Candidates discuss tax reform, military spending, and immigration


Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate—hosted by Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal and held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—featured the leading eight candidates for the GOP nomination. The debate focused on a number of issues regarding the current state of the U.S. economy. Each of the following candidates in this latest debate met the minimum 2.5 percent polling cutoff: Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. The debate focused heavily on tax reform but touched on topics such as immigration, terrorism, job creation and foreign policy.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to discuss his or her specific plan for tax reform. Carson defended his plan, similar to a tithe, by explaining that it is based upon the concept of proportionality. According to Carson, the plan could be paid for by eliminating all deductions and loopholes in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) current tax code.

Cruz and Bush echoed Carson’s contempt for the complexity of the current tax code. Cruz even argued he would abolish the IRS completely. Cruz’s tax reform plan includes a simple, ten-percent flat tax across the board after the first $36,000, which would not be taxed. He also proposed a 16-percent business flat tax, which is border adjustable, making exports tax-free.

Rubio highlighted a different aspect of tax reform, calling for a pro-family tax code. He plans to increase the child tax credit in an effort to strengthen the family, which he called “the most important institution in the country.” Paul criticized Rubio on tax reform, insisting that his plan was not conservative because it promotes what he referred to as “transfer payments.”

On immigration, the consensus was to secure the border, but candidates disagreed about the correct policy regarding illegal immigrants already present in the country. Trump insisted, as he has in the past, that illegal immigrants must be deported in hopes that they will find their way back to the United States legally.

Bush and Kasich challenged Trump on the issue, insisting that it is unrealistic and misrepresentative of American values to send 11 million immigrants back across the border. As an alternative, they suggested requiring illegal immigrants already living in this country pay a fine to earn legal status, a plan they likened to Reagan administration’s response during a similar immigration crisis.

Cruz closed the immigration section of the debate by forcefully noting that it is not compassionate to open the borders and that securing the borders is neither offensive nor anti-immigrant. He pointed out that every sovereign nation enforces its borders, and we can embrace legal immigration while still enforcing our laws.

The candidates next discussed the issue of American security. All agreed that Islamic extremists posed the greatest threat to American security and global stability. Bush criticized the Obama administration for its weak leadership in the Middle East, saying, “This president doesn’t believe in American leadership, and we are paying the price.”

Bush pointed out that when we pull out of the Middle East, voids are filled, as the latest void was, with the emergence of ISIS. He called for a no-fly zone in Syria as well as a safe-zone so Christian refugees aren’t forced to leave Syria and relocate to Europe.

Fiorina reiterated the need for a no-fly zone in Syria and condemned the Obama administration for failing to help our allies in the Middle East saying, “They need leadership, support, and resolve from America.”

Paul disagreed with the idea of a no-fly zone in Syria, asserting that it would require the United States to be willing to shoot down the Russian planes flying over Syria with permission from Iran. Paul took an isolationist stance by suggesting the United States can be strong without being involved in every civil war.

Carson was then given the opportunity to respond to the recent media attacks. He quipped, “Thank you for not asking me what I said in the tenth grade.” Carson clarified, “The fact of the matter is … we should vet all candidates. I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth.” He pointed out what he perceives as inequality in media scrutiny, highlighting the lack of coverage of Clinton’s Benghazi scandal in contrast to skepticism over his résumé.

Though there were no particularly outstanding performances at Tuesday’s debate, it will be interesting to see its effect on the continuously shifting voter opinion, as both Rubio and Carson are rising steadily in the polls. As the primary elections draw near, many voters expect candidates to continue to differentiate themselves from one another, and they will again have the opportunity when they next debate on December 15 in Nevada.

Keenan White is a freshman living in Ryan Hall. Contact her at