The Presidential Debates: What Do YOU Want to Hear?

Presidential debates
For months, presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have honed their political messages in debates and rallies, speeches and press conferences. But while the candidates and their political operative have both been quick to criticize the opposite side, they still haven't gone head to head on the public stage. Starting Wednesday, October 3, however, that will change, as the two will meet at the University of Denver in the first of three public debates. The focus of Wednesday's face-off will be the economy.

Presidential debates tend to be fluffy bits of political theater, full of sound and fury but promising little in terms of new policies or talking points. But for all their shortcomings, they are also among the most dramatic parts of an election season, moments when voters get to see the two halves of their ballot face each other across a stage and put their competing visions on the table.

So the question is, what do you hope to hear in Wednesday's debate? Do you want to hear the candidates talk about jobs or real estate, taxes or healthcare? Do you hope to hear about new plans for averting the fiscal cliff or funding education or revitalizing America's infrastructure? When the candidates speak, is there anything that they can say that will seal your vote, or have you already made your choice? In short, do the debates matter to you?

If you have any strong feelings or concerns about the debates, let us know! E-mail me your comments at, or respond in the comment section below. As we continue to write on this topic, we may include your thoughts in a future DailyFinance, AOL Jobs or AOL Real Estate story!

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Pop Quiz: Who Are the 47% -- And How Much Do They REALLY Pay?
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The Presidential Debates: What Do YOU Want to Hear?

A. 46%
B. 32%
C. 18%
D. 10%

Most tax filers pay payroll taxes like Social Security and Medicare. In fact, only 18.1% don't send anything to the Federal government. Of these, almost 57% are elderly, and don't bring home a regular paycheck.

A. 1.2 million
B. 162,000
C. 53,000
D. 2,000

More than 162,000 people who are among the top 10% of all earners -- basically, those who make over $163,173 -- didn't pay any federal income tax in 2011. Among the top 0.1% of filers -- the richest households in the country -- 3,000 (2.3% of them) didn't pay income tax in 2011.

A. Red states
B. Blue states
C. They're about equally distributed

Of the 20 states with the highest percentage of non-income tax-paying filers, twelve are firmly in the red camp. On the opposite end of the spectrum, just three of the 20 lowest-percentage states skew red.

A. 41%
B. 37%
C. 23%
D. 12%

In terms of total effective tax rate -- the total percentage of income that a taxpayer sends to the federal government, from excise taxes, corporate taxes, payroll taxes, and other levies -- the poorest fifth of Americans pays an average of 17.4%. The top 1% pays 29%, so they pay 11.6% more than the poorest 20%.

A. 67%
B. 51%
C. 34%
D. 19%

The top 20% of taxpayers pay 63.1% of all taxes and take home 59.6% of all income. In fact, all income groups pay a percentage of the total federal tax revenue that is almost equal to the percentage of America's income that they take home.

A. The bottom 20% of earners 

B. The top 1% of earners

While state taxes vary depending on where you live, every state hits the working class harder than the top 1%. The best state is Vermont, where the richest 1% pay 7.5% of their income and the poorest 20% pay 8.2% -- or 1.1 times as much. The worst state is Washington, where the richest pay a measly 2.6% of their income and the poorest pay a staggering 17.3% -- or 6.7 times as much.

A. 20%
B. 13%
C. 7%
D. 1%

In terms of total effective tax rate -- the actual percentage of income paid into taxes, accounting for all credits, exemptions, deductions, and so forth -- the richest 1% of the country pays 29% of its income. The middle 20% pays 28.3%, or 0.7% less. For that matter, it's worth noting that the poorest 20%, the group least likely to pay federal income tax, still sends 17.4% of its wages to the taxman.

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