If you’ve been waiting for the Republican presidential candidates to address your small business concerns, last night was your night.
The fourth Republican debate, held in Milwaukee and hosted by Fox News, focused almost exclusively on the economy and issues critical to entrepreneurship. And despite the candidates' hyperbole and hysteria, which frequently painted Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as a liar intent on taking the U.S. down a path to the fiery hell of socialism, the prescription is quite simple, even if it is uncompromisingly radical:
Cut taxes so much and so deeply that the federal government can no longer function; eliminate any and all regulations that impinge on business; and let the free market do its thing without hindrance. “The secret sauce of America is innovation, and entrepreneurship; it is why we must cut our government down to size, and hold it accountable,” a stern and unsmiling Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Chief, said during her introductory remarks.
Here’s a look at their proposals.
1. Flat tax to the rescue.
Over the past few months, a steady stream of candidates from real estate mogul Donald Trump to Florida Senator Marco Rubio has released proposals to lower taxes, primarily through a flat tax. Last night candidates rehashed their stances. Ted Cruz, appealing to conservative religious voters said, “There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible, and not a one of them is as good.” He’d lower the corporate tax to 16 percent from its current top federal rate of 35 percent. He’d also abolish the estate tax and the IRS. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said again he would install a flat tax of between 10 percent and 15 percent for everyone regardless of income, based on a biblical tithing system. Fiorina would condense the entire tax code to just three pages from more than 70,000 pages today, she says. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul would cut both the corporate and individual tax rates to 14.5 percent. Most candidates said they would eliminate the payroll tax, and would close up all tax loopholes, but they would keep the mortgage interest deduction and deductions for charity.
2. Kill all regulations.
The message from Republican presidential hopefuls last night was that the only good regulation is a dead regulation. “On the regulatory side I think we need to repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress, every one of them,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said, as he tried to engage excitement in his flagging campaign. The other candidates had their own recipes. They’d gut key provisions from the Environmental Protection Agency, including the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Act. All would repeal the Dodd-Frank banking regulations, put into place after Wall Street abuses led to the financial crisis. And they’d push legislation, called the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, that would put Congress in charge of any new regulations, put forward by the executive branch, with an economic impact of $100 million or more. “We are in a global competition now,” Rubio said. “And we lose that competition because we have the highest business tax rate in the industrialized world, because we have regulations that continue to grow by the billions every single week.”
3. Let the free market reign.
The only government worth having is one that’s “so small you can barely see it,” Paul said, summing up the views of most of the candidates. A smaller government would necessarily mean a bigger private sector, with a proportionately greater influence on the economy, Bush said. He added that the U.S. would naturally get to a 4 percent economic growth rate if people didn’t rely on the government and its growing deficit. As for Trump, who said he opposes raising the minimum wage to the $15 an hour level that many Democrats favor, the free market should run with little input from the government. “People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum,” Trump said. Added Cruz: “If we get back to the free market principles and constitutional liberties that built this country, we can turn this country around.”