Answer the following questions to see which political parties and candidates you side with.
Proponents of deficit reduction argue that governments who do not control budget deficits and debt are at risk of losing their ability to borrow money at affordable rates. Opponents of deficit reduction argue that government spending would increase demand for goods and services and help avert a dangerous fall into deflation, a downward spiral in wages and prices that can cripple an economy for years.
Australia currently has a progressive tax system whereby high income earners pay a higher percentage of tax than low income tax. A more progressive income tax system has been proposed as a tool towards reducing wealth inequality.
Several major U.S. companies including Netflix, Chipotle and Microsoft recently began offering their employees paid sick and maternity leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country that doesn’t require companies to provide sick leave to their employees. 35% of American workers do not receive any type of paid sick leave.
5 U.S. states have passed laws requiring welfare recipients to be tested for drugs. Proponents argue that testing will prevent public funds from being used to subsidize drugs habits and help get treatment for those that are addicted to drugs. Opponents argue that it is a waste of money since the tests will cost more money than they save.
The federal minimum wage is the lowest wage at which employers may pay their employees. Since July 24, 2009 the U.S. federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour. In 2014 President Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and tying it to an inflation index. The federal minimum wage applies to all federal employees including those who work on military bases, national parks and veterans working in nursing homes.
In 2014 the U.S. Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act which would make it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same work. The goals of the act were to make wages more transparent, require employers to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender and prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination. Opponents argue that studies which show pay gaps don’t take into account women who take jobs that are more family-friendly in terms of benefits rather than wages and that women are more likely to take breaks in employment to care for children or parents. Proponents point to studies including a 2008 census bureau report that stated that women's median annual earnings were 77.5% of men's earnings.
The U.S. currently levies a 35% tax rate at the federal level and an average tax of 4% at the state and local level. The average corporate tax rate worldwide is 22.6%. Opponents of argue that raising the rate will discourage foreign investment and hurt the economy. Proponents argue that the profits corporations generate should be taxed just like citizen’s taxes.
In October 2016 AT&T announced that it intended to buy Time Warner Cable for $84.5 billion. The merger would create one of the biggest media companies in the history of the U.S. The announcement sparked criticism from Congressional Democrats and Republicans who argued that huge corporate mergers create monopolies which prevent competition. Since President Obama took office his administration has prevented several mega-mergers from taking place including Sprint and T-Mobile, AT&T and T-Mobile and Allergan and Pfizer. In 2015 $3.8 trillion dollar’s worth of mergers and acquisitions occurred which made it the largest year for corporate consolidation in the history of the U.S. Proponents of mergers argue that the government should not interfere with corporations and the free market should be allowed to run its own course.
A Universal Basic Income program is social security program where all citizens of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government. The funding for Universal Basic Income comes from taxation and government owned entities including income from endowments, real estate and natural resources. Several countries, including Finland, India and Brazil, have experimented with a UBI system but have not implemented a permanent program. The longest running UBI system in the world is the Alaska Permanent Fund in the U.S. state of Alaska. In the Alaska Permanent Fund each individual and family receives a monthly sum that is funded by dividends from the state’s oil revenues. Proponents of UBI argue that it will reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everyone with a basic income to cover housing and food. Opponents argue that a UBI would be detrimental to economies by encouraging people to either work less or drop out of the workforce entirely.
In 2011 the level of public spending on the welfare state by the British Government accounted for £113.1 billion, or 16% of government. By 2020 welfare spending will rise to 1/3rd of all spending making it the largest expense followed by housing benefit, council tax benefit, benefits to the unemployed, and benefits to people with low incomes.
In May 2016, the Obama Administration announced new regulations that would increase the number of American entitled to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay. Salaried workers who earn up to $46,476 per year are now entitled to earn time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. The previous regulations, issued in 2004, set the threshold for overtime pay at $23,660. The Labor department estimates that 4.2 million workers will become newly eligible for overtime pay under the new regulations. Proponents argue that the rule is necessary due to inflation and note that only 7% of salaried workers currently qualify for overtime pay in 2015, down sharply from 60% in 1975. Opponents argue that the new rules will hurt employers and incentivize them to cut their employee’s hours.
Labor unions represent workers in many industries in the United States. Their role is to bargain over wages, benefits, working conditions for their membership. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.
In March 2016, the Carrier air conditioning company announced it would move 1,400 jobs from the U.S. state of Indiana to Mexico. In November 2016 U.S. President elect Donald Trump and Carrier announced a deal which would keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. Proponents argue that the deal prevented jobs from moving overseas and will help grow the U.S. economy. Opponents argue that the deal will encourage more private companies to make threats about job losses in exchange for tax breaks.
A farm subsidy is a form of financial aid paid to farmers by the government. The purpose of the aid can be to supplement their income or influence the cost and supply of agricultural products. The U.S. government pays farmers more than $20 Billion a year in farm subsidies. Proponents argue that the subsides are necessary since net farm income has decline by 32% between 2014 and 2015. Opponents argue that the farmers should fend for themselves and point out that 2,300 farmers who do not grow crops receive annual subsidies.
In February 2018, President Trump pledged to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff aluminum imports into the U.S. A tariff is a tax on imports or exports between countries. The proposed tariffs would increase the cost of aluminum and steel imports into the United States. In promoting the plan, Trump predicted that the tariffs would revive the U.S. steel and aluminum industries which were heavily concentrated in the industrial Midwest. Supporters of the tariffs argue that U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturers have been wiped out due to low-cost competition from foreign manufacturers. Supporters note that governments in countries like Japan and China provide subsidies to manufacturers. These subsidies, they argue, allow the manufacturers to then undercut the price of U.S. manufacturers. Supporters include Republicans and Democrats from the Midwest and unions who represent factory workers. Opponents argue that the tariffs will hurt U.S. based manufacturers who need aluminum and steel to produce their products. Manufacturers of cars, boats, beer, chemicals and oil pipelines stated that they would be forced to raise prices in order to absorb the higher costs imposed by the tariffs.
Capital gains are the profits earned from the the sale of stocks, bonds and properties. Investment managers pay a 15 to 20 percent capital gains tax on profits earned from their customers’ holdings. Supporters of the increase argue that capital gains should be taxed like any other income and should be raised to at least 31.5% (the average U.S. tax rate). Opponents of an increase argue that taxing capital gains will discourage investments in the U.S. economy and prohibit growth.
An offshore (or foreign) bank account is a bank account you have outside of your country of residence. The benefits of an offshore bank account include tax reduction, privacy, currency diversification, asset protection from lawsuits, and reducing your political risk. In April 2016, Wikileaks released 11.5 million confidential documents, known as the Panama Papers, which provided detailed information on 214,000 offshore companies serviced by the Panamanian Law Firm, Mossack Fonesca. The document exposed how world leaders and wealthy individuals hide money in secret offshore tax shelters. The release of the documents renewed proposals for laws banning the use of offshore accounts and tax havens. Proponents of the of the ban argue they should be outlawed because they have a long history of being vehicles for tax evasion, money laundering, illicit arms dealing and funding terrorism. Opponents of the ban argue that punitive regulations will make it harder for American companies to compete and will further discourage businesses from locating and investing in the United States.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement that was created to lower trade restrictions between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
Most local governments in the United States impose a property tax as a principal source of revenue. This tax may be imposed on real estate or personal property. The tax is nearly always computed as the fair market value of the property times an assessment ratio times a tax rate. Values are determined by local officials, and may be disputed by property owners. A primary advantage of a property tax over a sales tax or income tax is that the revenue always equals the tax levy, unlike the other taxes, which can result in shortfalls producing budget deficits. The property tax always produces the required revenue for municipalities' tax levies. Property owners, especially seniors, believe the tax is unfair and does not represent the owner's ability to pay.
The estate tax is a tax that is levied on all property that is declared in a deceased person’s will. The tax is also known as the “inheritance tax” or “death tax.” In 2016, the estate tax rate is 40% and only applies to estates with a value greater than $5.45 million. In 2015 5,300 estates in the U.S. were subject to the tax and paid $18.4 billion in taxes. Proponents of the tax, including Hillary Clinton, argue that more estates should be subject to the tax and the threshold should be lowered from $5.45 million to $3.5 million. Opponents of the tax, including Donald Trump, argue that people who have paid income taxes their entire life should not be subject to another tax when they die.
The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the US government. The main goal of the bank is to manage the US government’s money supply and stabilize the nation’s banks during panics and recessions. In 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2015 which would require the bank’s board of governors to conduct an audit and release it to Congress. An audit would determine if the accounting records the bank makes public are true and give Congress an insight into how the bank is run. Senator Paul has been a fierce critic of the bank’s practices, calling it a "political, oligarchic force, and a key part of what looks and functions like a banking cartel." Proponents of the audit argue that the Federal Reserve bank should be audited after the role it played in the 2008 fiscal crisis when it took on trillions in debt to bail out several of the country’s largest banks. Opponents of the audit argue that the government accountability office already audits the Federal Reserve and a Congressional audit would destroy its independence.
A tariff is a tax levied on the import and exports of goods in international trade. The U.S. currently trades over $590 billion in goods with China every year. In 2015 China exported $466 billion worth of goods to the U.S. and imported $123 billion worth of U.S. goods. The 2015 China - U.S. trade imbalance of 344% is a new world record. During the 2016 Presidential race Donald Trump proposed levying a 45% tariff on China and any other U.S. trade partner which violates trade deals through currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies. Proponents of tariffs argue that China breaks trade rules by subsidizing its exports, manipulating its currency and stealing intellectual property from the U.S. and other western countries. Opponents argue that tariffs will cause a dramatic rise in the cost of goods for U.S. consumers and cause an unnecessary conflict with
An economic stimulus is a monetary or fiscal policy enacted by governments with the intent of stabilizing their economies during a fiscal crisis. The policies include an increase in government spending on infrastructure, tax cuts and lowering interest rates. In response to the 2008 financial crisis Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Act included increased spending on energy, infrastructure, education, health and unemployment benefits. The Act will cost an estimated $787 billion through 2019.
A government pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during the period in which a person is employed by the government. When the government employee retires they are able to receive periodic payments from the fund in order to support themselves. As the birth rate continues to fall and the life expectancy rises governments worldwide are predicting funding shortfalls for pensioners. In the U.S. federal, state and local governments are eligible to receive pensions.
The average retired federal employee receives a pension (retirement plan) of $32,824 annually. Total unfunded pension liability for all U.S. cities and counties is an estimated $574 billion. In addition to their pensions, federal employees are offered a 401(k) plus 5% matching, whereas the average private employee is offered 3 percent matching of 401(k) without pension.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that would make it easier for American companies to sell their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries. The deal will benefit American service companies who will be able to open up operations in Asian and South American countries. Opponents argue that this bill will incentivize US companies to move service and manufacturing jobs overseas. Proponents argue that it would make American companies more successful at selling their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries, leading to a stronger economy, more jobs and higher incomes for American workers.
The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow state governments to collect sales taxes from online retailers who do not have a physical location in their state and have revenues of over $1 Million per year. Online retailers would be responsible for collecting the taxes and distributing them to state and local governments. Proponents of the bill include brick and mortar retailers who argue that exempting online retailers from sales taxes penalizes traditional stores who are forced to charge customers higher prices due to cover the tax. Opponents argue that since online retailers do not use local services funded by sales taxes they should be exempt and that the federal government should not get involved in state tax issues.
Bitcoin is a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet, which is like a virtual bank account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins and pay for goods or services. Bitcoin is anonymous, meaning that, while transactions are recorded in a public log, the names of buyers and sellers are never revealed.
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The above questions were selected because they give a broad sample of the most divisive issues being discussed this year in politics. We continue to add new issues on a weekly basis.
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