(left to right) Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine; Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence
AP (2)
By Taylor Tepper
October 4, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two of the most well-known and least liked presidential candidates in modern history, debated last week in front of more than 80 million Americans, in what was arguably the most anticipated political event of the year. Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate lacks the same panache.

Vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence stand in stark contrast to the famous people atop their tickets. Kaine, Clinton’s pick, has become America’s goofy dad thanks to his use of corny jokes and Donald Trump impressions. Pence has set himself apart by avoiding negative campaign messaging and highlighting the importance of his Christian faith — two traits not seen in Trump.

Despite their dearth of celebrity, one of these two men will be a heartbeat away from the presidency, a cliché that takes on even more resonance in an election featuring two of the oldest presidential candidates in history. Therefore, Kaine and Pence should be held to account for past positions, and differences from the principal atop the ticket, especially on pocketbook issues.

Voters deserve to hear answers to the following:

Questions for Pence

  • Throughout your political career, you have favored lower tax rates. As governor of Indiana, you lowered personal and corporate taxes, and eliminated the inheritance tax in an effort to spur economic growth. Trump also supports lower tax rates, especially for America’s wealthiest taxpayers, and plans to offset those cuts by, among other thing, “eliminating special interest loopholes.” Many economists are skeptical that such tax cuts will pay for themselves, and warn that Trump’s plan would dramatically widen the budget deficit and federal debt. Which tax loopholes do you plan to cut and for which Americans? Would middle-class Americans, for instance, no longer be able to deduct their mortgage interest payments? And does the Trump campaign support eliminating the loophole that reportedly allowed Trump to use a nearly $1 billion loss in 1995 to avoid income taxes for almost 20 years?
  • In a 1997 letter to the editor in The Indianapolis Star, you wrote of mothers who worked outside the home: “Sure, you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short-end of the emotional stick.” You also said that you weren’t condemning families with two working parents, but rather “criticizing a culture that has sold the big lie that ‘Mom doesn’t matter’.” Four in 10 families with children under 18 have a mom who either makes all the money, or most of it, for her family, according to a 2013 Pew survey. That’s up from 11% in 1960. More than five million of these moms are married with a higher income than their husbands, while nearly nine million are single moms. Moreover, daughters of employed mothers, according to one study, are more likely to have jobs, be in a position of responsibility, and earn more money than stay-at-home moms. At the same time, sons of working moms are more likely do their fair share of domestic duties – caring for family members and household chores. Is it still your position that children enrolled in day care receive “the short-end of the emotional stick”?
    • Follow-up: Lower-income working mothers are the most in need of a national child care program, yet Trump’s plan provides the least amount of actual savings to the poor and working class because the benefit comes in the form of a tax deduction. Would you lobby Trump to change that benefit to a tax credit or find other ways to help working-class working moms?”
  • There is currently a retirement crisis in America. More than half of U.S. households ages 55 and up have no retirement savings, and those with retirement savings between the ages of 65 and 74 have what amounts to $649 a month in annuity income. Millions of Americans, therefore, rely on Social Security to fund the last third of their lives. But you said of cuts in Social Security in a 2010 interview, “I think everything has to be on the table.” Trump, meanwhile, has taken a dramatically different position on entitlements than you, promising to protect Social Security from cuts. Who is right when it comes to Social Security benefits: you or Trump?
  • Follow-up: Lower-income working mothers are the most in need of a national child care program, yet Trump’s plan provides the least amount of actual savings to the poor and working class because the benefit comes in the form of a tax deduction. Would you lobby Trump to change that benefit to a tax credit or find other ways to help working-class working moms?”

Questions for Kaine

  • In the past, you’ve described your support of global trade deals as “passionate.” You were one of 13 Democratic senators who voted to give President Barack Obama so-called fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You did at the time say that you would not vote for the trade pact if “there was no program to retrain workers who were affected by trade.” But one day before Clinton picked you as her nominee you said of the TPP: “I see much to like. I think it’s an upgrade of labor standards, I think it’s an upgrade of environmental standards. I think it’s an upgrade of intellectual property protections.” You now, like Clinton, oppose the TPP in its current form. Why should Americans trust your position on the trade deal when you and the head of your ticket have changed positions? What specific changes would you have to see in the TPP that would change your mind on labor standards and the environment? What do you say to businesses in Virginia and across the country who would benefit from the TPP by selling their products to consumers overseas?
  • You recently signed a letter asking regulators to ease up on banking rules, asking banking regulators to loosen the amount of capital that large regional banks, like Virginia-based Capital One, have to hold to reduce risk. You’ve also signed a letter asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect community banks and credit unions from “unintended consequences that negatively impact” their businesses as a result of CFPB rules. Given that the CFPB recently fined Wells Fargo nearly $200 million for scamming its own customers, do you really believe that those policing the nation’s financial institutions should lighten up? And given that banking scandals have dominated the past decade, and hurt millions of Americans, and that you’ve received significant campaign contributions for Wall Street, can Americans trust a Clinton administration to monitor illegal banking practices?
  • Of Social Security, you’ve written on your website: “As we negotiate a solution to our budget challenges, everything must be on the table, including spending cuts, revenues and entitlement reforms.” As we pointed out to Pence, tens of millions of Americans depend on Social Security for their retirement income, and millions more will in the coming decades. But much of the economic gains of the past seven years have gone to the wealthiest Americans, and these individuals have the means to employ lawyers to lower their tax burden. So is it fair to ask middle-class and low-income voters to endure reduced benefits?



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