The Republicans will take to the stage this evening for the fourth debate of the campaign. There will be two fewer candidates invited to participate in the prime time debate airing on the Fox Business Network, which should give the remaining participants additional time for indepth discussion and explanation of their policies. I hope to hear how they would address Washington's chronic over-spending problem, or the health care policy reforms they would implement as they call to repeal "ObamaCare."
What have we heard from the candidates so far?
During the three main stage Republican debates, NTU Foundation tracked the policy proposals offered by the candidates and, excluding Governor Scott Walker who suspended his campaign, identified 75 that could have an impact on spending. Among these are:
- 22 that could lead to spending increases. Per year, the costs range from $1 million to audit the Fed up to $47 billion to end the defense cuts from sequestration.*
- 18 that could lead to budgetary savings. Annual savings range from $75 million for criminal justice sentencing reform to $95 billion for repealing the so-called Affordable Care Act.
- 35 whose net impact on spending is indeterminate.
- For example, Governor Mike Huckabee has called to increase spending on health research but did not specify how much.
- Several candidates pushed tax reform, which could potentially reduce costs for tax enforcement.
- Another proposal to reform the way the budget is developed with the goal of making it easier to limit spending over the long-term, could increase short-term administrative costs in gathering and preparing data.
NTU Foundation added up the quantifiable cost and savings per year (over a five year budget window) of the candidates' debate proposals:
- Seven of the ten candidates offered policies that would lead to net spending reductions, ranging from $2 billion (Senator Rand Paul) to $98 billion (Senator Marco Rubio).
- The largest budget savers all called to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but viewers still need more details regarding alternative reforms that the Presidential hopefuls would implement to replace it.
- On net, three of the candidates' platforms in the debates would lead to net increases.
- Ben Carson has offered 5 spending-related polices, only two of which could be quantified for a net increase of $3.8 billion per year. He is the only candidate without any specific savings proposals in the Republican debates.
- Chris Christie's quantifiable debate proposals would increase spending by $9 billion per year. He has laid out ten different proposals ranging from increases in the military to savings for entitlement reform. However, if the entitlement reforms are implemented and maintained, the long-term savings would be significant.
- Carly Fiorina proposed several increases in defense spending during the second debate and one savings for a net cost of $43.8 billion. In the CNBC debate, she also vowed to shrink the size of government but did not specify which programs she would reduce.
*In the first debate, Governor Jeb Bush called to end the defense sequester cuts. The estimate for this has since been revised to take into account the defense increases included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.