after tax income

US election 2016: Bernie Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's policies compared

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in a pitched battle for the Democratic nomination, fighting for the hearts and minds of left-leaning voters across the US.

But where do they stand on the issues? While the candidates often agree on substance if not style, here’s a look at five areas where they differ - not just from each other, but from their presidential predecessors, as well.

Bernie Sanders promises he will reduce income inequality through changes to US through tax policy. He has called for a 10% tax surcharge on billionaires, raising the top three tax brackets and creating a new top rate, boosting capital gains and estate taxes, extending Social Security taxes, going after income made abroad by US corporations, and creating a new 0.2% tax on all earners to fund a paid family leave programme.

Hillary Clinton’s tax plan is basically Sanders-lite. She wants a 4% surtax on income over $5 million, an increase in capital gains taxes, the closing of “tax loopholes” for the wealthy, taxing hedge fund managers’ “carried interest” income at higher rates and increasing the estate tax rate.

Bernie Sanders has set the bar when it comes to higher education policy in the modern Democratic Party, with his call for free college for all Americans funded by taxing Wall Street financial transactions. He points to the runaway costs of higher education as one of the driving forces behind growing income inequality in the US.

Hillary Clinton supports a plan to make two-year community college free, but her higher education policies are more modest. She has called for lowering student loan interest rates, providing $17.5 billion to improve the quality of higher education and encouraging colleges to set affordable tuition rates that don’t require student loans.

For Bernie Sanders, however, that particular half-loaf is far from enough. He wants to institute a single-payer government-run health insurance system fashioned on Medicare. He has also called for allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower prices and permitting Americans to import medication from Canada, where it is less expensive.

Hillary Clinton has said Mr Sanders is advancing an unrealistic proposal that threatens hard-won healthcare reforms made during Mr Obama’s tenure. Instead she wants to expand existing law to improve coverage for prescription drugs and allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers for better prices.

Hillary Clinton is the first prominent Democratic presidential candidate to openly run on a gun-control platform since Al Gore’s losing campaign in 2000. She supports holding gun manufacturers liable for deaths caused by their products, expanding background checks and prohibiting those on no-fly list from purchasing firearms. She has also supported reinstating the ban on semi-automatic “assault” rifles.

Bernie Sanders, a senator from the rural state of Vermont, has a more moderate position on guns - although he has moved to the left over the course of the campaign. He supports expanded background checks on gun purchases and an assault weapons ban, but opposes holding gun manufacturers liable for deaths. He voted against a gun purchase waiting period multiple times in the early 1990s and for allowing guns in national parks.

Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, was one of the more hawkish members of Mr Obama’s cabinet. It’s no surprise then that as a presidential candidate she is well to the right of Mr Sanders and even Mr Obama. She has called for greater US involvement in the Syrian civil war, including enforcing a no-fly zone, and supports a continued US military presence in Afghanistan.

Bernie Sanders generally agrees with Barack Obama’s foreign policies - limited involvement in Syria and an emphasis on working with US allies. He contrasts himself with Mrs Clinton by noting the past US military action that she supported and he opposed - in Libya and Iraq. He supports a full US withdrawal from Afghanistan and no US training of rebels in the Syrian civil war.

My conclusion - I believe in the future with Bernie Sanders. Hillary’s measures I consider not enough. This is when we forget that she’s a liar, racist and was involved in a number of political scandals. And we must remember her sponsors from the Wall Street. I wanna say “I trust you, Mr. President”. And that’s why I’ll #Go Bernie.

#GoBernie! #AFuturetoBelievein #BernieSandersforPresident!

Gambling, State Budgets, and Taxing the Poor

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So it turns out that my state, Illinois, is one of the US states that has the biggest budget holes. Indeed, we are one of the Big 4 of “States in Trouble,” along with California, New York and Florida.

LIke many states, Illinois has been trying to cobble together various stopgap measures to balance its budget. Illinois has borrowed money to use as contributions to its pensions systems; it has slashed support for higher education and social programs aimed at the poor and the disabled, and it has delayed payments to health care providers and other vendors–sometimes for more than a year. It has also raised income taxes, a move which has essentially stabilized its ongoing budget commitments (for now), but which has still left a several billion dollar backlog in unpaid bills.

Another gimmick–and there’s not really any other word for it–Illinois uses to raise revenue is legalized gambling. We have the lottery and we have “riverboat casinos”–a term which has to be in quotes because while they are technically on rivers, they don’t move. Most probably can’t. (They used to have to go on hour long “cruises,” meaning that they had to untie from the dock, but they don’t have to do that any more.)

Notably, there are no casinos in Chicago. (There are no slots or other gambling outlets at horse racing tracks either. Gambling on the horses is legal, but other forms are not.) The reason for this is simple: gambling was sold as an economic development initiative and is supposed to be concentrated in depressed, underdeveloped areas. Whatever else one can say about Chicago, it is notably not an underdeveloped region.

The thing is, most people in Illinois live in and around Chicago. (Like, 70%.) And people in Chicago want casinos (as well as slots at horse racing tracks, etc.). Since the state needs revenue, state legislators have repeatedly proposed adding a casino or two in Chicago, as well as adding slots and other gambling places at tracks, and perhaps elsewhere.

This would seem like a slam dunk: people want to gamble; people live in and around Chicago; the state needs revenue … . Chicago needs casinos.

Except it turns out that most gambling, like most lottery-playing, is done by less well off people in America. And, as the graphic that heads this post suggests, even as income inequality has increased in America over the last 30 years, the share of post-tax income controlled by less well off people has declined. This is a result of cutting income tax  and capital gains rates: those taxes disproportionately affect the better off, so cutting those rates disproportionately benefits people with more money.

In other words, using gambling to fund government is another way of transferring the costs of government to the poor and less well off groups in society. It may seem less onerous than a “tax,” since no one makes you gamble (or play the lottery), but it works out the same: as a transfer of funds from citizens to the state.

We continue to fantasize that our budget problems can be solved with stopgap measures and gimmicks, rather than through the serious reconsideration of what we ought to pay for–and what we don’t need to pay for. More, we continue to exploit the political weakness of the poor to protect those programs and gimmicks that benefit better off people while slashing those that benefit the weakest among us. Gambling is just another example of this game.

Kansas is in trouble. After slashing income taxes in 2012, the state faces a revenue gap of more than $400 million. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and state legislators are debating how to make up the shortfall. So far they’ve agreed on one way to control how state money is spent. Starting in July, people on the dole will be limited to a single ATM withdrawal of no more than $25 per day. The law also prohibits spending public-assistance cash at movie theaters, swimming pools, and video arcades. Nail salons and tattoo parlors are out, too.