Part 1 covered how much each presidential candidate’s tax plan would affect the top 0.1% of households. But in part 2, let’s get personal. How will each candidate’s tax plans (if they are enacted) affect the taxes that you pay?
Vox has created a simple widget to calculate this (if you can’t see it immediately below, click here). You enter your income for 2015, whether you are single or married, and how many children you have, and it tells you how much your taxes go up or down under each candidate’s plan. Note that the numbers include most federal taxes, including income taxes, payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare), and excise taxes.
Let’s try some example numbers: the federal poverty level is $24,300 for a family of four. If you type this into the calculator, you get the following changes to that family’s taxes: Trump: -$220; Cruz: -$770; Clinton: +$10; Sanders: +$2,200. That’s right, under Sanders a family at the poverty level would see their taxes go up by $2,200 (i.e., they would lose 9% of their income).
Another example is the median household income in the US, which is $54,462 (half of all households earn less than this, and half earn more than this). In addition, the median household has 1 child. For those inputs, the results are: Trump: -$3,930; Cruz -$1,920; Clinton: +$40; Sanders: +$6,570. Under Sanders, the median family would lose 12% of their income.
Pretty much everyone pays significantly more under Sanders’s plan (as part 1 showed, the top 0.1% pays 29.5% more). However, this is not as bad as it sounds as Sanders would be raising taxes in order to nationalize major sectors of American life, including health care and college education, and would also expand Social Security. So while your taxes may go up, other big expenses (like health care, college, and saving for retirement) would go down. Will these balance out? It is hard to say, but that is not the point of this post.
The big question is, how will voters respond to these tax proposals in a general election? In particular, I personally think it would be well worth it to have a single payer health care system paid by taxes as Sanders proposes. The benefits of everyone having health insurance (and thus a healthier work force) and the lower costs of such a system would more than outweigh the higher taxes that would be required to pay for it. However, even today the latest polls show that 49.3% of Americans still oppose the ACA, while 36.7% favor it. That’s a significant negative attitude toward a system that is not only working well, but is far less “socialist” or “tax and spend” than what Sanders is proposing.
Indeed, don’t underestimate the power of negative advertising. When people are asked about the individual provisions of the ACA (without mentioning the names ACA or Obamacare) they are largely in favor of them. And yet, after tremendously negative campaigns against the ACA, people are still opposed to it. So while a majority of people are in favor of a significant number of progressive initiatives, the same majority keeps voting for Republican politicians who oppose those same initiatives.