Throughout the primary season I ran a series of posts looking at the positions of the three DFL contenders in the United States Senate race here in Minnesota. Today begins a new series of posts looking at the three contenders (Al Franken, Dean Barkley, & Norm Coleman) who are now battling to win this Senate seat. Those that know me also know that I am undecided about this race with a slight lean towards Dean Barkley. That being said, these posts will remain as neutral as I am able and will focus primarily on the positions stated on the respective campaign websites. They will not deal with the personality of each of these characters but rather with what they would like to accomplish in the United States Senate.

For partisan coverage of each of these candidates, one can check out MNPublius for Al Franken coverage, Minnesota Democrats Exposed for Norm Coleman coverage (or perhaps a better description is anti-Franken coverage), and my friend Blue Man for Dean Barkley coverage.

We will start today with an analysis of the economy.

Al Franken on the economy:
The Franken site provides links to three areas within his economic issue section. The first, titled 401(U), proposes a new retirement savings account that he believes solves three critical flaws in the current system.

There are three fundamental flaws in our current system for encouraging retirement savings.

First, it doesn't work effectively for nearly half of American workers who have no employer-sponsored retirement plan – 1.2 million workers in Minnesota.

Second, saving for retirement is far too complicated. Even when workers are given the option of joining employer-based plans, many do not take it because it is incredibly difficult to enroll, let alone to research the details of various plans and investment portfolios. And when they leave a job, they cannot take their retirement account with them.

Third, the system is upside-down and backwards. Because our current savings incentives are based on tax deductibility, a wealthy employee in the 35% tax bracket gets 35 cents for every dollar he or she saves, while an employee in the 10% bracket receives only 10 cents (and an employee who pays no taxes gets nothing). It is therefore no surprise that of the nearly $200 billion a year we spend to encourage retirement savings, about half goes to the top 10% of earners, while 10% goes to the bottom 60%.

The second link calls for a new family leave program meant to improve upon the Family Medical Leave Act:

Al's plan:

  • Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act. Right now, FMLA covers employers with 50 or more workers. Al would extend it to cover firms with 25 or more workers – thereby offering its benefits to 13 million additional workers. In addition, he would support innovations such as expanding it to cover leave to care for aging loved ones and offering parents up to 24 hours of leave per year to participate in academic activities at their children's school.
  • Create a State Innovation Fund for family leave. The goal is to ensure that every state has its own paid leave program – tailored to the unique needs of each state – by 2016. To achieve this goal, Al proposes a $1.5 billion per year innovation fund to help states offset start-up costs and costs for employers. This proposal would help the millions of private-sector workers in Minnesota who currently do not enjoy paid family leave.
  • Provide paid parental leave for all federal workers to set a good example.

What would it cost?
Al Franken's plan will cost roughly $1.5 billion per year. Franken would pay for the cost of his plan without increasing the deficit by devoting a portion of the revenue raised from ending tax breaks for companies moving jobs overseas.

The third link covers his plan to bring "kitchen table tax relief". Among other things, Franken proposes tax credits for child care and businesses who provide "family friendly" benefits.

Al's plan:

  • Increase funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help working families make ends meet.
  • Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to cover 35% of child care expenses for families earning up to $100,000 – and make the credit fully-refundable up to $500. More than half of Minnesota families with children would be eligible to take advantage of this more generous credit, and a great many more would be eligible to take advantage of existing incentives.
  • Create a $2,000 Caregiver Credit for any individual with substantial long-term care needs or to his or her caregivers – that covers more than a third of the average costs to caregivers. The credit will not require families to engage in any complicated accounting of their out-of-pocket costs. It will be phased out for families earning more than $150,000. This new credit would help more than 100,000 Minnesota residents and families.
  • Create a Family Flexibility Credit for the many Minnesota businesses who want to help their employees make ends meet. This credit would reward companies that provide family-friendly benefits, such as child care assistance or the opportunity to telecommute. Al would provide up to $1,200 per employee to cover expenses associated with making these benefits available. The credit could also be applied to company policies that help families address the long-term care needs of aging loved ones.

What would it cost?
The total cost of Al Franken's Kitchen Table Tax Relief Plan is approximately $6.5 billion per year. Franken would pay for the cost of his plan without increasing the deficit by dedicating money from implementing the GAO's recommendations for reducing improper federal payments; by enacting anti-tax-shelter reforms; and by closing the tax loophole that allows investment managers to use offshore tax havens to defer paying taxes on the money they earn.

Norm Coleman on the economy:
The Coleman economic stance page begins with a statement of support for the recent bailout package passed by the United States Senate:

“The current financial crisis threatens each and every one of us. I am supporting the Senate’s bipartisan financial stabilization package because the cost of inaction is simply too high. Doing nothing would threaten the financial security of every Minnesotan, as credit would freeze, loans would become unavailable, home values would continue to fall, jobs would be lost and retirement accounts would suffer. We must ensure the availability of capital, which is the key to our economy. This bipartisan plan will meet my chief concerns of protecting American taxpayers and holding Wall Street accountable by ensuring no blank checks, limiting executive compensation, ending golden parachutes and increasing needed oversight of the tax dollars being spent. I understand some concern remains over this bill, but I believe this action is needed to ensure our economic strength and vitality in both the short and long term.” Senator Norm Coleman

The following planks deal briefly with issues ranging from the price of various goods to jobs and fiscal responsibility. On the prices paid at the pump and in the grocery store, Coleman has this to say:

Norm Coleman has also been working to address the current challenges facing our economy, including high gas prices, the housing crisis and the rising cost of food. These challenges are sending ripple effects throughout our economy and Minnesota families are feeling the squeeze.

Norm was proud to support the bipartisan economic stimulus package in order to put money back into the pockets of working Minnesota families and encourage economic growth through small business tax incentives.

Additionally, Coleman is continuing to lead efforts to reduce our addiction to foreign oil through a number of measures including drastic expansion of domestic renewable fuels, increased mileage requirements, deep-water drilling off of U.S. coasts, and increased production of nuclear, clean-coal and additional domestic energy resources. Click here to read more about Senator Coleman’s work to make the U.S. more energy independent.

He is actively working to address the housing crisis through a number of initiatives, including making mortgage debt tax-free and reforming the Federal Housing Administration to enable more homeowners to obtain safer mortgages. And this past summer he voted for the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008, which provided relief to veterans facing foreclosures as well as $4 billion in Community Development Blog Grants to assist communities hit hard by the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Coleman touts his support for the Bush tax cuts:

As Mayor of St. Paul, Norm Coleman made it his number one priority to create quality jobs for hardworking Minnesotans. As your U.S. Senator, he's again made it his top priority to create jobs, grow the economy, and help more Minnesota families achieve their American dreams.

After his election in 2002, Norm immediately got down to business and worked to enact landmark tax cuts that provided critical relief to working middle class families and spurred an economic recovery including a record 52 straight months of job growth.

In 2010, many of the President's tax relief provisions are set to expire, resulting in an unacceptably heavy tax burden on Minnesota's hardworking families. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1,000 to $500, couples will be hit again by the marriage penalty, fixed-income seniors will face higher taxes on their retirement incomes, and the dreaded death tax will come back to hit small family-owned businesses.

As your U.S. Senator, Norm Coleman will fight to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent so you can keep more of your hard-earned money and help grow the economy.

Finally, on fiscal responsibility:

Since his arrival in Washington, Norm Coleman has worked to help Minnesota taxpayers by supporting critical tax relief and fiscally responsible budgets. In an effort to protect Minnesotans from high taxes and runaway spending, Norm has voted against reckless tax-and-spend budgets, which would result in an unacceptable tax burden on the average taxpayer. He will continue to oppose wasteful Washington spending and the tax increases proposed to pay for it. As the top Republican on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Coleman has led the way on exposing $81 billion in waste, fraud and abuse of government spending of taxpayer dollars, returning billions to the Treasury already.

Dean Barkley on the economy:
Dean Barkley provides a very brief description of his beliefs and solutions for the economy primarily focusing on the federal debt and spending:
The federal debt—now at $9.65 trillion, or $31,000 for every man, woman and child in America—is crushing our economy and threatening our children's future.

Neither party in Washington has taken serious steps to address this growing crisis, though both tout themselves as fiscally conservative. Minnesota's politicians are no different. Sen. Norm Coleman has presided over a more than $3 trillion increase in the debt and Al Franken has offered more government spending that we simply cannot afford.

As Minnesota's next senator, I will introduce legislation to cap federal spending at current levels for four years. If we want to fund something new, we'll have to de-fund something old. It's called living within your means. You do it everyday. It's about time our government does the same.

Issue Analysis Review: On pure substance, I have to give this to Al Franken. His site provides far more detailed plans for helping Minnesota families deal with two of the largest economic issues facing them: the rising costs of raising children as well as the uncertainty of a stable and financially possible retirement. Coleman touts some relatively large initiatives that he has supported in his almost six years in the Senate but doesn't really get into the nitty gritty of economic issues or of his solutions. Interestingly, he only cites one piece of legislation he supported before the Democratic takeover of the United States Senate in 2006. Barkley simply offers too little in the way of solutions to our economic problems. While capping funding may sound like a sweet deal for the undiscerning voter, he does little or nothing to address how he will deal with inflationary costs or of how he will ultimately bring down the debt we have accrued. Supporters of each of these candidates can fight it out in the comments section over the context of these issue statements and over my analysis.

In addition to the analysis, I have added a wordle version of each candidates economic statements:

Al Franken Economic Wordle

Norm Coleman Economic Wordle

Dean Barkley Economic Wordle


2 responses to "Al, Dean, & Norm: An Issue Analysis (Economy)"

  1. mike On October 5, 2008 at 7:05 AM

    In the bailout bill there was 200 million for rum, 6 million for woden arrow toys, 150 million or so for race tracks. Coleman voted for it, Franken would have voted for it.

    Capping spending is the answer because it ends the above BS overnight. The federal budget is not and has not been increasing at inflationary levels.

    Thats a solution my friends, because it actually forces there hand.

  2. taxpaying liberal On October 5, 2008 at 10:32 AM

    Once again we have Al and Norm promising plans and saying that they are paying for it by shifting spending from one group to another.

    Al still wants to continue to spend. Norm still wants to cuts taxes on the wealthy.

    Offering new savings plans do nothing for the poor and middle class if you don’t have a job and gas and energy cost continue to run rampant. How much will Al’s new savings plan help you Eric?

    Are you waiting to put more into your TRA or IRA because of taxes?

    $11,500,000,000,000 of debt needs to be addressed but do either Norm or Al talk about it in there “economic plan. No, both will continue to ignore it and has a result gas cost $4.00 a gallon because the dollar has dropped like a rock. Gas is twice as much because the dollar is worth half as much.

    Name one plan either Norm or Al will cut back on in spite of adding $1,500,000,000 to the deficit in the last month.

    Hell neither Al or Norm even want to quit spending money in Iraq.