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Economist Diane Lim Rogers talks about the evolution of the U.S. economy over the last 10 years.

Economists say presidential candidates' tax plans reflect broader philosophies

by Daniel Lambert
Sep 30, 2008

The tax plans of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama are “emblematic of their approach to policy more generally,” an economist said Tuesday in Chicago.

“Senator Obama’s tax policies are very much focused on redistribution, increasing taxes paid by maybe the top 5 percent and lowering taxes for the bottom 95 percent,” said Robert Carroll, vice president for economic policy at the Tax Foundation, at a panel discussion featuring economic experts at the Union League Club on Tuesday.

“Sen. McCain’s tax plan is much more focused on changing incentives on ways that would as he described promote economic growth lowering the cost of capital by lowering business taxes,” Carroll said.

Carroll said that neither candidate would be able to implement their entire plans once elected. Carroll said he disagrees with some details of McCain’s plan, but favors his approach.

Panelist Diane Lim Rogers, chief economist at the Concord Coalition, a nonprofit economic policy center, cautioned that debating specific points of the candidates’ tax policies could be fruitless.

“I feel like talking about the details of the candidate’s proposals almost seems a little silly,” she said. “I think that one of the effects of this latest crisis is a realization that maybe the candidate’s won’t be able to do everything they talk about on the campaign trail once they get into the White House.”

Some of the approximately 60 audience members expressed concern about the bailout plan that failed to pass a House vote Monday. Troy Ingram, a University of Illinois at Chicago student, said he worries about the plans effectiveness. “I wonder if the bailout that passes will do everything that is needed to be done.”

Panelist Robert Chirinko, professor of finance at the University of Illinois at Chicago, responding to an audience question, said “I think the initial number of 700 billion is probably what we need.”

Chirinko said the bill should be good for Illinois.

Illinois is driven a lot by trade and exports,” Chirinko said. “The bailout is likely to affect Illinois disproportionately to others.”

The discussion was sponsored by University of Illinois Institute of Government and the club’s Public Affairs Committee.