Commentary

Questions for Tonight's Debate: Is Consumption Tax Better Than Income Tax?...

By Adam Brandon | November 10, 2015 | 11:00am EST
CNBC debate moderators. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Following the sham that was the CNBC debate, and the Republican reaction to it, Fox Business has a mandate to conduct a debate that actually serves voters by helping them distinguish the candidates from one another and decide who would be most qualified to lead this country for the next four years.

This provides an opportunity to ask questions that are tough, but substantive, focusing on policy rather than personality, and staying well away from partisan attacks designed to damage the candidates rather than inform the public. The purpose of debates, after all, is to help voters decide, not advance the viewpoint of the moderators or regurgitate tired talking points.

With that in mind, here are three policy areas that deserve to be explored in greater depth.

Tax Reform

By now, several candidates have released their tax plans with varying degrees of conservatism, as well as varying degrees of realism. The voters deserve a more in-depth discussion of what sort of taxes they could expect to pay under each candidate’s presidency.

Is a consumption tax preferable to an income tax and why? For the flat taxers, how did they arrive at their chosen rate, and how will they address the revenue impact? Which deductions should be preserved, and why? It would be particularly interesting to hear how candidates proposing a zero percent tax rates on the low-income Americans respond to the argument that it’s important that everyone have some skin in the game, so that they see the cost of government benefits before voting for them.

It’s great that so many candidates are talking about major tax reform proposals, but now it’s time to dispense with the generalities and drill down into specifics, so we can see who is actually serious, and who is just offering red meat to conservatives.

Spending Reform

The national debt is over $18 trillion, and increasing every day. In ten years, interest on the debt alone will exceed spending on national defense. If interest rates, which are currently at historically low levels, start to climb, the spending scenario immediately becomes a lot scarier.

We have to address spending, and it’s impossible to do that without entitlement reform. Social Security has historically been the “third rail” in American politics, but with the trust fund projected to run out of money within the next twenty years, the time for procrastination is over. The candidates need to explain, specifically, what they would do to rein in spending, and that means more than just vaguely citing “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Regulatory Reform

The regulatory state has been described as “the fourth branch of government,” in which unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats make decisions that seriously impact the lives of American citizens and business owners. New innovations like the mobile app market and the sharing economy have the promise to greatly improve our economy and standards of living, but already government regulators have descended upon these fledgling industries in an effort to impose draconian rules.

The candidates need to address what they will do to roll back the power of regulatory agencies, which operate largely on autopilot independent of the chief executive. Several of the candidates were cosponsors of the REINS Act, which would have required a congressional vote on all major regulations. Now, they need to articulate how they will bring that same sense of reform to the White House.

The truth is, Americans are still struggling in an economy with too little freedom and too little growth. It remains difficult to find a good job, and more difficult still to start a new business. Taxes and spending are too high, and regulations too cumbersome, and the result is an economy held back from its true potential. What I want to hear on Tuesday night is how the candidates plan to unleash a pro-growth agenda that will once again restore the American economy to its rightful places as the envy of the world.

Adam Brandon is the President and CEO of FreedomWorks.

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