Republican debate: the GOP candidates on the economy

October 11, 2011
From a multi-page document to a four-word summation, most Republican presidential contenders have a plan to fix the nation’s fiscal woes, Most of the plans focus on reducing taxes for both businesses and individuals.
MITT ROMNEY

As befitting a front-runner, Mitt Romney has one of the most detailed economic plans of any of the candidates, a 149-page document, “Believe in America,” that tackles everything from labor law to nuclear reactor permitting. Many of his proposals are standard Republican fare: He’d cut taxes for corporations (to 25 percent), extend Bush-era tax rates, and eliminate the estate tax. He would relax or repeal a number of regulations, push to bolster domestic energy production and has even proposed a multilateral free-trade agreement that he dubs the “Reagan Economic Zone.” In a few places, however, Romney has stood apart from his rivals. He has argued that targeted tariffs and economic sanctions against China may be appropriate in some cases, though he has insisted that he doesn’t want to start a trade war. And he has put forward a proposal for reforming unemployment insurance by giving jobless workers their own accounts that they could use for a variety of purposes. He has also been outspoken about the need to raise visa limits for highly skilled workers.

RICK PERRY

In announcing his candidacy for president, Rick Perry declared that “page one of any economic plan to get America working is to give a pink slip to the current residents in the White House.” Aside from that though, details on an economic plan have remained relatively sparse: the Texas governor has yet to release a formal proposal outlining the policies that he would pursue. His Web site includes five paragraphs on job creation that endorse “low taxes” and “reasonable regulations,” alongside six paragraphs running through fiscal responsibility. Perry has probably received the most economic attention this campaign for calling the Federal Reserve “almost treasonous” if it were to buy up more long-term Treasury debut to push interest rates down, a practice known as “quantitative easing.”

NEWT GINGRICH

Newt Gingrich released his “Jobs and Prosperity Plan” two days after launching his campaign for president. The policy goes big: It doesn’t just reduce capital gains taxes, it eliminates them altogether. Corporate tax rates get whittled down to 12.5 percent, a much lower target than those proposed by his competitors (Jon Huntsman, for example, proposes a 25 percent corporate tax rate). Gingrich’s plan also includes an optional flat tax of 15 percent for Americans who wish to file their taxes via a postcard, a move he contends would save “hundreds of billions in unnecessary costs each year.” Gingrich may, however, be best known not for his own ideas, but what he’s opposed: earlier this year, he infamously criticized House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget, particularly provisions to overhaul Medicare financing, as “radical change” and “too big a jump.”

MICHELE BACHMANN

“I don’t believe that the solutions to our problems come from Washington,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) says on her campaign Web site. And, indeed, most of her economic policies are aimed at reducing the size of government and slashing taxes. Bachmann has proposed cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent down to 9 percent, and zeroing out the capital gains tax, the alternative minimum tax, and the estate tax. She has also lamented the fact that 47 percent of all Americans pay no income tax and has suggested moving to a broad-based system that would get rid of all deductions. “I think everyone should have to pay something,” she told the Wall Street Journal. Bachmann has also, famously, promised to bring gas prices back down to $2 per gallon—the level they were at during the recession’s nadir—although she has not said how she would do that.

JON HUNTSMAN JR.

Jon Huntsman’s economic plan can be summed up in four words: Lower rates, broader base. The candidate’s 12-page jobs proposal, titled ‘A Time to Compete,’ has the customary denunciations of government red tape and the traditional calls for more domestic energy productions, but it’s tax reform that really gets Huntsman going. He calls for “a revenue-neutral plan that eliminates all deductions and credits in favor of three drastically lower rates of 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent.” And when Huntsman says “all,” he means “all”: no mortgage-interest deduction, no tax exclusion for employer-provided health care, no earned income tax credit, and he eliminates taxation of capital gains and dividend income entirely. With the possible exception of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, it’s the most radical reimagining of the tax code by any of the GOP candidates.

RON PAUL

A long-time opponent of the Federal Reserve, Ron Paul wants to audit and ultimately end the central bank, which he blames for devaluing the dollar and massively increasing the country’s debt burden. He advocates instead for a return to the gold standard. The Texas congressman would also abolish the income tax, the capital gains tax and the estate tax, as well as the IRS. He promises to veto any unbalanced budgets and refuses to raise the debt ceiling any further. Cutting military spending is also key for Paul: he would start by withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and closing military bases around the world. “We spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don’t need to be in, and we need to cut there,” he said during a primary debate last month.

RICK SANTORUM

For Rick Santorum, kick-starting American economy hinges on revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. That’s why he wants to zero out corporate taxes for manufacturers, in the hope that doing so would have a “multiplier effect on our entire economy.” Beyond that, Santorum has proposed abolishing all federal rules instituted during the Obama era and repealing corporate-oversight regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and last year’s Dodd-Frank law. After Herman Cain unveiled his “9-9-9” plan, Santorum joked that he had a “0-0-0” plan. On his campaign Web site, Santorum says that he’d like to crank government spending back to its “historical norm” of 18 percent of GDP (to put that in context, the level of government spending has never dipped below 32 percent since 1980).

HERMAN CAIN

Herman Cain is campaigning on what he calls a “9-9-9” plan to revitalize the economy by overhauling the tax system. First, he would impose a 9 percent flat tax on personal income, drop the corporate tax rate from the current rate of 35 percent to 9 percent, and create a 9 percent national sales tax. Cain would end the payroll tax for Social Security, the estate tax, and taxes on capital gains and repatriated corporate profits. He would eliminate most of the benefits and deductions in the current tax code for both businesses and individuals, while creating new deductions for those living and working in designated “Empowerment Zones.” Ultimately, Cain wants to transition the country to a “fair tax” system that would replace all federal taxes with a 23 percent national sales tax.

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