect as our next vice president.

Reason number two: This is not the way it works anymore, and hasn't been for almost two hundred years. What Gibson is quoting, if still in effect today, would guarantee Obama or Clinton as our next president or vice president -- and John McCain in the other office. It would be President Clinton and Vice President McCain; or President McCain and Vice President Obama, or some other matchup -- but it would guarantee McCain either the presidency or the vice presidency. Because in 1804 we adopted another part of the Constitution -- Amendment XII. The Twelfth Amendment overturned the part of the Constitution that Gibson quoted, and instituted instead the "spoils" system. Remember this from fourth-grade history? Whoever wins the Presidency gets the "spoils" -- the entire executive branch -- so they can put people in office of their choosing, from the Vice President to the Cabinet, and on down to the White House cook. And that's the way we've done it ever since.

Charlie Gibson, apparently, is not smarter than a fourth-grader.

Now, it could be argued in Gibson's defense that he knew about that second one, which is why he ended with his "good enough for colonial times" bit. But even this shows monumental stupidity. It wasn't "good enough for colonial times" -- by definition. "Colonial" means "when the United States did not exist, when we were just colonies." Meaning there was no Constitution.

As the immortal Joe Bob Briggs put it: "I'm surprised I have to explain this stuff."

OK, enough of that. That's all I'm going to say about the "gotcha" half of the program. While others are shocked and enraged that there were so many "gotcha" questions on a network news debate, I expected them as a matter of course. I mean -- really -- all these bloggers expected something different? Really? Wow.

You won't hear much about it today, but the second half of the debate was actually about policy and issues. So let's get on to some of these actual issues, and the actual questions, and the actual answers.

Charlie Gibson started asking both candidates about tax policy. Now, there are two issues being discussed here, the cap on Social Security payroll taxes and the capital gains tax rate. I have addressed both of these issues many times before, which is why I'd like to examine the candidates' responses. From the very first blog posting I ever wrote, in June of 2006:

Even better, steal Republican thunder and turn it against them. Save Social Security by reducing the tax rate for all from 6.2% to 6.0%, while at the same time abolishing the cap on earnings. Campaign on the sound bite: "Our plan cuts payroll taxes both for businesses and for 94% of American workers. The remaining 6% would just be paying their fair share -- the same flat tax percentage everyone else pays. How can the Republicans be against a tax cut for 94% of Americans?"

I am strongly for abolishing the cap on Social Security taxes. The way it works is counter to the entire logic of our progressive tax system -- it is actually a regressive tax, meaning that people who make less money pay a higher percentage of their income as tax than richer people do.

This is simply not fair. Everyone who makes less than $100,000 a year (roughly) pays 6.2% of their income as Social Security (FICA) taxes. Everyone who makes more than this pays a smaller percentage -- the more money you make, the smaller the percentage. This is because every dollar you make over $100,000 is not taxed. This is the "cap."

The second issue is capital gains taxes, which I have also addressed repeatedly (go to the home page of this website and search on either "Social Security" or "capital gains" to see what I've said in the past on these subjects). This is the Warren Buffett problem with our tax code. Every dollar everyone makes as "income" is taxed higher than every dollar anyone makes as "capital gains" -- which means "trading stocks on the market." So hedge fund managers pay half the tax rate on their millions of dollars per year they make than a secretary earning a middle-class wage.

This, again, is regressive and just flat-out unfair.

So let's look at how the two candidates feel about these issues (this is a long excerpt, but worth reading):

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn to the economy. That is the number one issue on Americans' minds right now.

Yesterday, Senator McCain singled that the number one issue, in the general election campaign on the economy, is going to be taxes. And he says that both of you are going to raise taxes, not just on the wealthy but on everyone. Here's what he said in his speech yesterday.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (Pre-recorded remarks.) All these tax increases are under the fine print of the slogan: hope. They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year. And they have the audacity to hope you don't mind.


MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, two-part question.

Two-part question: Can you make an absolute, read-my-lips pledge that there will be no tax increases of any kind for anyone earning under $200,000 a year?

And if the economy is as weak a year from now as it is today, will you -- will you persist in your plans to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for wealthier Americans?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, George, I have made a commitment that I will let the taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year go back to the rates that they were paying in the 1990s.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if the economy is weak?

SENATOR CLINTON: Yes. And here's why: Number one, I do not believe that it will detrimentally affect the economy by doing that. As I recall, you know, we used that tool during the 1990s to very good effect and I think we can do so again.

I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year. In fact, I have a very specific plan of $100 billion in tax cuts that would go to help people afford health care, security retirement plans, you know, make it possible for people to get long-term care insurance and care for their parents and grandparents who they are trying to support, making college affordable and so much else.

Well, if you look at how we'd have to sequence that, we might not be able to do all of that at once. But if you go to my website,, it is laid out there how I will pay for everything, because everything I have proposed, I have put in how I would pay for it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: An absolute commitment, no middle-class tax increases of any kind.

SENATOR CLINTON: No, that's right. That is my commitment.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you take the same pledge?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.

And one of the centerpieces of my economic plan would be to say that we are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive of our taxes, so that families who are earning -- who are middle-income individuals making $75,000 a year or less, that they would get a tax break so that families would see up to a thousand dollars worth of relief.

Senior citizens who have earnings of less than $50,000 wouldn't have to pay income tax on their Social Security. And middle-class homeowners who currently don't itemize on their tax filings, they would be able to get a deduction the same way that wealthy individuals do.

Now, here's the reason why that's important. We have seen wages and incomes flat or declining at a time when costs have gone up. And one of the things that we've learned from George Bush's economic policies, which John McCain now wants to follow, is that pain trickles up. And so, partly because people have been strapped and have had a tough time making ends meet, we're now seeing a deteriorating housing market.

That's also as a consequence of the lack of oversight and regulation of these banks and financial institutions that gave loans that they shouldn't have. And part of it has to do with the fact that you had $185 million by mortgage lenders spent on lobbyists and special interests who were writing these laws.

So the rules in Washington -- the tax code has been written on behalf of the well connected. Our trade laws have -- same thing has happened. And part of how we're going to be able to deliver on middle-class tax relief is to change how business is done in Washington. And that's been a central focus of our campaign.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, you both have now just taken this pledge on people under $250,000 and 200-and-what, 250,000.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, it depends on how you calculate it. But it would be between 200 and 250,000.

All right, I just have to interrupt here. Since when did making a quarter of a million dollars per year become "middle class"? People making between $100,000 and $250,000 are not "middle class" -- they are at best "upper middle class," or to put it more bluntly "wealthy." Or even "not filthy rich, just plain rich."

Hillary Clinton draws her bar for "middle class" at $250,000 -- upping the ante set by Stephanopoulos by $50,000. She makes a George H.W. Bush "no new taxes" pledge.

Barack Obama starts out reasonable, talking about those making $50,000 or $75,000, and talking about actually cutting their taxes. He throws out an idea or two as to how he'd do this. But then he throws caution to the wind and while he doesn't see Hillary's raise, he offers a vague "between 200 and 250,000" for the upper income limit that he is now pledging not to raise taxes on.

This is going to come back to haunt both of them, mark my words. But let's get back to the transcript, where Charlie Gibson starts asking detailed questions rather than "no new taxes" pledges.

MR. GIBSON: All right.

You have however said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent."

It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

Now, that last paragraph is just not true. Ask any economist. Cutting taxes does not result in "revenues from the tax" increasing. I know it's a conservative talking point and all, but it has been proven over and over again to be horse manure. But the tax rate they are talking about is the Warren Buffett problem mentioned earlier. This tax rate should be the same as income tax -- which would raise it even further than 28 percent. Just to be clear, Obama is for mildly raising this tax back to where it was when Clinton took office, but not solving the Warren Buffett problem at all -- Buffett would pay a higher tax percentage than he currently does of the millions he makes each year trading stocks, but he still would not pay the same rate as his secretary. Just to be clear. Obama goes on to make this point.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.

And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.

And you can't do that for free, and you can't take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you're cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that is irresponsible.

You know, I believe in the principle that you pay as you go, and you don't propose tax cuts unless you are closing other tax breaks for individuals. And you don't increase spending unless you're eliminating some spending or you're finding some new revenue. That's how we got an additional $4 trillion worth of debt under George Bush. That is helping to undermine our economy, and it's going to change when I'm president of the United States.

MR. GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

Again, this is just not true. Obama, as politely as he can (without calling Gibson a liar), addresses this.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I think the biggest problem that we've got on Wall Street right now is the fact that we've got a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got it right.

And if we can stabilize that market and we can get credit flowing again, then I think we'll see stocks do well, and once again I think we can generate the revenue that we need to run this government and hopefully to pay down some of this debt.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that I think we know that we've got to get back to an economy that works for everyone. The president has been very good for people who are doing well, and that's great. But it was better for our country when we had an economy that lifted everyone up at the same time, and we had that during the 1990s; you know, 22.7 million new jobs, more people lifted out of poverty than any time in our recent history. A typical family saw a $7,000 increase in income.

And we have lost that. You know, now the typical family has lost at least $1,000. And the fact is that, you know, I don't want to take one more penny of tax money from anybody. But what I want to do is make some smart investments. And I was the first to come out with a strategic energy fund, where we need to be investing in clean renewable energy. And I think we could put 5 million Americans to work.

I think we have to invest in our infrastructure. That also will get the economy moving again, and I believe we could put about 3 million people to work in good union jobs where people get a good wage with a good set of benefits that can support a middle-class family with a rising standard of living.

I want to see us actually tackle the housing crisis, something I've been talking about for over a year. If I had been president a year ago, I believe we would have begun to avoid some of the worst of the mortgage and credit crisis, because we would have started much earlier than we have -- in fact, I don't think we've really done very much at all yet -- in dealing with a way of freezing home foreclosures, of freezing interest rates, getting money into communities to be able to withstand the problems that are caused by foreclosures.

Governor Rendell has done a great job in Pennsylvania. He saw this coming. And unlike our current president, who either didn't know it or didn't care about it, he has really held the line, and Pennsylvania has been much less affected by home foreclosures. But the president hasn't done that, and what I have proposed would do that.

So you've got to look at the entire economy. And from my perspective, yes, taxes is a piece of it. But you've got to figure out what is it we would invest in that would make us richer and safer and stronger tomorrow, which would be helping everybody.

MR. GIBSON: I'm going to go to a commercial break. But I just want to come back to one thing you said, and I want to be clear. The question was about capital gains tax. Would you say, "No, I'm not going to raise capital gains taxes"?

SENATOR CLINTON: I wouldn't raise it above the 20 percent if I raised it at all. I would not raise it above what it was during the Clinton administration.

MR. GIBSON: "If I raised it at all." Would you propose an increase in the capital gains tax?

She's waffling on this, and Gibson keeps pressuring her to actually answer the question. She starts off again by waffling some more, and then makes another pledge she shouldn't.

SENATOR CLINTON: You know, Charlie, I'm going to have to look and see what the revenue situation is. You know, we now have the largest budget deficit we've ever had, $311 billion. We went from a $5.6 trillion projected surplus to what we have today, which is a $9 trillion debt.

I don't want to raise taxes on anybody. I'm certainly against one of Senator Obama's ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.

So I think we have to be very careful about how we navigate this.

So the $250,000 mark is where I am sure we're going. But beyond that, we're going to have to look and see where we are.

Obama picks this up and runs with it.

MR. GIBSON: Very quickly, because I owe Senator Clinton time, but, yeah, you wanted to respond.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I just have to respond real quickly to Senator Clinton's last comment. What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year.

That's where it's kept. Now most firefighters, most teachers, you know, they're not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6 percent of the population does. And I've also said that I'd be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

But understand the alternative is that because we're going to have fewer workers to more retirees, if we don't do anything on Social Security, then those benefits will effectively be cut, because we'll be running out of money.

This is the strongest I have ever heard either of them on this subject. And Barack Obama is right about every point he is making. Most firefighters and teachers don't make $250,000 a year. That is not who we are talking about.

Obama goes on to try a dig at Clinton which falls a bit flat, and Charlie Gibson exhibits exactly why Democratic politicians don't want to talk about this subject, as he hauls out the "tax and spend Democrat" brush.

MR. GIBSON: But Senator, that's a tax. That's a tax on people under $250,000.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, no, look, let me -- let me finish my point here, Charlie. Senator Clinton just said she certainly wouldn't do this; this was a bad idea. In Iowa she, when she was outside of camera range, said to an individual there she'd certainly consider the idea. And then that was recorded, and she apparently wasn't aware that it was being recorded.

So this is an option that I would strongly consider, because the alternatives, like raising the retirement age, or cutting benefits, or raising the payroll tax on everybody, including people who make less than $97,000 a year --

MR. GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of --

SENATOR OBAMA: -- those are not good policy options.

MR. GIBSON: Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200(,000) and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that's going to raise taxes on them.

This is where Obama blows it. This actually is his position, and it makes no sense at all. He is for some strange "donut hole" in the payroll tax system, where everybody who makes between $100,000 and $250,000 get the cheapest rate, people making above that get a slightly more expensive rate, and people making below $100,000 pay the highest rate. That makes even less sense than what we've got now.

SENATOR OBAMA: And that's -- and that's -- and that's why I've said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

But the point is, we're going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can't -- you can't get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it's going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system.

And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we're going to do that and not just say that we're going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

Clinton tries to interject some of her "experience" here, with her history of how we got to where we are now.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, in fact, I am totally committed to making sure Social Security is solvent. If we had stayed on the path we were on at the end of my husband's administration, we sure would be in a lot better position because we had a plan to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund and again, President Bush decided that that wasn't a priority, that the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans were his priorities, neither of which he's ever paid for. I think it's the first time we've ever been taken to war and had a president who wouldn't pay for it.

But when it comes to Social Security, fiscal responsibility is the first and most important step. You've got to begin to reign in the budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social Security Trust Fund.

And with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security was 1983. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you've got to get Republicans and Democrats together.

That's what I will do. And I will say, number one, don't cut benefits on current beneficiaries; they're already having a hard enough time. And number two, do not impose additional tax burdens on middle-class families.

There are lots of ways we can fix Social Security that don't impose those burdens, and I will do that.

But Barack Obama smacks it right back in her face. Unfortunately, ABC cut to yet another commercial immediately after this. This was unfortunate, because this was a substantial disagreement on a very important domestic policy -- taxes -- and the two candidates have different ideas which they are actually debating about.

SENATOR OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, Charlie, and also raised the payroll tax. And so Senator Clinton, if she -- she can't have it both ways. You can't come at me for proposing a solution that will save Social Security without burdening middle-income Americans, and then suggest that somehow she's got a magic solution.

SENATOR CLINTON: But there are more progressive ways of doing it than, you know, lifting the cap. And I think we'll work it out. I have every confidence we're going to work it out. I know that we can make this happen.

For all the talk of how "the two candidates are the same on all the issues," here was a display of how they differ, and how they each have their own ideas on the subject. I have not endorsed either candidate, but I have been consistent in my position on these tax policy issues, and from that perspective, I have to say Barack Obama is a lot closer to what I've been saying for years than is Hillary Clinton.

There were other interesting exchanges in the second hour of the debate (a full transcript can be found at the New York Times site) on other subjects as well, but this was the key passage for me. I urge you to ignore the smoke and noise resounding today about the debates, and go read the (second half of the) transcript if you want to make your own mind up. Both Clinton and Obama make strong points on relevant issues, so again, I urge you to see for yourselves.


-- Chris Weigant


6 Comments on “Debate Observations -- What Exactly Is "Middle-Class"?”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I agree that something needs to be done to help those who are struggling to make ends meet. The middle class is disappearing into the working poor. The market economy needs people to have discretionary funds to buy stuff and the best way to do this is increase wages and spread the tax burden around.

    I find it really frustrating that all politicans seem to twist themselves inside out to cater to all of their donors and special interest groups and forget that holding elected office should be a public service to protect and help those who really need it.

    The media has a lot to answer for in how they report on these issues. it would appear that they too serve special interests and not the public good.


  2. [2] 
    Thatcher wrote:

    Wow - that was a long post ... but a good one!

    When Obama brought up the $75,000 figure - he was talking about individuals (which, is STILL upper middle class - but still in the "middle" class area).

    And that was why he was saying "depends on how you figure it" about $200,000 to $250,000 for the taxes. This number was is about couples.

    So if you are a single filer - the amount is $75,000.
    If you are a household filer - the amount is $200-$250,000.

    Still wealthy - and still too high - but more

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Thatcher -

    I don't think you're right. It's hard to tell, as Obama is no fool and has not come out and said "I'm going to raise taxes on this specific group" ever, as far as I'm aware. But he has suggested raising the cap on earnings on Social Security (payroll) taxes. Because these taxes are currently capped around $100K per person - not per family. So if both people in a marriage are making $90K each, they still are fully taxed even though they make $180K combined.

    But he has made allusions (without detail) of "exempting" people making $100K to $200K. This is per person, not per family, I believe. Again, it's hard to tell without solid details, which his web site does not provide.

    So, assuming I've got it correct (due to the lack of detail, I may have it wrong, I fully admit) -- people making up to $100K pay 6.2%. People making $100K - $200K pay up to the $100K limit, then nothing from $100K to $200K (a "donut hole"). They pay (depending on their actual income) from 6.199% down to a low (if you make $200K) of 3.1%. People who make over $200K start paying 6.2% on everything above it (unless he caps this amount, too). But their effective rate will always be less than 6.2%, due to the free ride they get on income between $100K and $200K.

    Logically, this donut hole makes no sense at all, because it guarantees those making the least will pay the highest rate -- the very definition of a regressive tax. It'd be a little bit better than what we've got now, since millionaires would pay more, but there's just no logical reason for doing it this way.

    However, politically, it may make sense. It may be easier to get such a scheme through Congress. My main point is -- if such a compromise is necessary, why start your bargaining with the compromise? Why not start with the lofty goal (remove the cap entirely) and then eventually accept some political compromise? Obama's supposed to be the "big ideas" guy, so this is kind of disappointing.

    Of course, Hillary is just pandering, which is why I would have liked another five minutes of this debate. Her final statement that there are "more progressive" ways of doing it than "raising the cap" is just flat out wrong. There aren't. She can be slightly excused for (perhaps) using the word "progressive" in its political sense ("progressive is the opposite of conservative") rather than its very specific use in talking about taxes (progressive = the more money you make the higher tax rate you pay). But still, the statement is logically meaningless.

    Neither one of them should have been caught by this inane "no new taxes" trap. And I bet it's going to haunt them in the future. I bet you'll see that clip of them on the news in about a year, when they unveil their new tax plan.

    But then I could be wrong...


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    What is wrong with eliminating the Income Tax and simply taxing goods purchased at a higher rate??

    That, to my economically challenged brain, seems to be the easiest way to go. That way, if you have the $$$ to buy expensive luxury items, you pay the price...

    If you are low income and can't afford the good stuff, then you get a break...


  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Be careful what you wish for. I've lived in Europe under such a system (they call it "VAT" for "Value-Added Tax," a fine euphemism if there ever was one).

    Are you willing to pay something like 30% more on everything you buy? Even Huckabee knew the number would be this high. Before you answer, consider this: that 30% is added to EVERY stage of production. So if you buy a computer, the parts bought to put that computer together are taxed at 30%, and then the computer itself is again taxed -- in other words, EVERY stage of production is taxed at this rate. This winds up DOUBLING the price paid on most manufactured goods. Are you really ready to sell the concept to voting Americans that all their prices are going to double?

    It sounds great on the drawing board, but (as always) the devil is in the details...


  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Good point..

    I guess what would have to be decided is what is considered necessities and what is considered luxury..

    I can see the logic in putting more taxes on a boat purchase than on a bed purchase.

    But, as you said, the devil is in the details. Some (like me) would consider a computer purchase a necessity, while others might consider it a luxury. Then we get into the horsepower of a computer.

    So, I see your point. Such a tax system might be a bigger nightmare than the current one..

    Again, I point out to fiction. In the Clancy novel, EXECUTIVE ORDERS, there was debate on changing the tax code. The new SecTreasury put the entire manuals for the US tax code on a large oak conference table and the weight of the books collapsed the table.. A perfect picture of why the US Tax Code is so unworkable..

    On the other hand though, if we made the US Tax Code simpler that any joe off the street could easily file their taxes, it would put MILLIONS of accountants out of work...

    So, I agree that there is no easy solution.


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