Voter Guide: Democrats on the Federal Budget

Last week, on the heels of the Republican convention, my colleague Chris Hellman wrote here about the Republican Party platform and its implications for the federal budget. With the Democratic convention in Charlotte behind us, let's check out the Democratic platform approved by the party last week.


Democrats would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for American families making less than $250,000, and allow the tax cuts to expire for taxpayers making more than that amount. Democrats also propose closing tax loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthiest Americans and the largest corporations. Not surprisingly, these proposals are in sharp contrast to the Republican plan, which would extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts and cut taxes further below those rates. Like the Bush tax cuts, this proposal would offer deep savings to the highest earners.

The Democratic platform names substantial infrastructure improvement as a priority, calling for up-front public investment in roads and bridges and doing so as part of an effort to create jobs. Republicans called for a federal-state-private partnership for infrastructure improvements, and noted that federal deficits require lawmakers to make hard choices, including on the issue of infrastructure spending – indicating that this type of spending does not rank as highly on Republicans' priority list as it does for Democrats. There was, however, a logical inconsitency in the Democrats' plan to fund infrastructure improvements. While one part the platform notes that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been paid for "on a credit card," the document later suggests that part of the "savings" from ending the war in Afghanistan should be used to fund infrastructure. There's a logical gap there; if the war was paid for on credit, then what savings are generated by the war's end?

On the hot-button issue of health care, Democrats say they plan to continue Medicare in its present format for current as well as future retirees, while Republicans propose modifying the program to offer future retirees vouchers with which to purchase private health insurance.

For more answers about what's at stake this election, check out Election 2012: The Voter Guide, with fact sheets and a side-by-side comparison of President Obama and Governor Romney, plus this blog post about what questions to ask your congressional candidates.