When looking at Presidential campaign Web sites recently, I noticed something confusing. The top four candidates for the Republican Presidential Primary – Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain – all seemed to prioritize national issues differently. Obviously the stance each of these candidates take on any particular issue is a clear way to distinguish himself from others. However, it seems that the order in which a candidate chooses to prioritize these issues can also be a significant way to sway voters.
For example, the fact John McCain chooses to put “government spending, lower taxes and economic prosperity” at the top of his issues page in contrast with his opponent Fred Thompson, who gives national security top billing, could be of crucial importance to some voters. Or perhaps if certain voters looked deeply enough, they would be concerned for the way the same issue is presented by two different politicians, such as Giuliani simply addressing “marriage” and Romney focusing on “confronting threats to American culture, values and freedoms.”
In spite of these differences, there is one priority that historically shows up at the top (or very close) of every Republican’s focus: taxes. This singular issue bleeds into countless other aspects of how a politician affects policies in their domain. Taxes are what lead people to succumb to the cliché “I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” Ultimately, taxes represent one of the most clear dividing and defining lines between Republicans and Democrats.
Candidates agree that taxes should be reformed for simplicity and fairness, and it is also agreed that the Middle Class bears the heaviest tax burden, yet the agreement usually ends there.
Taxes are an unfortunately complicated subject. Getting the facts straight regarding “tax brackets” has the potential to make your head spin. Just between the Clinton and Bush administrations from 1992 to present, taxes have changed frequently. In 1992 there were three tax brackets: 15 percent, 28 percent and 31 percent. The higher your income, the more you pay. In 1993 there was a tax hike on the wealthy, with two extra tax brackets added at the top of the income scale, but no cut for the lower classes. So in effect, the federal government was simply collecting more money from the “wealthy” by adding those two new brackets (36 percent and 39.6 percent while still maintaining that original 31 percent bracket).
In contrast, with the Bush administration between 2000 and 2002, each tax bracket dropped by 1 percent except for the lowest 15 percent bracket. Furthermore, in 2003, another bracket was created at the bottom (10 percent) so that the lowest income citizens would get a much larger break. All other brackets dropped by 2 percent and the very highest bracket (wealthiest) received a cut of 3.6 percent.
So why the differing policies? Clinton raised taxes; Bush has lowered them repeatedly. With the state of our current national budget deficit, it seems that raising taxes would be one way to help remedy that deficit, or at least get a few steps closer to a balanced budget.
It boils down to philosophy. Two main campaign points that I have heard from Democratic candidates, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, are to “make health care affordable and accessible to every American” and “expand access to affordable, high-quality child care.” These are two nice ideas, but how can these goals be accomplished? Typically health care and child care cost money; therefore Sen. Clinton, for example, would have to find a source of income to pay for these programs. The most obvious place this would come from would be taxes.
Republicans, on the other hand, seem to be interested in continuing to cut taxes, at least based on what we’ve heard of their campaign statements. Taxes conflict with the Republican ideal of limited government (especially in economics). The more taxes the federal government collects from its citizens, the larger that government’s presence will be in the lives of those people for the simple reason that the government is collecting those taxes and often using them to instate social programs such as health care, child care, and welfare. Democrats tend to be more open to these social programs, probably because they want to be able to use those programs or because they like the idea of those programs. Republicans tend to maintain their more capitalistic point of view and state that free market reigns and they don’t want the federal government too involved in their business.
This begs the question, is there a way to compromise? I believe the reason many American citizens don’t have access to necessities such as health care is because they can’t afford it due to . high taxes! Focus needs to be on true accountability on our elected officials to stop creating band-aid programs that drive our taxes up even further. Between federal, state and local taxes, it’s a wonder that anyone can survive. If it’s possible to “clean out” our federal budget and get back to our more basic necessities, every tax bracket will be much better off.
Christina Chiappe is a social sciences senior, a member of the Cal Poly College Republicans and a conservative columnist for the Mustang Daily.