Tonight's first Democratic presidential debate offers candidates a chance to highlight their tax plans
One thing is certain about tonight's debate between the candidates who want to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016: None of them is Donald Trump.
The Republican nominee front-runner has, however, threatened promised to troll cover tonight's event via Twitter.
Trump's absence, on stage at least, is good for Democrats. It is bad, however, for the televised spectacle factor. Don't expect any outrageous statements from Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee in an effort to stand out.
That's not to say that we won't get some kind of surprise announcement from one of the candidates. Granted, the odds would be better for such quotable moments if Vice President Joe Biden was in the race, but …
Getting to know them: Still, tonight's CNN-televised session from the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas is important. Obviously, it's the first head-to-head of the Democratic candidates.
We also should find out a bit more about the candidates' tax plans. Hey, it's 2½ hours long. They've got to fill with something!
Much of the debate, at least the early part, will focus on introducing the Democratic candidates.
Let's be honest. Right now, the only two candidates that most Americans know in any form or fashion are former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who currently leads most polls, and Vermont's Independent Socialist-turned-temporary-Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders.
They will be joined on stage by Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland; Jim Webb, a former U.S. Senator from Virginia and Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan; and Lincoln Chafee, who served as both governor of and U.S. senator from Rhode Island.
Talking some taxes? So what do we already know about the tax stances of these five folks? Not much.
Both Clinton and Sanders have staked out primarily populist tax positions, calling for additional tax breaks for lower income individuals and more or higher taxes on the wealthy, especially those with Wall Street connections.
Clinton has targeted speculators who make money through frequent trading. She's called for a tax on high-frequency securities trading, an activity that's criticized as contributing to market instability.
She also wants to increase the capital gains tax, specifically on investors who sell assets within a several years after buying them.
Sanders is solidly behind a financial transactions tax, proposing a more far-reaching version than Clinton.
As for capital gains, Sanders wants to double the current 20 percent rate on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
Hiking FICA for the wealthy: Sanders' focus on higher taxes on higher earners expands to Social Security.
Currently, workers aren't subject to Social Security taxes, generally shown as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act, which also includes Medicare taxes, which aren't income limited) on pay stubs, if they make under a certain threshold.
For 2015, Social Security taxes are taken out on earnings up to $118,500. An inflation adjustment should bump that amount up a bit for 2106.
Sanders and O'Malley have proposed applying the tax that funds the country's retirement program to workers who make more than $250,000.
Clinton has indicated that she, too, would consider raising the earnings cap on Social Security taxes.
Tax stances of the candidates: In preparation for tonight's debate among the Democrats, you can check out Ballotpedia's overview of the candidates' tax policy positions. The Veep is included, just in case.
The Tax Foundation also has a running chart of the candidates' tax reform proposals.
The coverage on both of those websites includes the Republican candidates' tax stances, too.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Will GOP candidates talk taxes in tonight's debate?
- Which candidate's tax return do you most want to see?
- Winners of meet-the-candidates contests fax tax costs
Find more tax news and tips at the Don't Mess With Taxes home page.