The Debate’s Bottom-Line: What Would GOP Hopefuls’ Fiscal Proposals Save or Spend?

Demian Brady

(Alexandria, VA) – During last night’s hectic GOP debate in Ohio, a number of proposals and ideas that would have an effect on the federal budget were offered by the ten candidates on stage. National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) researchers are actively tracking the candidates during this election season and can shed light on the costs and savings taxpayers would see from their fiscal policies.

In total the candidates offered 5 proposals that would increase spending, 9 that would decrease outlays, 2 with no cost, and 8 proposals with unknown costs at this time - along with 3 policies that would affect revenues only.

After tabulating all the quantifiable policy proposals, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered to cut the federal budget the most, with $69 billion in annual reductions, while three of his competitors did not outline proposals that could be quantified to impact the budget either way at this time.

“Thanks to a plethora of candidates from both parties – and an abundance of rhetoric - Taxpayers and voters have a lot to absorb in this primary election season,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “Our analysis can help get right to the bottom-line costs of the candidates’ current platforms and past records.”

Here are the cost estimates of all the quantifiable proposals heard during the first GOP debate (totals are annualized figures):

Rand Paul – Total: $0

Proposal: Stop “funding…. arming” the Islamic State (ISIS).

Cost: Insufficient detail. Possibly related to the $500 million Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) created to combat ISIS.

Proposal: “I’m the only one on the stage who actually has a five-year budget that balances.”

Cost: Unknown. Senator Paul introduced a budget plan in 2013 that would have balanced within five years. Relative to CBO's projected baselines released at the same time, the plan would have reduced federal outlays by just under $3.5 trillion over five years, an average of $699.4 billion per year. These savings would have been sufficient to zero out the federal deficit according to forecasts made within the 2014-2019 window. It is likely but not certain that a similar effect would occur over a 2016-2021 window.


Jeb Bush – Total: $46.1 billion savings

Proposals: Immigration reform: E-Verify, border enforcement, eliminate sanctuary cities, path to legal status.

Cost: The most recent comprehensive immigration reform bill would cost $17.8 billion per year, or $89 billion over five years.

Proposal: Combat ISIS “with every tool at our disposal.”

Cost: Indeterminate. This could relate to $500 million from the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) allotted to combat ISIS. U.S. defense committees also transferred $80 million in Defense Working Capital Funds for related operations. Additionally, Congress approved $5.6 billion in emergency funding to fight the Islamic State.

Proposal: Repeal and replace Obamacare.

Cost: A savings of $63.9 billion per year ($319.5 billion over a five-year window) for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the replacement option was not outlined during the debate.


Donald Trump – Total: $63.9 billion savings

Proposal: Build a wall along the border.

Cost: Indeterminate. A 2009 Government Accountability Office reportestimated that pedestrian fencing along the border would cost $3.9 million per mile on average. The 2013 immigration bill would have required an additional 700 miles of fencing.

Proposal: Interstate health insurance competition.

Cost: $38 million per year, though this figure related to the Health Care Choice Act of 2005 was prior to the Affordable Care Act’s passage.

Proposal: Repeal Obamacare.

Cost: A savings of $63.9 billion per year ($319.5 billion over a five-year window).


Marco Rubio – Total: $68.1 billion savings

Proposal: Border fence, E-Verify.

Cost: Mandatory E-Verify would cost $635 million over five years and $1.3 billion over ten years, while reducing refundable credit outlays (due to fewer potential recipients entering illegally) by $3.9 billion over five years and $8.9 billion over ten years.

Proposal: Repeal and replace Obamacare.

Cost: A savings of $63.9 billion annually ($319.5 billion over five years), the replacement option was not outlined during the debate.

Proposal: Repeal and replace the Dodd-Frank financial regulation scheme; the replacement option was not outlined during the debate.

Cost: A savings of $4.3 billion per year.


Scott Walker – Total: $60.2 billion savings

Proposal: "Secure the border, enforce the law, no amnesty.” Update immigration system.

Cost: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would beef up border security and infrastructure, costing $18.4 billion over its first five years (excluding entitlement costs for newly-legalized citizens).

Proposal: Repeal Obamacare.

Cost: A savings of $63.9 billion per year ($319.5 billion over a five-year window).

Proposal: Pursue an “all of the above energy policy.”

Cost: Insufficient detail.

Proposal: “Lower the tax rate and reform the tax code.”

Cost: Insufficient detail, though there is the potential to reduce administrative costs through a more simple tax code.


Ted Cruz – Total: $0

Proposal: Pass “Kate’s law” – which would add five-year minimum sentences for returning to the U.S. after deportation.

Cost: Indeterminate.


Chris Christie – Total: $7.9 billion savings

Proposal: Increase Social Security retirement age.

Cost: A savings of $2.7 billion over five years ($29.1 billion over ten years).

Proposal: Means test Social Security for those making over $200,000 per year and with $4-$5 million in liquid assets.

Cost: This would result in an estimated savings of $6.2 billion annually. A 2011 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research indicated that eliminating Social Security benefits for those making over $200,000 per year (regardless of liquid assets) would result in savings of about 0.6 percent of Social Security outlays which CBO projects will total nearly $5.2 trillion over the next five years.

Proposal: “No less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go.”

Cost: $1.1 billion per year for the personnel portion only. Considerable additional outlays would result from more ship and aircraft purchases.


Mike Huckabee – Total: $19.5 billion savings

Proposal: Pass Fair Tax, end IRS.

Cost: A savings of $19.3 billion.

Proposal: No federal role for the Department of Education.

Cost: Huckabee’s proposal to shift the Department of Education’s duties to state governments could save $225 million annually by reducing the size of the Department’s personnel budget.

Proposal: End Congress’ retirement benefits.

Cost: Indeterminate. As of October 2013 there were 617 retired Members of Congress receiving pension benefits totaling about $36.8 million. Retirement benefits could potentially be eliminated for future members.


Ben Carson – Total: $0

Proposal: Proportional tax system.

Cost: Insufficient detail. Some simplification of the tax system is implied, could save on administration.


National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) is the research and education arm of National Taxpayers Union, “The Voice of America’s Taxpayers.” For more information visit 

Demian Brady

Director of Research

Demian Brady is the Director of Research for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. His responsibilities include producing commentaries and studies on fiscal issues, as well as managing NTUF's BillTally program (which tracks the impact of legislation on the size of the federal budget), State of the Union analysis, and more. Demian's research has been cited in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times. In addition, he has written on a number of budget-related issues for both NTU and NTUF. Mr. Brady resided and worked in Columbus, Ohio before moving to Washington, DC in 1998. He earned an M.A. in Political Science from American University. He received a B.A. in Russian Area Studies from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. 

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