Before GOP debate, events focus on economy and tax policy

Kelly Sloan
Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

While the latest debate among Republican presidential candidates attracted the most attention in Boulder, several events leading up to the debate focused on economic and tax issues.

The American Enterprise Institute sponsored a panel discussion titled “Your Money, Your Vote: The Biggest Economic Challenges Facing Republican Candidates and the Nation.” The panel featured Michael Strain, AEI resident scholar and economics columnist; Ali Velshi, host of “Real Money” on Al Jazeera America; and Jeffery Zax, economics professor at the University of Colorado. James Pethokoukis, a columnist and blogger with AEI, moderated the event.

The discussion began with a review of the good and bad of the economy, including monthly payroll gains, but also slow wage growth and overall economic growth. The panelists then explored such trends as the retirement of the baby boom generation and whether or not Republican policies address those trends.

While there’s general agreement the tax system should be reformed, Velchi said the issue is more of a legislative than executive one. “What is important is not what one person or another should pay, but how to get that done.”

As for individual positions among GOP presidential candidates on tax policies, Strain said their approaches vary. “Some want to increase rewards for saving and investment, which we know is an important driver of economic growth, which the current tax code discourages. Others want to adjust the marginal rate and others want to reduce the corporate rate, which is a serious issue which economists from the left and right agree on, given how high our corporate rate is.”

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky and GOP presidential candidate, met with CU students and fielded questions about his own tax policies and positions on energy issues and student loan relief.

Paul supports a single tax bracket of 14.5 percent applied to all personal income and the elimination of most deductions and credits along with corporate, payroll and alternative minimum tax. Asked about his position on government relief of student loan debt, Paul said there are visible and hidden costs. “Someone always pays.”

The National Taxpayers Union hosted an event that focused on tax policy and tax reform. Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio talk show host, moderated a panel that included State Sen. Mark Scheffel, a Republican from Parker who serves as majority leader in the Colorado Senate; Pete Sepp, president of the NTU; Kevin Madden of Hamilton Place Strategies, and Kyle Pomerleau, director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation.

“Taxation is one of the most important issues facing Colorado families and small business owners,” Scheffel said. “The tax code has become so complicated that compliance costs are eating up millions of dollars a year and taking up more and more of the budgets and resources of small businesses — money and resources that should be going into growing and investing in their companies.”

Sepp said, “Our panel discussion ‘Tonight’s Debate: What Would Taxpayers Ask?’ was exactly the kind of honest conversation that needs to happen on the stage of every debate this election cycle. As the candidates try to convince voters who the grown-up on the stage is, they should remember that the people they’re talking to, the ones who pay government’s bills, have grown-up problems to face and overcome every day. And these taxpaying adults aren’t afraid to converse about those problems intelligently.

“We need a president that will cut spending and reduce individual and business taxes,” Sepp added. “Every candidate needs to explain how they actually plan on letting taxpayers keep more of their paycheck.”