CNBC Hosts “Your Money, Your Vote” Republican Debate

Zane Placie, political correspondent

The Republican presidential candidates (except former Virginia senator Jim Gilmore) met once again for their third debate, this time hosted in Boulder, Colorado. The debate was to have an emphasis on the economy.

On tax reform, business mogul Donald Trump described his plan; “We’re reducing taxes to 15%, we’re bringing corporate taxes down, we’re bringing money back in…we have 2.5 trillion dollars outside the United States, which we want to bring back in.”

When asked about the deficit his plan would create, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson clarified that his flat tax plan would not feature a 10% tax, but rather a rate closer to 15%, and all deductions and loopholes would be eliminated. Says Carson, “We also have to do some strategic cutting in several places.  Remember, we have 645 Federal Agencies and sub-agencies.  Anybody who tells me that we need every penny in every one of those is in a fantasy world.”  He also stated that a reduction in regulations would stimulate the economy.

Ohio governor John Kasich said, “I’m the only person on this stage that actually was involved in the chief architect [sic] of balancing the federal budget. You can’t do it with empty promises; these plans [those of Trump and Carson] would put us trillions and trillions of dollars in debt…I’m the only one on this stage who has a plan that would create jobs, cut taxes, balance the budget, and I can get it done because I’m realistic.”  He highlighted the importance of dealing with entitlement and discretionary spending, and emphasized his record in Ohio of turning an 8 billion dollar deficit into a 2 billion dollar surplus, and creating 347,000 jobs.

Also, Texas senator Ted Cruz talked about his tax plan, saying, “It is a simple flat tax for individuals. A family of four pays nothing on the first $36,000; after that you pay 10% as a flat tax going up…on top of that, there is a business flat tax of 16%.  Now, that applies universally…the Tax Foundation…shows that this plan will allow the economy to generate 4.9 million jobs, to raise wages over 12%, and to generate 14% growth…Every single income decile sees a double-digit increase in after-tax income.”  His plan also eliminates the payroll tax.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina stated, “We now have a 73,000 page tax code. There have been more than 4,000 changes to the tax plan since 2001 alone…We have talked about tax reform in every single election for decades, and it never happens.”  She advocated for reducing the tax code to just three pages, saying, “Only if it’s about three pages are you leveling the playing field between the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected; who can hire the armies of lawyers and accountants and yes lobbyists to help them navigate their way through 73,000 pages.  Three pages is about the maximum that a single business owner, or a farmer, or just a couple can understand without hiring somebody.”

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul explained his opposition to the recently constructed federal budget deal; “I oppose it [the budget] because you’re taking money from the entitlements [such as Social Security] and then immediately spending it on other items….the deficit will explode under this. This is the unholy alliance that people need to know about, between right and left.  Right and left are spending us into oblivion.”  Paul emphasized that the United States is borrowing a million dollars a minute, and that continuing to do so will bankrupt the American people.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed out the problems with today’s economy, and also stressed his performance as governor; “More spending, more tax increasing, more regulation [as a result of the new budget deal], and now we have to accept 2%; the new normal for economic growth. And the net result is the middle class has $2300 less in their pockets since the day Barack Obama got elected President, and now Hillary Clinton is proposing a third term of [Obama’s] economic policy for our country.  We need to reverse that, and my record was one of cutting taxes each and every year.  You don’t have to guess about it because I actually have a record.  $19 billion dollars of tax cuts, 1.3 million jobs created, we were one of two states to go to AAA bond rating.”

On Social Security, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bluntly stated, “Let me be honest with the people who are watching at home. The government has lied to you, and they have stolen from you.  They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund.  All that’s in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs for money they’ve spent on something else a long time ago.  And they’ve stolen from you because now they now they cannot pay these benefits because Social Security is going to be insolvent in 7-8 years…71% of federal spending today is on entitlements and debt service…I’m the only person who has put out a detailed plan on how to deal with entitlements, and it will save a trillion dollars over the next ten years.”  He stated that the only way to save Social Security was to cut benefits for seniors who made more than $80,000 a year.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee disagreed, exclaiming, “It’s their [the citizen’s] money! It’s not the government’s money…This is money that people had confiscated out of their paychecks.  Every time they got a paycheck the government reached in and took something out of it before they ever saw it…People are sick of believing that the government is never going to really address this, but let me tell you who not to blame.  Let’s quit blaming the people on Social Security.  Let’s quit making it a problem for them…This is a matter not of math, this is a matter of morality.  If this country does not keep its promise to seniors, then what promise can this country hope to be trusted to keep?”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio remediated these two concerns, explaining, “They [the Democrats] are going to demagogue what we’re saying here tonight [about entitlement reform]…We’re all talking about reforms for future generations. Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries.  My mother’s on Medicare and Social Security.  I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.  So we’re talking about reforms for people like me…who are years away from retirement and have a way to plan for these changes, and in a way that’s very reasonable.”