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Financially Speaking: The Presidential Debate

Financially Speaking: The Presidential Debate

It’s been a long wait and it’s believed the first of a few presidential debates that begin tonight will at least touch on some of the financial problems still plaguing America. It’s not likely, however, to be a strong priority when it comes to specifics.

Some are predicting this to be a slugfest others are convinced it’s going to be little more than “same ole’, same ole'”. If nothing else, we can expect to see at least where each candidate places the financial considerations in terms of priorities. One thing is for sure: most agree that they don’t recall such a big divide on the issues like immigration and health care. Ideally, though, things like the Bush tax cuts – which are becoming more of a “front and center” concern, along with capital gains and ideally, student loan debt and credit card reform, will find their way into a healthy debate – and sooner rather than later. Many are saying the so-called 47% debate will find its way into the debates, while others are saying unemployment should be top priority – and indeed, it likely will be tonight.

Tax Cuts

But delving a bit further into things, it’s going to be interesting to see how the candidates measure up in terms of how well they relate to how tax cuts play into the economic recovery efforts. Both Democrats and Republicans say this could be Romney’s Achilles Heel. This is partly because of the way Romney has managed to manipulate his own taxes to keep his personal rate low, despite his massive wealth. This, of course, could have bee dealt with months ago had Romney not gone to such great lengths to keep so much of his past tax returns out of the public eye.

On the flip side, though, Obama has constantly come under fire for his vocal dislike of those Bush tax cuts; in fact, he’s done his level best to repeal them and this has many concerned because of the so-called fiscal cliff that’s threatening Americans on January 1st.

Obama’s Shining Achievement: 2009 CARD Act

The 2009 CARD Act is arguably one of Obama’s better moves. The changes in this particular sector, including the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has turned things around for millions of consumers who, up until the passage of the laws, were at the mercy of their financial institutions. Now, mortgage modification is far more likely to occur than foreclosure. Consumers have options now that they’ve never had before, including opting in or out of things like a checking account’s overdraft protection. Fees for late payments on credit cards have gone down and even the way those late fees are calculated have changed.

One specific example is that a credit card company can now no longer tack on a late fee if a payment is received after a certain hour cut-off, but still on the due date. The CFPB has become exactly what it was intended to be: a consumer watchdog group that actually listens to the consumers. In the 2 years since its inception, this group has moved mountains for consumers on everything from credit card complaints to student debt complaints.

But not all of his decisions have been met with such praise. Remember the payroll tax holiday? What makes it controversial now is that it will expire, along with those Bush taxes he loathes. And lest we forget the controversial health care reform which still has folks debating whether or not a tax is incurred if they opt out of his requirements that say every American must have health care insurance.

Topics for Tonight

Here’s what most believe will be financial/tax topics for tonight’s debate:

The middle class and taxes (though opinions vary on how much of a focus they’ll place on this during the first debate). Remember, Romney is still in hot water over his comments about the 47% who don’t matter because he’ll never be able to get their votes. On the other hand, folks are less than pleased at the thought of the Bush taxes expiring – and Obama’s willingness to allow them to expire.

Also, those taxes on the wealthy. Keep in mind, these taxes are incredibly low these days and some say this is exactly the reason so many revenue shortfalls are occurring. Still, neither candidate wants to alienate the country’s wealthiest 1%. It can’t be avoided for long, though, especially considering once a moderator is added into the mix and media cameras channeling the debate into every home wishing to watch, there’s a good chance both are going to be treading lightly. Some are still peeved by Obama’s efforts two years ago to let tax cuts expire and had Congress not stepped in, they would have. Romney, of course, is still facing those comments that were accidentally memorialized on a cell video where he appears to be critical and even judgmental on the 47% who don’t pay income taxes.

So what do you think the primary focus will be on?

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