Where the Democratic Presidential Candidates Stand on Economic Issues

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin OMalley wave to the crowd following a debate held at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., Nov. 6, 2015.PlayChris Keane/Reuters
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Details and dollar amounts mark the biggest differences between the Democratic presidential candidates when it comes to economic issues.

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As Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley prepare for ABC News' Democratic debate on Saturday night in New Hampshire, here is a review of where they stand.

Minimum Wage

All of the Democratic candidates support a minimum wage increase, though they don't agree on the specific amount. Clinton has said that she believes the minimum wage should be set to a $12 national standard, with exceptions in certain expensive cities like New York, where the cost of living is higher. In those areas, the minimum wage should be set at $15 per hour, she has said.

Sanders and O'Malley said that they believe the national minimum wage should be set at $15.

Sanders has taken steps to put that policy into motion as he introduced a bill in July that would call for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 nationally by 2020.


Here is another instance where the Democrats agree on one portion of an issue but differ in the details.

All of the candidates have said that they will raise taxes on the wealthy. Clinton and O'Malley have not specified how much they will tax the wealthy. At one point during the campaign, Sanders suggested that he may consider raising the top tax rate to 90 percent but he has since said that he would not be as extreme and has not come up with an exact number.

Clinton has not released her full tax plan, but said that she will not be raising taxes on the middle class, which she specifies is anyone making less than $250,000 per year.

Without providing a specific number, Sanders and O’Malley have said that taxes on the middle class may have to be raised a little. They both have expressed support of a payroll tax increase, which could help fund paid family and medical leave for workers. Clinton supports paid leave, but says she will fund it without raising middle class taxes and has suggested that she will pay for it using the increased tax revenues.

Sanders and O'Malley also agree on the need for a financial transaction tax, though Clinton has not commented. Sanders also plans to nearly double taxes on capital gains and dividends for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, as well as taxing offshore corporate income.

Social Security

All three Democratic candidates are opposed to privatizing Social Security or raising the qualification age and they all want to help increase the monthly payouts to certain beneficiaries, but the ways in which those increases would come and who they would go to differ by candidate.

Sanders and O’Malley have said that they will get the money to expand social security by lifting the cap on taxable income for people earning more than $250,000, and while Clinton opposed that idea in the 2008 campaign, she said this week that she is currently considering the move.

Clinton has said that increases from her potential plan would benefit the poorest Social Security recipients while Sanders said he hopes to use the funds in order to add $65 per month for average beneficiaries. O'Malley has said that he'd increase Social Security benefits for minimum wage and lower-income workers.

Wall Street Reform

The area with the most variety in the Democrats’ proposed changes is the way in which they have said they intend to reform Wall Street, even though they all agree that it needs to be fixed.

Sanders has said Clinton can’t effectively take on Wall Street because she takes money from them, but the former secretary of state has responded by saying that anyone who knows her knows she is not that easily influenced.

The fact that the two leading Democrats differ on their approaches to Wall Street is something of a pattern at this point, as then-Sen. Clinton voted for the financial bailout in 2008 and Sanders voted against it.

Sanders and O’Malley have suggested breaking up the big banks and while Clinton said she is not opposed to doing so, she has said that the focus should be on reining in the “shadow banking system” that exists among hedge funds and other large financial entities.

All three of the Democrats want to strengthen the Dodd-Frank laws governing financial markets, instill a financial transaction tax on high-speed trading, and slow the so-called revolving door between government and Wall Street.

One area where there is a clear split between Clinton and her male competitors is that Sanders and O’Malley want to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, a law first formed in the 1930s that mandated that commercial banking and investment banking must remain separate, while Clinton does not. The law was repealed during her husband’s administration.


All three candidates have released plans for infrastructure improvements, though they show a massive range in cost.

Sanders proposed investing $1 trillion over five years -- a move that he thinks will put at least 13 million Americans to work -- in an effort to rebuild roads, bridges, railways, airports and dams.

Clinton's plan costs $275 million over that same time period. She also wants to create a $25 billion national infrastructure bank.

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.