Forget the 2008 Horse Race, What about Policy?


Okay, for a moment let’s forget about attack ads, Iowa, the polls, that floating cross in Mike Huckabee’s latest commercial, Hillary’s wrinkles, and the question of whether Jesus and Satan are half-brothers–and let’s talk presidential race policy!

The smart wonks at the New America Foundation have taken a details-drenched look at the proposals of all the Democratic and Republican presidential wannabes related to the promotion of savings and asset building. This broad category includes retirement security, affordable home ownership, children’s savings accounts, the subprime mortgage crisis, bankruptcy, and more. A sample:

Joe Biden plans to incentivize savings by expanding the Saver’s Credit, providing eligible families a 50% refundable tax credit for deposits up to $2,000 in certain tax-preferred savings accounts, such as 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts. A family earning less than 50,000 that deposits $4,000 into savings products eligible for the credit would receive a $2,000
matched refund from this plan.

Chris Dodd proposes to assist individuals saving for a down payment on a home with the creation of Tax-Deferred Individual Homeownership Savings Accounts. The federal government would match up to $500 each year in the accounts of low-income and working families under this plan.

John Edwards proposes the creation of “work bonds” to match household savings. Households earning up to $75,000 would receive a state-provided bond valued at $500 per year. Additionally, he proposes the “Get Ahead” tax credit to match up to $500 in savings for retirement, college education, home purchase or investment in a small business or during a financial or medical emergency…..

Rudy Giuliani proposes to expand tax-free savings accounts to encourage Americans to save. Giuliani also plans to eliminate the double taxation of individuals’ current savings.

Barack Obama proposes to federally match savings by expanding the Saver’s Credit. Working families earning up to $75,000 would receive a 50% match of the first $1,000 of savings deposits made to accounts eligible for the Saver’s Credit. The refundable tax credit and the savings match will be directly deposited into the filer’s personal accounts.

Mitt Romney proposes to allow tax-free savings for all families with adjusted gross incomes under $200,000. He would do this by eliminating all taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains. This would allow these families to save and invest tax-free.

So now is it clear whom you should vote for? Seriously, there’s not much coverage of such policy matters during the campaign. Democrats in presidential races tend to produce loads of policy papers. Republicans often don’t bother. But certainly few policy papers come to be campaign matters–with the exception of those related to such big-ticket subjects as health care or Social Security. Still, it’s good to remember that behind each candidate is a bunch of ideas (and advisers with ideas)–and that in one case this will indeed matter. To check out the full New America report, click here.

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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.