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An economic scorecard for Obama, McCain

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Are you keeping score of the presidential nominees' economic policies? Or do you view the contest simply as an endgame -- waiting to see who wins, and who loses?

My friends who regularly watch sporting events tell me there's more to a game or match than just the score. Some who follow baseball keep scorecards, representing pitches and strikeouts, base hits and home runs. Football fans know quarterback rankings -- passes completed and attempted, and yardage gained.

In other words, they use real information to make judgments and decide where to place their bets.

So maybe we should create an "economic scorecard" for the presidential election and track the nominees' policies, promises and performance. They're not the only issues on which you'll base your vote -- but they are likely to have a real impact on your future.

So let's create an economic policy scorecard. Here are three key categories -- and some comments.


Right now, it's hard to figure out who will be impacted by higher taxes and who will get a tax cut, based on the rhetoric so far.

Barack Obama promises a middle class tax cut, but he doesn't define "middle class." In some speeches, it appears the cuts will go to individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples earning less than $250,000. Obama hasn't specified where he'll raise taxes -- presumably on the wealthy and on corporate America.

We've all heard John McCain's definition of middle class -- something about earning $5 million a year. In his acceptance speech, McCain promised to "keep taxes low, and cut where I can." That implies making the 2002 and 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent -- the estate taxes and other cuts that were scheduled to "sunset" in 2011. McCain says the United States has the "second-highest business tax rate in the world."

The tax promises are murky. Then again, even clear-cut promises like "read my lips -- no new taxes" are broken after the election. What do you think about the candidates' tax promises -- and do you believe they can carry them out?


The latest unemployment figures -- a five-year high at 6.1 percent -- make it tough for McCain to campaign on a platform of respect for President Bush, while still promising job creation. What would he do differently from Bush, who presided over a loss of 600,000 jobs in the last year?

McCain says the private sector should create jobs, and articulated a plan in his acceptance speech: "As president, I will enact a 'jobs for America' economic plan that creates jobs, helps small businesses, expands opportunities and opens markets to American goods." Details, please.

Meanwhile, Obama wants to create federal job-training programs and end what he calls "tax subsidies" for companies that ship jobs overseas. And he pledges to protect American jobs through tough new trade deals. Can government legislate job protection when the economics of foreign labor are so compelling?

What do you think is a responsible jobs policy?

Government spending

And what's the true cost of all of these promises to a country already in $9 TRILLION worth of national debt?

Obama says: "If I am president, I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families and provide an immediate $50 billion to struggling states so that they don't have to cut back on health care and education and can rebuild roads and schools." Now, all he has to do is explain where he'll get the money!

McCain has come lately to the supply-side view that cutting taxes encourages growth. The tax policies he has recently articulated also encourage childbirth -- because he promised to double the tax exemption for children from $3,500 a year to $7,000. Clearly, the man believes in tax incentives.

But are these the right ones?

And that brings us back to the real issue being played out in the global markets for U.S. debt and for our dollar currency. If politicians make all these promises to buy our votes, what is the ultimate cost -- and how do we fund it? Do we print more dollars to pay off the political supporters, and destroy the value of our currency? Or do we go hat in hand to global central banks, hoping they'll lend us money by purchasing our debt?

So let's track both nominees' economic promises and policies. Add your comments at my Sun-Times blog, blogs.suntimes .com/savage/, or my home page,

Together, let's try to sort out their economic positions -- and the impact on our future. Someone should keep score, and it might as well be our readers. That's the Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate. Copyright Terry Savage Productions Ltd.

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