A couple months ago I discovered the Budget Hero game from American Public Media and thought it would be great if we made McCain and Obama play it. Then we could see how they really stack up. Now we’ve got something close! Each candidate provided the game’s creators with the costs or benefits of some of their proposals, which are now included in the game. You can play it to see how your views stack up against theirs.

How the Game Works
The game first lets you choose three “badges,” which are platforms you try to work toward. The badges cover broad issues like Health and Wellness or National Security. Now they’ve added one badge for Obama and one badge for McCain.

Once you choose your badges, you get to play a series of cards in different categories. Although you can’t make sweeping changes, you can increase or decrease spending on a variety of programs. Once you’re done with spending, you can then increase or decrease taxes. If you double-click a card, it shows you the pros and cons for each card.

The game starts with a 2018 budget. As you play, it tells how you much longer it will be until you “bust the budget,” meaning expenses outpace revenues. It also tells you the level of national debt, the interest on that debt, the size of the government, and the amount of the budget surplus or deficit.

My Original Scores
The first time I played the game, I got the budget to 2055, shrank the government, created a $4 billion surplus, and lowered the debt to 20% of GDP. Then I read a few of the card descriptions and discovered they weren’t what I thought I was. That cut my budget to 2047, but kept the surplus and debt the same. I earned badges for Health & Wellness, Green, and Efficient Government.

Obama vs. McCain
I wish the game would show you all the cards associated with each candidate, but it doesn’t. The Obama campaign provided more information, so there are more cards associated with his policies in the game than there are for McCain. To choose the cards I played for each candidate, I visited their websites to review their policies. Where I couldn’t find information, I Googled it until I found a few statements that seemed to be in agreement and went with that.

First I chose the Obama badge. There were a lot of spending increases, but also some big tax changes. I earned Obama’s badge with a 2036 budget bust, a smaller surplus, and a higher debt than my original scores. The size of the government remained about the same.

Next I started over with the McCain badge. On my first pass, I couldn’t earn his badge, so I went back and added more tax cuts and a couple more spending cuts to earn it. Unfortunately, McCain’s badge also busted the budget in 2033, raised the debt to more than 40% of GDP, massively increased the size of the government, and blew the surplus.

How to Use the Game to Choose a Candidate
You can take two approaches to playing the game: review each candidate’s policies and then choose the cards you think he would play to see where he winds up (like I did above), or choose both badges and then play the cards the way you think they should be played. At the end, see if you earned either badge. If you did, that’s your candidate. If you didn’t, go back and tweak until you find a match.

Is the Game Perfect?
No, it’s not. Both candidates would make changes that aren’t in the game, or do things a little differently. Since Obama provided more information, the game may also be more skewed toward his programs. Still, it’s a good way to see not only where you stand on spending issues, but how closely aligned you are with either candidate. You may even find that both of them agree with you on some issues.

Have you played the game? How did you do?

As I said yesterday, voters in six states have had their say on the 2008 presidential candidates. As always, the presidential election is important, but voters this year face very serious issues. No matter where you stand on the issues, it’s important to consider all the candidates and then choose the one who best matches your beliefs.

In advance of Super Tuesday, I’m presenting summaries of the candidates’ statements on economic issues. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. In order to be included on my list, they must still be in the race and be listed in the national polls at RealClearPolitics. In general, that means they’re polling above 2% nationally.

Most of these are copied from the candidate websites directly, although I had to search the internet for some statements. I relied on CNN’s election center and OntheIssues.org for most of the answers I couldn’t find on the candidates’ sites. Some statements are rephrased for length or clarity (or to cut the campaign rhetoric). I haven’t injected any personal commentary.

Mike Huckabee

Taxes

  • Eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes
  • Supports the FairTax, which will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a national sales tax
  • Provide monthly rebate for sales taxes on purchases up to the poverty line.

Healthcare

  • Make health insurance more portable from one job to another
  • Expand health savings accounts to everyone (currently limited to those with high deductibles)
  • Make health insurance tax deductible for individuals and families
  • Provide tax credits for low income families buying insurance.

Retirement

  • Provide personal retirement accounts proposed by Bush.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • No immediate plan available

Foreclosure

  • Pressure lenders to refinance loans so rates will rise more slowly and affordably
  • Increase regulation of the mortgage industry
  • Ban low teaser rates and stated income loans.

Rudy Giuliani

Taxes

  • Make Bush tax cuts permanent
  • Repeal estate tax
  • Tie Alternative Minimum Tax to inflation.

Healthcare

  • Provide tax deduction of up to $15,000 for families without employer-based health coverage
  • Institute Health Insurance Credit for low-income Americans that can be coupled with other revenue sources such as Medicaid and employer contributions to make coverage more affordable to millions who are uninsured
  • Require availability of low-cost insurance options
  • Repeal state regulations that limit coverage options and increase costs.

Retirement

  • Expand tax-free savings accounts
  • Eliminate the double taxation of individuals’ current savings.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • No plan available

Foreclosure

  • Supports government assistance for victims of predatory or fraudulent lenders.

John McCain

Taxes

  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
  • Make the Bush income and investment tax cuts permanent.

Healthcare

  • Eliminate the tax code bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance
  • Provide all individuals with a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to purchase health insurance
  • Allow individuals who buy multi-year policies that cost less than the full credit to deposit remainder in expanded health savings accounts
  • Allow families to purchase nationwide insurance to increase competition and reduce costs
  • Allow individuals to buy insurance through any organization or association that they choose
  • Promote preventative care.

Retirement

  • Supplement the current Social Security system with personal accounts.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • Cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent
  • Allow first-year deduction, or “expensing”, of equipment and technology investments
  • Establish permanent tax credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on R&D.

Foreclosure

  • No plan available

Ron Paul

Taxes

  • Exempt members of America’s armed forces from income taxes
  • Pass the Liberty Amendment, which repeals the 16th Amendment (income tax amendment)
  • Repeal capital gains and dividends taxes
  • Repeal estate tax
  • Repeal taxes on tips
  • Adopt the FairTax plan, which replaces income tax with national sales tax.

Healthcare

  • Institute medical savings accounts where consumers can save pre-tax dollars
  • MSA would be used to pay for health care expenses, with the patient negotiating directly with the physician of their choice for the care they choose
  • Ensure major-medical insurance policies remains available and affordable for catastrophic care
  • Allow families to claim a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for the rising cost of health insurance premiums
  • $500 per child tax credit for medical expenses and prescription drugs that are not reimbursed by insurance
  • $3,000 tax credit for dependent children with terminal illnesses, cancer, or disabilities.
  • Waive employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes (or self-employment taxes) for individuals with documented serious illnesses or cancer and suspend Social Security taxes for primary caregivers with a sick spouse or child.

Retirement

  • Ban government borrowing from Social Security trust fund
  • Allow young people to stop contributing to social security
  • Reduce contributions and allow people to invest money themselves
  • Repeal taxes on social security benefits.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • See tax and foreclosure plans.

Foreclosure

  • Repeal tax on mortgage debt discharges (currently, forgiven loan balances are taxes as income)

Mitt Romney

Taxes

  • Repeal tax on interest income, dividend income, or capital gains earned by people earning less than $200,000 a year
  • Make Bush tax cuts permanent
  • Reduce lowest tax rate from 10% to 7.5%
  • Repeal estate tax.

Healthcare

  • Encourage states to eliminate the cumbersome insurance regulations that increase costs and reduce competition
  • Make all health care expenses tax deductible
  • Reduce uninsured emergency room expenditures
  • Use savings from reduced emergency room expenditures to help the needy buy private insurance
  • Support tax deductions to help individuals buy private insurance.

Retirement

  • Support personal retirement accounts
  • Would consider indexing social security benefits to prices rather than wages.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • Institute immediate 100% expensing of equipment for two years
  • Permanently reduce the corporate tax rate
  • Introduce immediate retroactive tax credit reflecting the lower 7.5% tax rate for 2007 earnings to employees who earned less than $97,500 in 2007.

Foreclosure

  • Reform and expand Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan portfolio limits to allow larger loans to homeowners
  • Reduce required down payment
  • Allow FHA to help nonprime borrowers who may not be able to meet the current requirement
  • Raise the maximum loan amount for borrowers in higher-priced areas
  • Expand NeighborWorks foreclosure avoidance initiative.

So far, voters in six states have had their say on the 2008 presidential candidates, but there are some big votes coming. Super Tuesday is just eleven days away, and that could crown the nominees on both sides.

No matter where you stand on the issues, it’s important to find the right candidate for you and vote accordingly. I won’t say whom I support; I will simply urge you to vote. To help you choose, I’ve compiled summaries of the candidates’ statements on economic issues. You may have other issues that are more important to you, but whoever becomes president will have an impact on several economic issues that affect each of us directly.

I’ll start with the Democratic presidential candidates today and cover the Republicans tomorrow. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. In order to be included on my list, they must still be in the race and be listed in the national polls at Real Clear Politics. In general, that means they’re polling above 2% nationally.

Most of these are copied from the candidate websites directly. In some cases, I had to search the internet to find the answers. Some statements are rephrased or reworded for length or clarity (or to cut the campaign rhetoric). I haven’t injected any personal commentary.

Hillary Clinton
Taxes

  • Repeal Bush tax cuts for the top two brackets and restore 1990s tax rates for upper-income Americans
  • Extend earned income tax credit, middle class tax relief, the child tax credit, and marriage penalty relief
  • Reform the AMT
  • Maintain the estate tax exemption at $7 million (2009 level).

Healthcare

  • Guarantee healthcare for all Americans
  • Provide all Americans with choice of maintaining current coverage or accessing same program available to members of Congress
  • Reduce hidden taxes and fees that increase healthcare costs
  • Offer incentives for employers to provide coverage
  • Offer tax credit to help individuals pay for coverage
  • Limit coverage costs to percentage of income
  • Modernize the system and promote prevention to reduce costs.

Retirement

  • Introduce American Retirement accounts that will permit individuals to contribute up to $5,000 per year on a tax-deferred basis
  • 401K plans offered by employers will still be available
  • Provide matching refundable tax credit for the first $1,000 of savings by every married couple making up to $60,000. 50% match on the first $1000 for couples making between $60,000 and $100,000. Credit phased out after that
  • Plans will be administered in the private sector
  • Automatic savings through employers unless employees opt-out.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • $30 Billion Emergency Housing Crisis Fund
  • 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures and an automatic rate freeze on subprime mortgages of at least five years
  • $25 billion in emergency energy assistance for families
  • $5 billion in energy efficiency and alternative energy investments
  • $10 billion to extend unemployment insurance.

Foreclosure

  • Institute “Save our Home” program for two years
  • Temporarily increase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s portfolio caps by 5%
  • Help homeowners at risk replace adjustable-rate mortgages with fixed-rate mortgages
  • Temporarily modify the Mortgage Revenue Bond (MRB) program to allow it to refinance mortgages (currently only for new mortgages)
  • Increase the cap on the MRB program by 25%
  • Temporarily increase federal loan limit. Index the limit to median regional prices and cap it at $650,000.

John Edwards
Taxes

  • Institute a new “Get Ahead” tax credit to match up to $500 a year in savings for families earning up to $75,000
  • Tax credit funds could be used for retirement, college education, buying a home, investing in a small business or during a financial or medical emergency
  • Institute new “Work Bonds” to offer additional targeted savings incentives for low-income families
  • Credit will be refundable for low-income families and the size of the credit will be reduced for families with higher incomes
  • Expand the Child Care Credit to pay up to 50 percent of child and dependent care expenses up to $5,000 and make it partially refundable
  • Triple the Earned Income Tax Credit for single adults
  • Cut the marriage penalty
  • Raise capital gains tax rate to 28 percent for wealthiest Americans
  • Repeal the Bush tax cuts for the highest-income households and keep the tax on very large estates (above $4 million for couples)
  • Close unfair loopholes like the tax breaks for hedge funds and private equity fund managers and unlimited executive pensions.

Healthcare

  • Require employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance
  • Make insurance affordable by creating new tax credits
  • Expand Medicaid and SCHIP
  • Reform insurance laws
  • Create regional “Health Care Markets” to allow Americans to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut costs for businesses offering insurance
  • Promote preventative care.

Retirement

  • Create Universal Retirement Accounts
  • Require employers to offer a new universal retirement account to all workers without another pension
  • Businesses will be encouraged to automatically enroll workers in a 401(k)-type portable retirement account, with automatic paycheck deductions and employer contributions.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • $25 billion now to investing in clean energy infrastructure, increasing federal aid to states avoid cutting programs that help families through hard times, reforming unemployment insurance and tackling the housing crisis
  • If necessary, $75 billion for additional state relief, additional spending on a new energy infrastructure, accelerating investments in schools, roads, and bridges and temporary tax cuts targeted to the low-income and middle-class families.

Foreclosure

  • Any freeze on interest rates must keep rates low for seven years
  • Ensure right to individual assistance from lenders – such as converting to a fixed-rate mortgage, capitalizing delinquent payments, reducing the interest rate, or forgiving a portion of the loan
  • Create a Home Rescue Fund to help families move into affordable mortgages
  • Allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages
  • Institute a central reporting system to keep track of lenders’ progress in modifying loans and to facilitate fraud and predatory lending investigations.

Barack Obama
Taxes

  • Protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families
  • Reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.
  • Create a new “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. Offset the payroll tax on the first $8,100 of their earnings
  • Create a universal mortgage credit for all tax filers
  • Earned Income Tax Credit up to $555 for full-time workers. An additional $1,110 for workers with children
  • Eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year
  • Make the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable and allow low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.

Healthcare

  • Create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals purchase a private insurance plan
  • Create rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible
  • Ensure affordable coverage for all
  • Require employers to offer coverage or provide meaningful assistance in purchasing private coverage
  • Employers that do neither of the above will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt
  • Mandatory coverage for children
  • Expand Medicaid and SCHIP
  • Accommodate existing state plans.

Retirement

  • Automatically enroll workers in a workplace pension plan
  • Employers who do not currently offer a retirement plan will be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account
  • Employees may opt-out if they choose
  • Match 50 percent of the first $1,000 of savings for families that earn less than $75,000. The savings match will be automatically deposited into designated personal accounts.

Economic Stimulus Package

  • $250 rebate for 150 million low and middle income workers
  • $250 rebate for seniors earning under $50,000 as a Social Security supplement
  • Establish a $10 billion fund to help “responsible” families avoid foreclosure
  • Establish $10 billion fund for states facing budget shortfalls
  • Expand unemployment insurance

Foreclosure

  • Create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide comprehensive support to innocent homeowners
  • Assist individuals who must sell their home by providing offsets of selling costs and offer additional time to sell
  • Waive certain federal, state and local income taxes that result from an individual selling their home to avoid foreclosure.

Current Accounts



My blog is worth $16,371.66.
How much is your blog worth?


Finance Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory