Quiz: Which Budget Is Right for You?

The Atlantic Wire
Quiz: Which Budget Is Right for You?
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Quiz: Which Budget Is Right for You?

Whose budget should you support based on naked self-interest: Paul Ryan's? The president's? A political group you've never heard of? The Atlantic Wire has created this handy quiz to help you decide whose budget is best for your actual life.

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We took a look at the various plans under consideration, presented below from most to least conservative:

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After a through-ish review, we parsed out how each plan might affect you, Mr. or Ms. Regular American. But let's have an example. We put all 330 million Americans' names in a hat and pulled one out at random: Willard Romney of Massachusetts. Here's how the president's budget plan, out today to some wrangling about chained CPIs, would affect him.

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Obama proposal: The Buffet Rule. The name refers to the idea that billionaire investor Warren Buffett shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. It would ensure people who make $1 million a year pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent.

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Would this affect Willard Romney? Yes. Romney paid a 14 percent rate on income of $13.7 million in 2011. He could have paid even less, but he did not take all of his charitable deductions.

Obama proposal: Closing the carried interest loophole. This loophole allows financial managers to claim a large chunk of their income is not income but capital gains, so that it's not taxed at the top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, but the lower capital gains tax rate of 15 percent rate.

Would this affect Willard Romney? Yes. Romney paid a 14 percent tax rate in part because about half of his income came from capital gains.

Obama proposalClosing a loophole that "lets wealthy individuals circumvent contribution limits and a cumulate millions in tax-preferred retirement accounts," a White House press release explains. IRAs would be capped at $3 million.

Would this affect Willard Romney? Yes. In the 15 years Romney worked at Bain Capital, he grew his IRA to between $21 million and $102 million. You're allowed to contribute $6,000 a year to your IRA. Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reports this is a new provision in Obama's budget, and it's "intended to close the loophole that allowed Romney to amass" such a huge IRA. 

Obama proposal: Higher cigarette taxes.

Would this affect Willard Romney? No. Mitt Romney doesn't smoke.

Obama proposal: Changing the way the cost of living increases for Social Security benefits are calculated. Obama's plan calls for chained CPI, meaning smaller increases. By some estimates, this change would cost the average worker who retires at 65, by 75 it would cost him $650 a year, and by 85 it would cost him $1,130.

Would this affect Willard Romney? Yes. This would affect everyone who's paid into Social Security. 

So if this anonymous Willard Romney were to support a budget, which might be right for him? He might consider Paul Ryan's.

What about you? Which budget meets your highly specific needs? Take the quiz below and find out which of the various budget plans you should be rooting for.

Your occupation:

Income level:

Do you plan on retiring?

Do you care about budget deficits?

Smoker?

Occupation

Brain researcher

Budget you want: Obama's

Why: As we've reported before, the president is suggesting that the government invest $100 million in creating a map of the brain. If you're in the brain mapping business, get ready to fill out some NIH grant applications.

If you're not in the brain mapping business — time to figure out how to do some "reframing" of your work.

CEO of Lockheed Martin

Budget you want: Ryan or Conservative budgets

Why: Hello, Robert Stevens! As your lobbyists have probably already informed you, you would probably like the more conservative budgets being offered. The Ryan plan is a little trickier for you, because it proposes cutting $133 billion over the next ten years. The conservatives, on the other hand, propose increasing it by $140 billion by 2022. The rest of the budgets target your industry pretty heavily.

Financial services worker

Budget you want: Ryan's

Why: Obama's budget would close the carried interest loophole. Paul Ryan's budget does not raise any taxes. This loophole allows financial managers to claim a large chunk of their income is not income but capital gains, so that it's not taxed at the top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, but the lower capital gains tax rate of 15 percent rate. If you work for a hedge fund or are an executive at an investment firm, you definitely prefer Ryan's plan.

White House tour guide

Budget you want: Obama's or the Senate Democrats' or the Progressive Caucus'

Why: These proposals would restore funding cut under the sequestration — including your ability to lead tourists throughout the White House, pointing out pieces of art. Of course, if you're not eager to go back to work, that might change how you look at this.

Other

Budget you want: Depends

Why: There are a number of proposals in every budget that offer various benefits or problems for people across the country. See the response to other questions to help make up your mind.

None

Budget you want: Obama's or the Senate Democrats' or the Progressive Caucus'

Why: Each of these proposals includes increased spending on jobs programs, which could help you get back to work. Additionally, the Ryan and conservative budgets target unemployment insurance for cuts. Of course, by the time any of these budgets pass, you could have gone to college and gotten an advanced degree, so who knows.

Income

A lot

Budget you want: Ryan or the conservatives'

Why: Because everyone else wants to raise your taxes. Obama wants to eliminate some of the "loopholes" that you enjoy to keep your mid-Aprils pleasant. So does the Senate Democrat and progressive plans.

Not a lot

Budget you want: Doesn't matter

Why: If you're cruising along in the middle of the road on income, none of the proposals does a lot to affect you. Base your decision on some of the other factors.

Not enough

Budget you want: Not the Ryan or Conservative plans

Why: If you're not making enough to get by, you definitely don't want the Ryan budget — it proposes reducing government spending by cutting food stamps and other social programs. (About 41 percent of food stamp recipients live in households where someone is employed, so this affects more people than you might think.) Obama's budget, on the other hand, increases funding for jobs programs employing youth and "subsidized employment programs" for adults.

Retirement

I am retired / plan to retire

Budget you want: Ryan's

Why: Ryan's budget does not touch Social Security. Obama's budget lowers the rate your Social Security check grows to adjust for inflation. Over time, this adds up. Say you retire at 65. According to an AARP estimate, the change would mean you get $650 less a year by age 75. By age 85, you would get $1,130. Many people oppose this change. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's former labor secretary, points out that senior citizens spend between 20 percent and 40 percent of their income on medical expenses, and the cost of medical care is rising faster than the rate of inflation. So the current cost-of-living adjustment is already stingy, Reich says. Chained CPI would be "stingier."

I am retired / plan to retire

Budget you want: Ryan's

Why: Ryan's budget does not touch Social Security. Obama's budget lowers the rate your Social Security check grows to adjust for inflation. Over time, this adds up. Say you retire at 65. According to an AARP estimate, the change would mean you get $650 less a year by age 75. By age 85, you would get $1,130. Many people oppose this change. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's former labor secretary, points out that senior citizens spend between 20 percent and 40 percent of their income on medical expenses, and the cost of medical care is rising faster than the rate of inflation. So the current cost-of-living adjustment is already stingy, Reich says. Chained CPI would be "stingier."

I am retired / plan to retire

Budget you want: Not Ryan's

Why: As a low-income retiree, you're in a different boat. (Eight percent of people who get food stamps are 60 or older, according to a USDA study in 2010.) Ryan's budget cuts food stamps by $134 billion over 10 years. Ryan cuts Medicaid by $810 billion over 10 years. and at least 6 million senior citizens are on Medicaid. And Ryan would cut Medicare by $205 billion over from 2013 and 2022 (though his plan wouldn't affect anyone over the age of 55).

I will never retire

Budget you want: Doesn't matter

Why: Because your ant-like existence will mean that you never enjoy the luxury of relaxation during your golden years. Sad.

Deficits

Deficits are important to avoid

Budget you want: Either the Ryan budget or the House Conservative Caucus'

Why: While each of the budget plans proposes deficit reductions, as shown in the chart below from the Washington Post, the Ryan budget and the conservative caucus do so aggressively, prioritizing deficit reduction over most other factors.

In fact, those two budget proposals are largely predicated on deficit reductions. Ryan's argues that "[b]y living beyond our means, we’re stealing from the next generation." The conservatives' first priority is that "[t]he budget shouldbalance within ten years without raising any taxes." These are the plans for you.

Who cares?

Budget you want: Up to you.

Why: If you don't care about the budget deficit, then the Republicans' plans to reduce it won't matter that much to you. Use some of the other indicators to make you decision.

Smoking

Smoker

Budget you want: Not Obama's

Why: The president's budget proposes increasing the federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products in order to fund an initiative that would expand access to preschool. If you're a smoker with preschoolers, then, the decision gets a little more complicated. Also: you should probably stop smoking, not that we're your mother or anything.

Non-smoker

Budget you want: Doesn't really matter

Why: The president's budget would increase the federal tax on tobacco products in order to fund an initiative to expand access to preschool. If you have kids, then, maybe you want to support that.

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