Trump made a good showing in Iowa, but he is clearly not in the same league as Cruz or Rubio on the issues.
As the primary season begins, how do the serious GOP candidates shape up? The conventional wisdom hasn’t been right about much this political season, but it is probably accurate when it says that there were three tickets out of Monday’s Iowa caucuses on the Republican side.
Other candidates will limp on for a while, driven by a combination of ego and Super PAC money, but, for all intents and purposes, this now looks like a three-way race: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
We can expect much of the commentary between now and New Hampshire next Tuesday to focus on the nuts and bolts of the campaigns, why some candidates over- or under-performed expectations, and what it likely means for next time. But elections are ultimately about policies. So, with the field effectively narrowed, it is worth looking at where the candidates stand on the key issues.
Taxes and Spending:
All three Republican candidates have proposed significant tax cuts. That shouldn’t be surprising. As Grover Norquist once put it, Republicans were put on earth to cut taxes.
Trump offers the biggest cut, a phenomenal $10 trillion reduction over ten years.
Rubio’s is smaller and probably more realistic, a net reduction of $2.4 trillion.
Cruz offers the most detailed proposal for tax reform, applying a flat tax on individual income and doing away with most deductions. However, some have criticized Cruz’s plan for essentially incorporating a VAT. His plan would amount to a $768 billion net cut.
The candidates have not been so forthcoming, however, when it comes to spending cuts.
As Cruz himself said at a debate in November, “It’s easy for everyone to say, ‘Cut spending.’ It’s much harder and riskier to put out, chapter and verse, specifically the programs you would cut to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids.”
Both Rubio and Cruz have been open to entitlement reform. Both, for instance, support introducing Paul Ryan–style premium support for Medicare and returning Medicaid to the states as a block grant.
On Social Security, Rubio would raise the retirement age and reduce the growth of benefits for higher-income people, while increasing benefits for the poorest retirees.
Cruz would also increase the retirement age and change benefit indexation, but, in addition, he would allow younger workers to save a portion of their payroll taxes in personal accounts.
Trump opposes any substantial changes to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.
All three candidates would repeal Obamacare, although Trump would replace it with some sort of vaguely defined universal coverage.
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Source: Republicans after Iowa