ELECTION 2016: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW — Think all the Democrats’ economic approaches are the same? Think again.
By Kimiya Manoochehri, Staff Writer
Despite their current major-party affiliations, at least two of the Democratic candidates for president hold third-party fiscal views.
All five (Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Jim Webb), strongly favor such Democratic staples as investing in stimulus over waiting for a market-led economic recovery, and higher taxes for the wealthy. They also support the Affordable Care Act, though to varying degrees. Clinton, Chafee and Webb believe it could use fine-tuning, while Sanders and O’Malley intend on moving the program closer to single- or all-payer, respectively. On the issues of free trade, social security, and the allocation of funds toward infrastructure spending, the candidates’ approaches vary more drastically.
Chafee was first elected to the Senate as a Republican, and then to the governorship of Rhode Island as an Independent. He’s now identified as a Democrat, and positions himself as an economic populist, alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren and co-candidate Sanders. Economic populists aspire to distribute wealth, as opposed to letting it concentrate amongst the wealthy, via means such as bank regulation, making housing more affordable for middle- and lower-class families, reducing student debt, and reconfiguring the existing tax code to ensure that loopholes for the wealthy are minimized. Chafee does, however, support some distinctly GOP-championed policies that are not considered populist, including the privatization of social security, and free trade. He is also the sole Democratic candidate to favor school vouchers.
Webb supports putting Americans to work rebuilding national infrastructure, and states on his website that he intends to “…reconfigure the tax code so that the taxes fall in a fair way.” However, Webb’s approach to a “fair” tax code made him one of only five Democrats to oppose President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy in 2012. While he opposes raising taxes on the wealthy, he has also spoken out against raising taxes on ordinary earned incomes as well. He is currently campaigning with the intention of cutting taxes on corporations, and increasing the capital gains and dividends tax rate.
While O’Malley was governor, Maryland was one of 18 states declining to join the Affordable Care Act’s federal system, deciding instead to run its health-care system exclusively within the state. Like Chafee, O’Malley also supports the privatization of social security. During his two terms as governor, O’Malley also championed numerous tax increases, successfully implementing a temporary “Millionaires’ Tax” which supplied the state with revenue from their wealthiest residents after the 2008 recession, a strategy he intends to bring to the national level.
However, despite testifying numerous times on the state and national level, including before the Maryland General Assembly and the House Oversight Committee, in favor of putting Americans to work rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, he was not successful at implementing this approach within his own state.
While his infrastructure policies did pass, they were unsuccessful, leaving the state with thousands more abandoned and uninhabitable properties. According to Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney, the higher-than-average poverty and unemployment rates in Baltimore cast some doubt onto O’Malley’s website description as a champion of the “underserved and middle-class communities.”
Self-identified “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders is a civil libertarian striving for free healthcare and free education. He opposes free trade; that is, he promotes further regulation of exporting and importing international goods with the intention of supporting the United States’ domestic manufacturing base.
He is running with the intention of rebuilding the American middle class by not outsourcing more jobs, and relying less on exported goods. According to his website, Sanders intends to break up the big banks, invest heavily in infrastructure, better support and unionize workers, and move the nation dramatically toward green energy.
Public Policy Polling numbers show Sanders quickly gaining on frontrunner Clinton, overtaking her in New Hampshire and Iowa polls. A Monmouth University survey revealed Sanders to be battleground state New Hampshire’s favorite by 44 percent of those surveyed, seven points ahead of Clinton. YouGov/CBS News Battleground Tracker’s polls show Sanders leading by 10 points in Iowa, with 43% support to Clinton’s 33%.
The frontrunner’s economic plan includes a tax credit called “Rising Incomes, Sharing Profits,” designed to benefit companies that share their profits with their employees, and establishing an infrastructure bank, allotting public and private funds to finance a wide variety of projects.
Her stated core economic objective is building the middle class via her outspoken support for unions and intention to increase worker pay. While she has consistently voted in favor of free trade agreements as a senator, and publicly supported the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement under her husband’s presidency, in 2005 she changed her view and voted against the similar Central American Free Trade Agreement, saying in 2007 to Bloomberg News that she still supports free trade but would support a freeze on new trade agreements.
Concerns for progressives linger around her affiliation with Wall Street, and many details of her economic proposal remain vague – for example how she expects to pay for the $10-20 billion her tax credit proposal is expected to cost over the next 10 years.
While the candidates’ approaches vary around the edges, they noticeably differ from the fairly consistently campaigns of their Republican opponents, whose plans will be discussed in the next issue of the Valley Star.