MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: An absolute commitment, no middle-class tax increases of any kind?
SENATOR CLINTON: No, that's right. That is my commitment.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you take the same pledge?
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.
And one of the centerpieces of my economic plan would be to say that we are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive of our taxes, so that families who are earning - who are middle-income individuals making $75,000 a year or less, that they would get a tax break so that families would see up to a thousand dollars worth of relief.
Senior citizens who have earnings of less than $50,000 wouldn't have to pay income tax on their Social Security. And middle-class homeowners who currently don't itemize on their tax filings, they would be able to get a deduction the same way that wealthy individuals do.
Now, here's the reason why that's important. We have seen wages and incomes flat or declining at a time when costs have gone up. And one of the things that we've learned from George Bush's economic policies, which John McCain now wants to follow, is that pain trickles up. And so, partly because people have been strapped and have had a tough time making ends meet, we're now seeing a deteriorating housing market.
That's also as a consequence of the lack of oversight and regulation of these banks and financial institutions that gave loans that they shouldn't have. And part of it has to do with the fact that you had $185 million by mortgage lenders spent on lobbyists and special interests who were writing these laws.
So the rules in Washington - the tax code has been written on behalf of the well connected. Our trade laws have - same thing has happened. And part of how we're going to be able to deliver on middle-class tax relief is to change how business is done in Washington. And that's been a central focus of our campaign.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, you both have now just taken this pledge on people under $250,000 and 200-and-what, 250,000.
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, it depends on how you calculate it. But it would be between 200 and 250,000.
MR. GIBSON: All right.
You have however said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent."
It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.
SENATOR OBAMA: Right.
MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.
SENATOR OBAMA: Right.
MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.
And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.
And you can't do that for free, and you can't take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you're cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that is irresponsible.
You know, I believe in the principle that you pay as you go, and you don't propose tax cuts unless you are closing other tax breaks for individuals. And you don't increase spending unless you're eliminating some spending or you're finding some new revenue. That's how we got an additional $4 trillion worth of debt under George Bush. That is helping to undermine our economy, and it's going to change when I'm president of the United States.
MR. GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.
SENATOR OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I think the biggest problem that we've got on Wall Street right now is the fact that we've got a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got it right.
And if we can stabilize that market and we can get credit flowing again, then I think we'll see stocks do well, and once again I think we can generate the revenue that we need to run this government and hopefully to pay down some of this debt.