Republican presidential candidates tackled job growth, taxes and the U.S. economy in the FOX Business Network/Wall Street Journal debate.
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The debate began with a discussion on the minimum wage given the news on Tuesday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised the floor to $15 an hour for public employees in the state. Real-estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, the two leaders in the polls, both argued against increasing the minimum wage.
“If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio took a different stance, noting that his state approved a moderate increase to its minimum wage.
“Economic theory is fine, but people need help,” Kasich said. “When you balance the budget and cut taxes, people get to work.”
Job Growth vs Wages
Jobs also came into focus with several GOP candidates pushing for tax reform as a method of spurring growth. According to the Labor Department, the U.S. added 271,000 jobs in October, much more than expected, and wages edged 2.5% higher, the best mark since 2009. However, wage growth has been stubbornly low, while the labor force participation rate remains at its lowest point since 1977.
“For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers,” Sen. Rubio said.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said his plan for a flat tax of 10% for all Americans “would produce booming growth and 4.9 million new jobs within a decade.”
“There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible, and not one of them is as good,” Cruz added.
Tax Plans in Focus
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush highlighted how “jobs are being created, but they are lower income jobs then the jobs that were lost.” Bush also argued for a 20% corporate tax rate, or five percentage points below China’s rate.
“The secret sauce of America is innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s crushed by the crushing load of a 73,000-page tax code,” former Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina said.
The conversation turned to a debate between Florida Sen. Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who criticized his fellow Senator for supporting the child tax credit. Paul characterized the deduction as a way of “giving people money they didn’t pay.” Rubio said the credit gives money back to taxpayers.
“I have a pro-family tax code, and it will strengthen the most important institution in the country and that’s the family,” Rubio responded.
Trump stepped in amid the disagreement supporting Republican plans as a whole. “Each one of those tax plans is better than the mess we have now,” Trump said.
Perhaps the most heated moment of the debate was sparked by a question on immigration. Trump argued in favor of deporting people who entered the country illegally.
“We are a country of laws,” Trump said. “We have no choice if we are going to run our country properly.”
Gov. Kasich fired back, calling Trump’s position “silly.” He argued that illegal immigrants already in the U.S. cannot be deported. “If people think that we are going to ship 11 million people who are law abiding, who are in this country, and somehow pick them up at their house and ship them to Mexico… Think about the families, think about the children,” he said.
“I have built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars. I don’t have to hear from this man,” Trump responded.
During the back-and-forth, Trump suggested that Bush should enter the fray. “You should let Jeb speak,” he remarked.
“Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate,” Bush said. “That’s really nice of you. I really appreciate that. What a generous man you are.”