The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
After convincing primary wins in Maryland and Virginia on Feb. 12, Barack Obama has the momentum in the Democratic race for president, so, it seems like a good idea to ask some important questions about his fiscal policy agenda.
Obama is still something of a paradox. He is running as the candidate of change, vowing to transform the partisan culture of Washington. Or, as George Bush promised eight years ago, to change the tone in the capital. At the same time, in his few years in the Senate, Obama has built a record as a fairly conventional liberal. Think Joe Biden with a better speech.
Similarly, his campaign agenda is also generically Democratic, with few apparent transformational ideas. So, to learn more, here are seven questions we'd like Barack Obama to answer before the next big round of primaries in early March:
- When House Ways & Means Committee Charlie Rangel proposed a major reform of the tax code back in October, you said you hadn't a chance to read it. I know you've been busy, but it has been four months. So, what do you think?
- Your tax agenda is filled with, may I say, narrow (Bill) Clintonesque tax cuts for various interest groups. That doesn’t sound like much of a "change" agenda. What is your transformative tax policy?
- Speaking of special interest tax cuts, you want to eliminate tax liability for seniors making $50,000 or less. Why? What about disabled 40-year-olds? Or underemployed 25-year-olds?
- You say you'd push for bipartisan legislation. But your tax plan would provide new refundable tax credits to encourage low income people to buy a house, care for their children, save for college, and even work. You have some new small business breaks, but you'd raise taxes on oil and gas producers, multinational business, and repeal the Bush tax cuts for high-income individuals. What makes you think any Republican would vote for that?
- You have said nothing about the Alternative Minimum Tax, a trillion dollar problem over the next decade. What would you do about it?
- How will you control the spiraling costs of Medicare and Medicaid? Your health plan would actually expand Medicaid. Except for cutting subsidies to managed care plans, you have no proposal to control Medicare spending. Health IT, and disease and chronic care management may help slow the growth of overall medical costs, but no one believes they will solve the problem.
- You have said that you'd be willing to raise the income ceiling on Social Security payroll taxes. You have not said how, but it is hard to see how that would generate enough revenue to pay all future Social Security claims. Even if it did, would you really fix the entire problem by only raising taxes?
Last week, we asked John McCain seven questions. Next week, we'll do the same for Hillary Clinton. If you have any queries of your own, let us know.
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