Democratic Debate Guide: How a Clinton or Sanders Win Could Affect Your Wallet


What would a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton presidency mean for your money? The two Democratic candidates, who nearly tied in Tuesday’s Iowa caucus (though Clinton eked out a win), are on the same side of many issues—family leave, minimum wage, and affordable college—but Sanders, who proudly wears the label “Democratic Socialist,” typically goes a bit farther than his rival.

On the federal minimum wage, for example, Clinton supports an increase to $12; Sanders says $15. Clinton’s “New College Compact” would make community colleges free; Sanders’ “College for All” Act would make all public colleges and universities free. Clinton wants to build on Obamacare by capping consumers’ monthly prescription spend at $250. Sanders wants to replace Obamacare with a “single-payer” system, similar to covering all Americans under Medicare.

Ahead of the town hall and last debate before the New Hampshire primary, we dive further into these issues here. Just remember—proposals are just that. And presidents often aren’t able to carry through with them as they were initially pitched. Still, it’s worth examining what they could mean for you and your money.

Family Leave

Clinton and Sanders both support expanding family leave. Sanders’ FAMILY Act would give every employee 12 weeks of paid leave to stay home with a newborn baby, help a sick relative or care for themselves. He’d pay for it by adding a $1.38 weekly payroll tax to the average American worker’s paycheck.

Clinton supports 12 weeks of paid leave, too, but rejects the notion of a payroll tax, saying middle class families don’t need a tax increase. Instead, she’d “ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.” (By the way, she’s previously said “middle class” includes households earning up to $250,000.)

Health Care

Sanders’ most ambitious plan is the aforementioned “Medicare for All,” which would change the way America pays for health insurance—and would cost $1.4 trillion a year. To cover it, Sanders adds a slate of tax increases on employers and workers, though he argues middle-class families and small businesses would actually save money because many costs, like deductibles and co-pays, would be eliminated.

On the other hand, Clinton has said it’s unwise to “rip (Obamacare) up and start over.” Rather, she wants to expand the program to cover more Americans and lower out-of-pocket costs for things like deductibles, co-pays and prescriptions.

Student Debt and College Costs

To pay for free college for everyone, Sanders would impose a new tax on Wall Street “speculators”: In other words, high-speed, short-term traders would pay a tax on their trades. He would also lower student loan interest rates to 2.37 percent and allow current debtors to refinance their student loans at the new rate.

Clinton’s plan would cap college loan payments at 10 percent of income and also lower interest rates. That would cost $350 billion over the next decade, which Clinton says she’d pay for by “closing tax loopholes.”

Wall Street and Retirement

Sanders has been much more aggressive in his anti-Wall Street rhetoric than Clinton, saying he’d break up “too big to fail” banks. He also advocates reinstating the Depression-era Glass Steagall Act, which prevented commercial banks from participating in the investment business. Glass-Steagall was partially repealed in 1999, and some believe that enabled Wall Street speculation and ultimately the financial collapse. (Clinton is not in favor of the Glass-Steagall reinstatement.)

Sanders also wants to lift the cap on Social Security taxes that kicks in at $118,500 annually. (Income earned in excess of that amount is not currently subject to Social Security taxes. Sanders wants to change the threshold to $250,000.) Sanders says doing so would enable increased benefits and extend Social Security’s solvency for 50 years.

Clinton has said she’s considering making investment income subject to Social Security taxes, and she might also increase the cap.