The Reno Gazette-Journal- Nevadans Weigh in on Obama's Proposed Tax Plan
Saying he seeks to even the playing field for American workers, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama,
D-Ill., on Tuesday proposed $80 billion in tax cuts targeted mostly at middle-class taxpayers and an increase in capital gains tax for the richest Americans.
"What we're talking about is restoring balance," Obama told the Reno Gazette-Journal in a telephone interview after a speech in Washington, D.C. "You've got a system in which you've got corporate CEOs often paying lower tax rates than their secretaries. The basic principle is we want everybody paying their fair share."
Obama said his plan would eliminate taxes for about 110,000 lower income workers and 35,000 senior citizens in Nevada who make less than $50,000 a year, according to the campaign. It would also provide a credit for homeowners who do not itemize deductions.
Obama also proposed providing most taxpayers with a tax return already filled out by the Internal Revenue Service.
"All they have to do is scan it over and sign it," he said.
To pay for the plan, Obama said he would close corporate loopholes, eliminate off-shore tax shelters, increase taxes on hedge fund managers and increase the capital gains rate for the top income earners to
20 percent to 28 percent.
Nevada political observers said Obama's tax plan would appeal to constituencies important to his campaign in the state's Jan. 19 presidential caucus, such as labor unions and senior citizens.
But some warned his focus on increasing taxes for richer Americans would not be popular with Nevada voters.
"Anything that can be done to simplify the tax code is going to be very warmly received," said Carole Vilardo, president of the nonpartisan Nevada Taxpayer Association. "Closing of loopholes that have been abused will probably not create major problems. But the capital gains tax, potentially does."
Eric Herzik, a political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno and a Republican, said Obama's populist tax plan is "labor-friendly and senior citizen-friendly."
"It's also a slap at both Bush and the wealthy," he said. "It's got a nice populist ring to it."
The danger with populist proposals, Herzik said, is that it pits one part of society against another.
Obama has received more small contributions from grass-roots supporters than any other candidate. But he has also raked in millions of dollars from hedge fund managers and investment bankers, raising more from them than from any other industry besides lawyers, according to OpenSecrets.Org.
Obama said his tax proposal illustrates the constituency he represents.
"It is those people who have seen their political system fail them repeatedly and are looking to me and our campaign for serious change," he said.
Reno Democrat Barbara Stone, 71, said the tax break for low-income senior citizens "would mean an awful lot."
"I took everything I had to raise five children," she said. "I couldn't save any money. I worked graveyard in casinos so I could take care of my children.
"I want to see people who make under ($50,000) not have to pay any kind of income tax."