Republican Debate Cheat Sheet – Re: the Economy

NOTE: The top-tier debate (10 candidates) will be broadcast live tonight from Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET on FOX News Channel. It will also be streamed live at FOXNews.com and on the Fox News app; both require a cable subscription login. The second-tier debate (seven candidates) will be broadcast the same way at 5 p.m. ET.

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According to recent polls, the three biggest problems facing the U.S. are 1) government; 2) the economy; 3) and unemployment. As for “government,” 75 percent of Americans are unhappy with Congress because they feel it’s out of touch with issues that are important to the average American. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – the wildly successful billionaire businessman that he is – gamely tapped into that mother lode of dissatisfaction, much of it having to do with how Congress is/is not handling the immigration issue. Subsequently, Trump has been building a stronger and stronger lead among the GOP pack of 17 contenders since launching his campaign at Trump Tower in June.

Fast forward to the first Republican debate in Cleveland, Ohio, tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena – where the Republican National Convention will be held July 2016. Because of his present first-place standing, Trump will be center stage. Only time will tell where he’ll be standing a year from now.

Most likely, a fair amount of the two-hour debate will be devoted to the country’s stalled economy and the candidates’ positions. Following, from top to bottom  according to an average of five national polls, are the 10 top-tier candidates who will debate prime time tonight. The remaining seven candidates — former Texas Governor Rick Perry; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum; Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; former New York Governor George Pataki; and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore — will have a chance to make their mark at what is being billed as “the happy hour debate.”

Donald Trump

Real estate magnate, estimated net worth of approximately $4 billion; he says he’s worth over $10 billion.

Trump has claimed he will bring back American jobs — “from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places” by placing big tariffs on foreign goods and negotiating better trade deals. To improve the plight of the American worker, he has supported two different minimum wages: one for teenagers (the current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour) and one for adults with families ($10.10/hour has been proposed; it could lift nearly 1 million out of poverty, but it could also cost half a million jobs).

Before moving on … just in case you’re wondering about those four bankruptcies Trump has filed: 1991, ’92, 2004, and ’09. After all, don’t those point to being financially irresponsible? All were corporate, not personal. Trump, in fact, has praised the benefits of bankruptcy and believes consumers could benefit from the practice. What if — to save your retirement funds — you filed for bankruptcy? According to Steve Rhode, the Get Out of Debt Guy, bankruptcy can be a smart and advantageous tool for people, by allowing them to move forward financially. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York agrees that people who file bankruptcy do better financially than those who don’t. Who knew? Maybe we can learn something from The Donald after all.

Jeb Bush

Former Florida governor; second son of former President George H. W. Bush. Jeb has been described as too liberal for his conservative Republican base.

He’s said working-class Americans would benefit from simplifying the tax code, overhauling immigration, embracing the country’s new energy sources, and improving the education system. Bush was recently criticized for saying “Americans want to work longer hours.” He clarified his remarks by explaining, “My aspiration for the country is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. We have to be a lot more productive; workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. People need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.” Sounds good, but how he’ll make that happen has yet to be explained … Maybe tonight?

Bush was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, and the state and its citizens thrived during that time; then, two years after he left office, it all went “bust.” The analysts are mixed about his record; the country’s and Florida’s economies were booming at the same time, and their economies were tanking at the same time. Times are different now.

Scott Walker

Governor of Wisconsin; an anti-union, conservative Republican.

Would the national economy improve under Walker? It’s hard to tell; his state’s data is mixed. Wisconsin lags in job growth and its budget faces a shortfall. However, since Walker’s been in office, the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.1 to 5 percent; a higher rate of new businesses have started (compared to the rest of the country); and, income growth for residents has exceeded the national average.

Ben Carson

Retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon; first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head.

Carson is for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era statute repealed in part at the end of President Bill Clinton’s administration. That repeal cleared the way for the merging of commercial and investment banks — i.e. allowing institutions that take customer deposits to become one with institutions that trade for profit — thus becoming mega-banks that have become “too big to fail.” This repeal has been cited as a factor in the economic crash of 2008. Additionally, Carson favors a flat tax rate, which could stimulate economic growth.

Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas governor; ordained Baptist minister. Also, Republican presidential candidate in 2008; former FOX News talk show host.

While Huckabee calls himself a fiscal conservative, conservatives call him “tax hike Mike.” He has promised to replace all federal taxes with a flat national sales tax on all purchases, yet conservative critics have said this would result in an enormous shift in tax burden from the wealthy to those with lower and middle incomes. Still, Huckabee believes he is the working-class candidate.

Ted Cruz

Junior U.S. senator from Texas; first (for both parties) to declare his candidacy, in March. Also, first Hispanic or Cuban American to serve in his position. AND, a Tea Partier. (But, don’t scroll away from him just yet.)

Tea Partiers are conservative Republicans who are angry and frustrated over the growth of government spending, taxation and regulation; they believe these are an affront to Americans’ personal liberties, as outlined in the Constitution. They specifically oppose federal taxes that hurt small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit of America. The Tea Party takes its name from the 1773 protests in Boston over “taxation without representation.” All sounds good, doesn’t it? I believe a majority of readers would be nodding in approval right now regarding these statements alone. However, Tea Partiers are totally out of sync with a majority of Americans who support Obamacare/Affordable Care Act.

Marco Rubio

Junior U.S. senator from Florida; former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Elected senator as a Tea Party favorite; has been trying to position himself as someone who represents a broad cross-section of the Republican Party.

Using his background as the son of a bartender and hotel maid to align himself with people who haven’t enjoyed the benefits of the economic recovery, Rubio proposes economic stimulation plans that would reduce corporate tax rates to 25 percent, curb federal regulations by putting a cap on how much they cost, and allow companies to bring overseas revenue back to the U.S. without an additional tax hit. He wants to give lower- and middle-income Americans access to the training and education needed to prosper in the 21st-century economy by “busting” the higher-education “cartel” dominated by “existing colleges and universities,” by expanding access to trade schools and for-profit colleges, and by making it easier for students to secure federally protected loans.

Rand Paul

Senator of Kentucky; medical doctor, ophthalmologist. Son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, Rand has described himself as a Constitutional conservative and a supporter of the Tea Party movement. He’s oftentimes called a Libertarian.

Paul’s vision is a single flat-tax rate of 17 percent. He advocates taxation on an individual for wages, salaries, and pension payments. However, investment income including capital gains, dividends, and interest would be tax-free for an individual. Those taxes would be levied on the business level. He would allow low- and middle-income workers to receive an exemption from the Social Security payroll tax, and he would also eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax; both of these target high-income earners. Along with these tax cuts, he proposes drastic decreases in federal spending. In past budget proposals to the Senate, Paul has called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy.

Chris Christie

Governor of New Jersey; former darling of the Republican Party. Keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Christie calls for comprehensive tax reform, including collapsing the current income-tax system into just three brackets rather than the current six. The top rate would be no higher than 28 percent while the bottom rate would be below 10 percent. He would eliminate or modify deductions, credited and targeted provisions in personal and corporate taxes to ensure that his plan is “revenue-neutral and doesn’t materially increase the deficit.” He would cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from the current 35 percent rate. His comprehensive energy strategy calls for constructing the Keystone XL pipeline, lifting the ban on crude-oil experts, and expanding research into new technologies. (Note: Regarding criticism about his state’s poor economy … New Jersey’s recovery since the recession has lagged the nation’s; the U.S. has recovered 132 percent of lost jobs, while New Jersey has recovered only 62 percent. Additionally, New Jersey is frequently ranked as one of the worst states in the country for doing business.)

John Kasich 

Governor of Ohio; has served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. A former commentator for FOX News; also, a former investment banker/managing director for Lehman Brothers’ Columbus, Ohio.

In contrast to New Jersey’s economy, Ohio’s is the strongest among the Great Lakes’ states — growing by 2.1 percent in 2014, making it the 18th best in the country. (The national economy’s growth was 2.2 percent in 2014.) Kasich, a former House Budget Committee chairman, helped produce the nation’s last balanced federal budget. Kasich plans to fix the U.S. economy by increasing business investment and lowering taxes. He wants to return U.S. corporate profits from overseas; he would increase business confidence in investing in the U.S. by changing expensing and depreciation to spur spending on factories and equipment. This, Kasich says, will help workers be more productive and improve wages. He has often talked about lowering income tax and even vowed to eliminate Ohio’s when he ran for governor in 2010. Kasich cut taxes in his last two budgets with the ultimate goal of phasing out the state income tax, a goal he has not yet reached.

Now, line up your beverages and snacks for “the happy hour debate” and settle in for the night!

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