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Candidates disagree about income inequality

| Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Over the past few weeks, BridgeND has had a running column about income inequality. As we move into the final stages of the primaries, it is the perfect time to see just how realistic the candidates’ views on income inequality — and how to fix it — are.

While the Republican Party’s front-running candidates do not necessarily address income inequality directly as a major issue, they have been vocal about the need for tax plan reform. These candidates’ main issue lies in the current tax rates based on income.

Donald Trump pushes for tax reform that will “make America great again.” His focus is on providing relief for the middle class by creating job growth and bringing jobs back that have been moved overseas. Trump believes that his simplified tax plan will not only expand the economy, but that it will not add at all to the current country’s debt and deficit. The concern is that Trump’s simple tax plan might just be too simple. By decreasing the tax brackets to four instead of seven, and by capping the tax of the nation’s highest earners at 25 percent, Trump does not account for the inevitable losses in revenue for the country. His current stance is that ending all “loopholes” within the country’s tax plan is enough to make up for the unavoidable losses, but fails to provide any evidence to back this belief up.

Ted Cruz has taken a different route than Trump, with his platform pushing for “The Simple Flat Tax Plan.” Under the flat tax, the existing seven different rates of individual income tax will all become the same rate of 10 percent for personal income. Cruz plans on continuing the Child Tax Credit, charitable giving deduction and home mortgage interest deduction. Cruz also plans on initial income exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers. The concern with this plan is similar to that of Trump’s, in that it seems too simple. By universalizing the tax rate, numerous families will receive enormous tax breaks. While this is theoretically good, Cruz has yet to specify how his plans will address revenue losses.

Both plans represented by the Republican frontrunners fail to truly address the problem of income inequality, and actually both pose the possibility of increasing the already large gap. By taxing the wealthy at lesser rates or by just universalizing the rate, inequality is not being adequately addressed.

The Democratic candidates, on the other hand, are putting much more emphasis on the ideas of income inequality, but plan on using other methods to solve the issue. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ focuses lie more heavily on social issues, though both mention tax reforms as subsets of some of their plans.

Hillary Clinton aims to better the economy by focusing on three main categories of change: “strong growth,” “fair growth” and “long-term growth.” These include ideas to raise the minimum wage (to $12 federally, and possibly higher at state digression), close corporate tax loopholes and create jobs by investing in clean energy, scientific and medical research and infrastructure. The most common argument against her plans are against the raise in minimum wage, which many say will cause cuts to jobs.

Bernie Sanders addresses income inequality more than any other candidate. It could be argued that it is his main talking point, followed closely by “getting big money out of politics,” reforming Wall Street and combating climate change. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Sanders is a big supporter of the $15 federal minimum wage, ensuring that corporations do not escape income tax, investing $1 trillion in infrastructure over the next five years, making tuition free at public universities and more; there are 13 specific plans total, all listed on his campaign page. While most of these plans sound positive, many worry that his plans are too radical and not practical, leaving people concerned that he will not be able to deliver on these lofty promises — particularly if Congress continues to be Republican-dominated — therefore leaving him unable to address income inequality. Another big worry is that his plans call for a large amount of government spending, something many people aren’t eager to increase as our national debt continues to rise.

While the Democratic candidates more openly discuss income inequality and acknowledge it as a problem, even aiming to reform similar areas (minimum wage, college, infrastructure) in order to fight it, there are large differences in the specifics of their plans.

This overview was able to give a general idea of each candidate’s stance, but by no means encompassed the whole of their ideas or plans with regards to income inequality.

Stay informed and happy voting!

Abby Ferguson is a freshman from Dallas. She lives in Cavanaugh Hall and studies psychology (and probably gender studies). She can be reached at [email protected].

Kylie Ruscheinski is a freshman from Chicago. She lives in Cavanaugh Hall and studies political science. She can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at [email protected] or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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