The stock market has been ricocheting since the summer. Third quarter earnings from corporate giants have been skidding downward, and business owners are concerned that we might be heading into another recession.
And in the nick of time, the economy is the stated topic of the third Republican presidential debate, to be hosted on CNBC on Wednesday evening in Boulder, Colorado.
As far as any substantive discussion of small businesses goes, the last GOP debate in mid-September left much to be desired, though altering the tax code and adopting a flat tax system, which affects businesses of all sizes, were hot topics. As the economy leads the agenda this time around, you can expect the candidates to invoke entrepreneurship as the engine driving the economy.
Here are five topics you can expect the candidates to address.
A number of the candidates, including Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump, have talked about reforming the tax code. In late September, Trump released a tax plan that would reduce taxes for the poorest, but also reform corporate taxes by putting into place a 15 percent cap. He'd also create a special rate for pass-through entities, including the millions of S-Corps, which currently pay taxes at a higher individual income tax rate. For his part, Carson has spoken about a biblical flat tax, one he refers to as a tithe, of 10 percent on all income. As for Bush, he would create three tax brackets at 10 percent, 25 percent, and topping out at 28 percent. Joint filers with an income of $38,600 or less and single filers with incomes under $15,300 would not pay taxes. He would also lower the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent and charge an 8.75 percent repatriation tax on assets held overseas.
2. The National Debt.
Carson has said in media interviews he'd tackle the national debt by refusing to increase budget spending, and through a gradual attrition of government workers across departments of between 3 and 4 percent annually. Kentucky senator Rand Paul has said he'd seek a balanced budget amendment, and that he'd also shrink spending, limiting it to only what comes in via tax revenue. Bush has said he'd streamline the national debt by cutting entitlements including Medicare and Social Security.
Bush would bump up the retirement age, and raise income cap thresholds for Social Security. He's also suggested phasing out Medicare. Ted Cruz has said he would similarly increase retirement age, and cut future payouts, and potentially privatize Social Security. Similarly, he'd increase the Medicare eligibility age and move to privatize the health care system for seniors. Carson has suggested he'd increase the retirement age. He has also indicated he would replace the current Medicaid system with health savings accounts. Trump opposes cuts to both Social Security and Medicare.
4. The Minimum Wage.
Carson has said he supports increasing the federal minimum, currently at $7.25 an hour, and indexing it to inflation. He has not said what level he'd raise it to. While Democratic candidate Vermont senator Bernie Sanders would go as high as $15, a number of Republican candidates say they favor only a small bump up in wages. Rick Santorum, for instance, suggested raising workers' hourly pay just 50 cents over the next three years.
It's part of the traditional Republican canon to say that too many federal and state regulations put the kibosh on business growth. Many, including Bush, will talk about the expense of the banking law known as Dodd-Frank, put into place after the lending excesses that led to the financial crisis. In addition to getting rid of the banking law, Bush has said he'd put a freeze on all new business regulations. Cruz, who also favors abolishing Dodd-Frank, has said he'd additionally jettison the newly formed watchdog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And he'd gut the Internal Revenue Service, too.
The debate will feature 14 candidates in two slots. The prime time slot, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, features the 10 top-polling candidates, including Trump and Carson. Others in the key time slot include Florida senator Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Bush, Texas senator Cruz, and former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina. In recent weeks, polling shows that Carson is beginning to edge out Trump among likely Republican Iowa caucus voters, with an October 22 Quinnipiac University poll showing Carson leading at 28 percent to Trump's 20 percent.
The so-called kids' table is for the lower polling candidates, those with support from less than 3 percent of likely Republican voters. Those contestants are former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, former New York State governor George Pataki, and South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.