Taxes, Obamacare, immigration topics at Republican presidential debates

press room
The Republican presidential debates took place Tuesday at the Milwaukee Theatre.

Taxes, Obamacare and immigration were some of the major topics addressed at Tuesday’s Republican presidential debates held at the Milwaukee Theatre, with candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina mostly taking center stage.

The two-hour primetime debate featured Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Cruz, Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rubio and Donald Trump. They are considered the top candidates, earning 2.5 percent or higher in the four most recent national polls.

The remaining candidates—Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum—tackled the issues in an earlier one-hour debate.

press room
The Republican presidential debates took place Tuesday at the Milwaukee Theatre.

Here is what the candidates had to say on some of the major topics:

Taxes and balancing the budget

Ohio Gov. Kasich said he has a plan that would lower taxes for individuals and businesses, so that the latter competes in the U.S. and not overseas.

“I have the only plan of anyone standing on this stage to get us to a balanced budget by the end of the second term,” he said. “My website shows exactly how to balance it… I balanced it in Washington as a chief architect and in Ohio.”

Texas Sen. Cruz said there are three steps the government needs to take to facilitate growth, the first of which is tax reform. A 10 percent flat tax would produce 4.9 million new jobs in a decade, he said. Second is regulatory reform, and third is what he called sound money.

“Every time we pursued all three of those whether in the ‘20s with (President Calvin) Coolidge or in the ‘60s with JFK (President John F. Kennedy) or in the ‘80s with (President Ronald) Reagan, the result has been incredible economic growth,” he said.

Former Florida Gov. Bush said he would offer an economic growth rate of 4 percent a year and the repeal of many of Obama’s rules. He said that former U.S. secretary of state and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton gives Obama’s policies an “A,” but one in 10 Americans are not working, one in 7 live in poverty, and one in five children are on food stamps.

“That may be the best Hillary Clinton can do, but it’s not the best America can do,” Bush said.

Businesswoman Fiorina, meanwhile, called for the need of zero-based budgeting to know where every dollar is being spent. She also cited the need to reform the tax code, to do a top-to-bottom review of every regulation on the books, to pass the REINS Act to put Congress in charge, and to hold government officials accountable for their performances.

“All this has to be done,” she said. “We must take our government back.”

Florida Sen. Rubio listed the need for tax reform, the utilization of energy resources, the modernization of higher education, and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson asserted Americans should pay the same proportion of what they make.

“You make $10 billion, you pay $1 billion. You make $10, you pay $1,” he said. “You get the same rights and privileges. I don’t see how anything gets a whole lot fairer than that.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he has developed three budgets, all of which balance. Among his plans are to replace the income and payroll taxes with a 14.5 percent flat tax and a “penny plan” that would cut 1 percent across the board.

Fiorina said she would repeal and replace Obamacare with the free market, something she says the U.S. has never tried in health insurance. Health care providers need to publish costs and other outcomes so consumers can more wisely shop for their health insurance, and states need to be allowed to manage their own high-risk pools, she said.

Fiorina, a cancer survivor, went on to say that the “secret sauce” of America is innovation and entrepreneurship, but those elements are being crushed by complex tax codes and regulations.

Louisiana Gov. Jindal also said he would repeal Obamacare, and calls himself the only candidate who has a detailed plan to replace and repeal it.

“My plan puts America’s patients and doctors back in control,” he said.

New Jersey Gov. Christie said he guarantees Clinton would move to a single payer system.

“We need someone who knows how to beat Democrats,” Christie said. “I did twice as governor of New Jersey.”

Immigration reform

“We are a country of laws. We need borders,” said businessman Trump. “We will have a wall, a wall will be built, and the wall will be successful…We will have to send people out.”

Kasich, who said he believes in controlling the border, interjected to say that it is unrealistic to ship 11 million illegal immigrants back to Mexico, as well as unfair to their families.

“If they’re law-abiding, they pay a penalty and get to stay,” he said, citing that Reagan made the same statement in 1986.

Trump shot back to say that President Dwight Eisenhower successfully moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of the U.S.

“Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer; you don’t get friendlier,” Trump said. “He moved 1.5 million people out. We have no choice. We have no choice.”

Trump added allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. is “very unfair” to all those who are waiting to enter the country legally.

Like Kasich, Bush said it is not possible to send back all the illegal immigrants. He also said that notion does not embrace American values. Instead, illegal immigrants should follow a “proper path” of earning legal status by doing such things as paying a penalty and learning English.

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum discussed how to strengthen the manufacturing industry during the earlier debate.

According to a moderator, 120,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last 15 years.

Huckabee said the only reason why the economy is moving away from manufacturing is because the tax code is punishing the industry. The FairTax should be passed, he said, because it lowers everyone’s tax rates and it would bring trillions of dollars in offshore investment and manufacturing back to the U.S.

He said the FairTax would bring jobs back from Mexico, China, Indonesia and other foreign countries.

Santorum added that there are 250,000 open welder jobs in America paying from $50,000 to $70,000 a year. He said every manufacturer he visits has open positions at all skill levels, but the employers cannot find qualified people. Therefore, he proposes a 20 percent flat tax, the suspension of Obama regulations, and an improvement in training.

“People need to go to work, and we need to provide opportunities for people to go to work after high school,” Santorum said.

Minimum wage
As protesters gathered outside near the Milwaukee Theatre advocating for raising the minimum wage to $15, Trump and Carson said they would not raise it.

Trump said the U.S.’s taxes and wages are too high and increasing the minimum wage would not allow the U.S. to compete with the rest of the world. Carson said every time the minimum wage is increased the number of jobless people also increases, especially in the black community, where he says 19.8 percent of black teenagers have jobs.

As a working teenager, Carson said he gained a tremendous amount of experience and learned how to become a responsible individual and to ascend the ladder of opportunity.

“That’s what we need to be thinking about,” he said. “How to ascend the ladder rather than give them everything and keep them dependent. I would not raise (the minimum wage). I’m more interested in making sure they can enter the job market and have job opportunities.”

Rubio added that the best way to raise wages is to make America the best place to start and expand businesses. To bring debt under control, Rubio said the U.S. needs to use energy resources to reinvigorate manufacturing, repeal Obamacare, and make higher education easier to access.

Closing statements
At the end of the primetime debate, Paul wrapped up by saying that in the U.S. “we borrow a million dollars a minute,” and he is the only fiscal conservative on the stage.

Kasich said he worries for the future of his children if Clinton or Democratic candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders win the election. He said taxes need lowered, regulations must be reduced, and power and influence should be shifted from government officials to citizens.

Fiorina said if Clinton wins the military will continue to deteriorate, veterans will not be cared for, the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and the middle class will continue to get crushed.

“What’s worse is a Clinton presidency will corrode the character of the nation,” she said. “I will beat Hillary Clinton and restore the character and prosperity of the nation.”

Bush said, “We don’t need an agitator-in-chief or a divider-in-chief. We need a commander-in-chief.”

Cruz said his father fled Cuba 58 years ago, leaving behind oppression and torture for the progress of America.

“We are all the children of those who risked everything for freedom,” he said. “America is in crisis now. If we go back to free market principles, we can turn this country around.”

Rubio said this election is all about making a difference choice. Washington, D.C. is out of touch due to the fault of both parties, but it is not too late for the 21st century to be a new one.

In the two hours of the debate, Carson said five people died from drug-related deaths, $100 million was added to the national debt, 200 babies were killed by abortionists, and two veterans took their lives out of despair. He said so many things need changed, and citizens must embrace what is special about the nation and not give it away for the sake of political corruptness.

Lastly, Trump said he is responsible for creating tens of thousands of jobs, and he is self-funding his own campaign.

“I want to do something really special and make this country greater than it’s ever been,” he said. “We will fight. We will win.”

In the earlier debate, Jindal concluded by saying he is the only candidate who is capable of cutting the size of the government, while Santorum emphasized that his campaign is all about working families and giving them opportunities.

Huckabee said the election is not about him or the other candidates but about the people, and Christie called out Clinton’s recent remark that Republicans are her greatest enemy when there are bigger enemies like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

To view a photo gallery of the candidates, click here.

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