With just over a week until the election, it's time to take measure of Clinton vs. Trump, by the numbers. Thankfully our guest Jeffrey Levine, Chief Retirement Strategist and Director of Retirement Education with Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor GroupSM as well as CEO and Wealth Advisor with BluePrint Wealth Alliance, helped us sort through the candidates' plans.
Medicare/Social Security: Both candidates want to slow the pace of health care costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers, but similarities stop there.
Although Trump called for privatizing Social Security in the past, he recently said he wants to keep the government plan in place because he believes it would be “honoring a deal.” He plans to address “the tremendous waste, fraud, and abuse in the program. But we’re not going to hurt the people who have been paying into Social Security their whole life and then all of a sudden they’re supposed to get less.” Trump's stance has generally been that he will do everything in his power to avoid touching Social Security – a position that doesn’t actually jive with that of many other Republicans – but he postulates that he will be able to do this my merely cutting waste and growing the economy. This would seem to be an incredibly difficult, if not impossible task, even using the most optimistic of projections.
Clinton wants to create a caregiver credit “that prevents penalizing those who are out of the workforce due to caring for others,” which sounds great in theory, but Levine has some serious questions as to how it would actually work in the real world. To beef up the SS retirement system, Clinton “opposes raising the full retirement age, privatization of Social Security, and any reduction in benefits or cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs)." Levine notes that when Social Security was established, the average life expectancy was far less than what it is today, and yet the full retirement age has only increased by one year over that time. Consider that in 1940, roughly 54 percent of men and 61 percent of women surviving to age 21 lived to reach age 65. Fast forward 50 years and, by 1990, about 72 percent of men and nearly 84 percent of women could expect the same results. Under a Clinton administration, the Social Security Wage Base (currently $118,500 in taxable earnings), would increase.
Historically speaking, roughly 90 percent of earned income was subject to Social Security taxes. As the wealth and income gaps have widened in recent years though, that number has dropped closer to 83 percent. To restore that mark closer to historical norms, Clinton would need to raise the Social Security earnings cap to about $250,000 – a massive increase from where we stand today. It should be noted that even with no cap whatsoever, other changes would still have to be made to keep Social Security solvent over the long run. Clinton also seeks to make income other than earnings subject to Social Security taxation. This too, would represent a major change.
Taxes The following are tax plans to date according to the candidate’s websites and the Associated Press.
Under a Trump administration, the following tax changes have been suggested:
- Reduce the seven tax brackets to just three, at 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent, and cut the top income tax bracket to 33 percent from its current level of 39.6 percent.
- Cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, also cutting taxes on “pass-through” business income for small businesses to 15 percent.
- Eliminate the estate tax, which, as of 2016, has a $5.45 million exemption ($10.9 million for married couples) and a 40 percent tax.
- Steepen the phase-out of itemized deductions under the existing Pease limitation, which currently phases out deductions at 3 percent for every dollar that adjusted gross income exceeds $300,000 ($250,000 if single).
- According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump’s tax proposals would add a $11.2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. Trump has largely disputed such estimates, citing that under his leadership, economic growth would double to about 4 percent, leading to more workers,. better paying jobs, and thus, more revenue.
Under a Clinton administration, the following tax changes have been suggested:
- Increase several taxes on wealthier Americans, including a 4 percent surcharge on incomes above $5 million, effectively creating a new top bracket of 43.6 percent.
- Imppose a minimum 30 percent tax rate on income above $1 million a year
- Cap deductions for wealthier taxpayers.
- Increase the estate tax exemption to former 2009 parameters of 3.5 million ($7 million for married couples), with the tax rate of 45 percent.
- Maintain current tax levels for the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers, which according to the Tax Policy Center and the most recent income and tax data released by the IRS and reported by the Tax Foundation, would mean those who earn income of $179,760 or less annually. That said, the Clinton campaign has said taxes would not rise for those making less than $250,000.
- Clinton has proposed expanding the child tax credit by doubling the credit to $2,000 per child.
- Clinton's tax proposals – when viewed in isolation – are estimated to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. However, when adding in other proposals, the national debt would increase by more than $10 trillion.
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