Money's Great American Election Quiz
Think you've seen clearly through the campaign spin and political sideshows? Try this little test
(MONEY Magazine) – 1 Sure, Bush and Kerry have their differences, but they also have something in common: Their numbers don't add up. Draw a line connecting each candidate to the amount his proposals are likely to add to the national debt over 10 years.
BUSH $1.3 TRILLION
KERRY $1.3 TRILLION
Answer: No, that's not a typo. Kerry claims to be more fiscally responsible than the tax-cut-lovin' Bush, but independent analysis by the Washington Post suggests that Kerry's health-care reforms would make him as much of a budget-buster as his rival.
2 The federal budget deficit is expected to hit $422 billion this year—"the worst budget deficit in the history of the United States," says Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). True or false?
Answer: Trick question! True and false. The deficit's dollar amount will be the highest ever. But as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product (3.6%), it will be a lot less than the 6% it hit in 1983.
3 What percentage of the deficit is the result of Bush's various tax cuts?
A) 10% B) 30% C) More than half
4 Kerry says Bush is "the first president since Herbert Hoover"who didn't create a single new job." True, on a net jobs basis. But how does today's unemployment rate compare with the rate when Bill Clinton was re-elected in '96?
A) It's two percentage points higher B) It's one percentage point lower C) It's the same
Answer: C. It's 5.4% for both eras.
5 Does it pay for stock investors to bet on the incumbent?
A) Yes B) Yes, but... C) Only if the incumbent is a Republican
Answer: B. Markets cherish stability. Since 1945, Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has popped an average of 13% in the first year after an incumbent won a second term—and dropped 3% in the year after an incumbent's loss. But it also turns out that the market shines brighter on Dems: Since '45 the index has returned 10.7% annually under Democratic presidents and only 7.6% under Republican ones.
6 Which special-interest group gave the most to Democrats in 2004?
A) Hollywood bigwigs B) Defense contractors
Answer: B. Defense donations to Dems: $4.6 million (a third of the industry's total contributions). Film industry donations to Dems: $4.3 million (85% of its total).
7 Fed head Alan Greenspan argues that we may have to raise the retirement age further to protect Social Security from being overwhelmed by retiring baby boomers. Would Social Security's future multitrillion-dollar funding gap be filled if we all waited until we were as old as Greenspan to retire?
A) Yes, with cash to spare B) Yes, but just barely C) Not a chance
Answer: A. Greenspan will be 80 when his tenure as chairman ends in 2006. According to the American Academy of Actuaries, raising the retirement age to 72 would essentially erase the program's predicted shortfall. But how would we, as a nation, cope with millions and millions of supremely ticked-off septuagenarians?
SCORES: Give yourself one point for each correct answer—and no, the first two questions don't count.
ONE TO TWO POINTS: Stop watching those attack ads and start reading the papers.
THREE TO FOUR POINTS: Not bad. You're a B student in the Electoral College.
FIVE POINTS: Perfect! You understand the issues better than the candidates do. Why aren't you president? —DAVID FUTRELLE