Questions for Tonight’s Republican Debate, Part II

November 28, 2007

We already posted some questions that we would like to see for tonight’s Republican debate. But here are a few more questions (somewhat more adversarial), specifically designed for each of the top Republican candidates.

Senator Thompson and Mayor Giuliani, you have each suggested tax proposals that would create an optional flat tax to parallel the current income tax system. What spending would you cut to finance such a tax cut, and wouldn’t this proposal actually increase tax complexity as everyone would now have to calculate their tax bills twice? Or would you have a provision whereby once someone switched to the flat tax, he/she could never go back to the old tax system?

Governor Huckabee, you are an advocate for the FairTax, which is a proposal to eliminate all federal taxes and replace them with a single national retail sales tax. Its advocates argue that the IRS would be eliminated. But among the FairTax’s provisions is a prebate that would have the federal government send every family a check based upon its family size. (This is designed to make such a tax switch less regressive.) What government agency would administer this prebate since the IRS is going to be eliminated? Would it be a new government agency or a current agency like SSA or HHS?

Congressman Paul, you have said that you seek to eliminate the federal income tax by cutting spending back to where it was about a decade ago, citing the fact that the government raises enough non-income tax revenue to finance such a spending level. However, that era experienced rather large surpluses in Social Security and Medicare, which are set to go away in the near future. Realistically, how would you fund even the smaller government you envision in the future by eliminating the federal income tax? Would you raise tariffs, increase excise taxes, or do something else?

Senator McCain, in the past, you have supported raising cigarette taxes to deter smoking. In your opinion, what would be the optimal per pack cigarette tax rate? And if your goal is to cut smoking rates, why not just ban cigarettes?

Govenor Romney, you have claimed that you did not raise taxes while governor of Massachusetts. But you did raise special fees on selected groups of people like golfers and boaters. What do you see is the difference between raising revenue via traditional taxes and increasing revenue via special fees on arbitrarily selected groups?

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