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The Tax Plans of the Candidates, Part 2

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.



  1. Carter Shmeckle wrote:

    I was quite surprised to learn that my finances work out best under Trump’s plan. I am now going to toss out all the books I own and stop reading the New York Times. Then, I will buy a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and start campaigning door to door for Donald. Gotta look out for #1, you know.

    Friday, April 1, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  2. andrzej85 wrote:

    Sander’s #s need to be taken with a grain of salt
    as explains
    “Bernie Sanders would increase all individual income tax rates by 2.2 percentage points to help pay for his health plan and impose a new 6.2 percent tax on earnings (paid by employers but passed back to workers in the form of lower wages — which would occur over time as wages would increase more slowly than they would without the new tax).”

    So the calculations are assuming the addition %6.2 increase in everyone’s taxes

    it also does little to none to calculate current Health insurance expenses, versus the fact that these will be nonexistent under Sander’s plan

    to fully understand what’s in Bernie’s Tax plan, you can read a full report by the Tax Policy Center

    Friday, April 1, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  3. Michael wrote:

    “…49.3% of Americans still oppose the ACA, while 36.7% favor it.” That shouldn’t be taken as 49.3% oppose single payer. Many people on the left strongly oppose the ACA because it isn’t single payer and preserves the private, for-profit system. Glancing through a few of the survey question wordings, I didn’t see anything that gave the option to indicate that you oppose it because it doesn’t go far enough.

    Friday, April 1, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, the first survey I looked at was pretty clear that it was asking if the ACA made things better or worse. So it was comparing the ACA to what we had before the ACA.

    Can you point to any survey that shows the number of people who don’t like the ACA because it doesn’t go far enough? I’m curious.

    Andrzej85, you say “it also does little to none to calculate current Health insurance expenses, versus the fact that these will be nonexistent under Sander’s plan”. I discuss this exact point, as does the original article. It would be difficult to impossible to calculate this. I also explicitly point out that this doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, Republicans figured out long ago that they could use raising taxes as a wedge issue.

    Friday, April 1, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  5. Maha wrote:
    “Mostly, that big number you get for the Sanders tax hike when you plug in your income is the payroll tax that employers will pay to cover the cost of a single-payer healthcare system. As the Tax Policy Center, which worked with Vox to create the calculator, explains:

    We’re including payroll taxes, excise taxes and corporate income taxes as well as individual income taxes…. Most economists think employers pass their share of the tax on to workers in the form of lower wages.With all due respect to most economists, this is dubious. “

    Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  6. charlie wrote:

    While it seems to be so, as you say, “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.”

    Many voters cast their votes, not for the party who promises them the most, but for the party who will do the most harm to those on the rung below them on the economic ladder.

    Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 6:06 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Maha, I explicitly explained that the tax hikes proposed by Sanders would be offset by reduced costs, or did you not read my post? So you link to an extremely partisan article that dismisses “most economists”, attacks fellow progressive Ezra Klein (for whom I have great respect), and says things that are nonsense.

    Let’s take one short paragraph:

    No, Vox thinks you don’t need to take that into account. From the calculator’s FAQ: “The Tax Policy Center’s model does not include spending programs and thus can only show the effects of tax changes.”

    Vox explicitly does not say (let alone think) that you don’t need to “take into account that business would be getting a big break on expenses”. In fact, they explicitly talk about it, as do I. And the Tax Policy Center is not the same organization as Vox, so why is this article blaming Vox for what the Tax Policy Center did?

    The article also shows a profound lack of understanding of how politics works. Grover Norquist got a majority of Congress critters to sign a pledge that they will never ever raise tax rates. That pledge has no “unless the tax increase is offset by a break on expenses”.

    That article is no better than partisan name calling. And I’m tired of Sanders supporters attacking fellow progressives in a nasty and obnoxious way. Save your venom for those who deserve it.

    Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  8. redjon wrote:

    Will somebody please direct me to the constitutional amendment that gives the president the authority to raise (or lower) taxes? Because, last I knew, that was an authority granted only to Congress… a body which for the last nearly eight years has managed to do practically nothing except complain that the government does not have enough money… a situation which would certainly not be improved by reducing the governmental income already committed to supporting existing programs.

    Monday, April 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink