As the stage is set for the third Republican debate tonight in Boulder, Colo., here’s a look at where the top polling candidates stand on a few issues that are closely tied to you and your wallet: taxes, Social Security and healthcare.
Donald Trump: Just in case you don’t have a spare 30 minutes to brush up on Trump’s tax plan, here’s the Reader’s Digest version: He wants to establish four tax brackets instead of the current seven, with rates of 0%, 10%, 20% and 25%. The top rate is reserved for single filers earning over $150,000 and joint filers earning over $300,000. (The lowest tax rate is now 10% and the top rate is 39.6%.)
Jeb Bush: Bush’s tax plan would whittle the current seven tax brackets down to three. The tax rates would be 10%, 25% and 28%, with the highest bracket reserved for singles earning $97,751 and up and married couples earning $163,801 and up. He would also double the earned income tax credit for childless workers and cap the amount of tax deductions filers can claim at 2% of an individual’s adjusted gross income (to see his plan for corporate taxes, check out Nicole Sinclair’s breakdown here).
Ben Carson: Carson is calling for a flat tax rate of 10% to 15% (whether rich or poor, everyone pays the same) but hasn’t laid out a detailed plan yet or explained how the government would make up for the lost tax revenue.
Marco Rubio: Like Bush, Rubio’s tax plan would knock seven tax brackets down to three, although at different rates — 15%, 25% and 35%, with the top rate reserved for single filers earning over $150,000 and joint filers earning over $300,000. He’d eliminate the “marriage penalty”, which occurs when a couple’s combined income results in higher taxes, and the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax model that was implemented to prevent wealthy people and businesses from avoiding taxes. Rubio also wants to reduce the existing higher education tax credit options to one universal $2,500 tax credit for the first four years of postsecondary education. Like Carson, he’s short on details about how much this tax plan would cost.
Carly Fiorina: We’ll be watching Fiorina closely tonight to see if she has come up with a tax proposal. In interviews and on her website, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO has pretty much avoided the question, calling attention to the fact that candidates talk a lot about tax reform but rarely accomplish it. She has said that the current tax plan, some 70,000 pages long, should be reduced to three pages.
Trump: Trump has waffled a bit on his views on Medicare, telling one interviewer he thinks it’s working fine and another that he’d rather replace the system with health savings accounts. So far he hasn’t released a detailed plan.
Carson: Carson has faced criticism over his “confusing” healthcare proposal, which he originally said would replace Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid with annual $2,000 allowances the government would dole out to consumers (the average American’s health care costs more than $9,200 every year, the New York Times notes). Carson has said in recent interviews and in a Facebook post he has no intention of doing away with Medicare or Medicaid, however. We’ll see if he clears things up tonight.
Bush: Bush released his plans to reform Medicare in time for tonight’s debate. His plan would rely on a system of subsidies reserved for seniors they could use to cover treatment from private insurers or as a lighter version of Medicare. He’d also create a tax-free health savings account for seniors to cover out-of-pocket expenses. There would also be a tax credit for Americans to purchase “affordable, portable health plans that protect Americans from high-cost medical events” and increase contribution limits for HSAs (currently $3,350 for an individual and $6,650 for a family).
Rubio: Rubio’s stance on Medicare is similar to Bush’s. He would focus on delivering a “generous but fixed” amount of cash to seniors to purchase health coverage, either from Medicare or from private insurers. He has also called for the repeal of Obamacare.
Fiorina: Fiorina has also said Obamacare should be repealed. Instead, she supports federal subsidies for state-run insurance programs. She’ll have a chance to detail her plans during tonight’s debate.
Trump: Trump has railed against the idea of cutting Social Security benefits or raising the retirement age. At a recent event he said, “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of a sudden, they want to be cut.”
Carson: Carson has been somewhat mum on Social Security so far, but he agrees with other candidates’ plans to gradually raise the full retirement age for those currently under 55, which is 66.
Rubio: Rubio says he wouldn’t make any changes to Social Security benefits for people near or in retirement, but he supports gradually increasing the retirement age for future retirees to match rising life expectancy. He’d also reduce benefits for higher-income seniors.
Bush: Bush would gradually increase the retirement age by one month every year beginning in 2022. By 2058, full retirement age would be 70, compared to 67 today. He says he would reduce Social Security benefits for high-income earners who have presumably been able to save enough for retirement. He’d also abolish the 6.2% payroll tax for seniors who continue working past age 67. On a related retirement note, the former Florida governor has called for more retirement plan options for small business workers. He’d create a “starter 401(k)” plan for these employees, where they could save part of their salary.
Fiorina: Fiorina has offered no details that address concerns over Social Security, other than to say, “I think there are loads of great ideas on how to make Social Security more financially solvent. I do not think there is a prayer of implementing a single one until you get a leader in the Oval Office who’s prepared to challenge the status quo.”