The three Democratic presidential candidates faced off on the second debate Saturday night.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said that in President Ronald Reagan’s first term, the highest marginal income tax rate was 70 percent. But Reagan signed a bill in his first year dropping that to 50 percent, and it dropped again to 28 percent in his second term. The top marginal tax rate of 70 percent was established in 1964, when Congress passed a tax cut backed by President John F. Kennedy. In the decades before that, the top rate was much higher – hovering at 90 percent.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that the U.S. “has more income and wealth inequality than any major country on earth.” But the World Bank statistics list at least 41 countries with greater income inequality than the U.S. – including Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. And as for wealth inequality, the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent in the U.S. puts it in 11th place among 37 nations listed in the Global Wealth Databook.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrongly said that wages “haven’t risen since the turn of the last century.” Real average weekly earnings of rank-and-file workers rose 7.2 percent since 1999. While not a huge increase, real weekly wages have jumped 2.3 percent in the most recent 12 months alone.
Sanders repeated one of his campaign trail talking points: “But we are going to end the absurdity, as Warren Buffet often remind us … that billionaires pay an effective tax rate lower than nurses or truck drivers.” That’s the case for some in those professions — compared with billionaires who earn their money through investments — but it’s not accurate for all. A truck driver would have to earn more than the median salary to pay a higher effective rate.
Sanders said that the United States is the only major country that doesn’t guarantee health care to everyone as a right. Among the wealthy Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, America – with the possible exception of Mexico – stands out as the only one that lacks universal coverage.
“This nation is the most powerful military in the world,” Sanders said. “We’re spending over $600 billion a year on the military. And yet significantly less than 10 percent of that money is used to fight international terrorism.” The Defense Department spends $60 billion on anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and in the battle with ISIS- nearly 11 percent of total defense dollars,as Sanders said. But Sanders used an overly restricted definition that also ignores that a hefty amount of counterterrorism spending takes place outside of the Defense Department.
When Clinton cited Princeton economist Alan Krueger’s support for her minimum wage proposal, O’Malley called him a Wall Street economist. He’s not. Krueger is a Princeton economist. Research shows hat a minimum wage set as high as $12 an hour will do more good than harm for low-wage workers, but a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences.
O’Malley said, “Net immigration from Mexico last year was zero. Fact-check me.” Census data from 2010 up to 2013 support O’Malley’s point, as the population of people living in America but born in Mexico fell by about 40,000 since 2010. Experts said this is a strong indication of a prevailing trend. Other data, including a rapid decline in apprehensions at the border and changing demographics in Mexico add weight to the conclusion that O’Malley’s point is correct.
Chip Tuthill lives in Mancos. Website used: www.factcheck.org