The Fourth GOP Debate: Pricing the Proposals

November 17, 2015
Demian Brady

The Republicans and Democrats each had debates last week giving the candidates a national forum to explain the policies they would pursue as our next President and lay out their vision for the country. And those competing visions highlight the contrast between the parties.

The Republicans discussed tax reform options to lower the burden and simplify the Tax Code. The Democrats promised to increase taxes on the "rich," but in practice, every worker could see their taxes go up: the proposal for a national paid leave entitlement benefit would be financed by a new payroll tax.

On the spending side, during the Republican debate, two of the candidates discussed options to balance the budget. Viewers also heard several candidates promote non-defense discretionary cuts as well as reform options that would slow the expected growth in outlays for entitlement programs. In the Democratic debate, very few spending cut ideas were presented, and on entitlements, the candidates vowed to "strengthen and expand" programs like the Affordable Care Act, or to replace it with a single-payer universal health care program. 

The Republicans 4th Debate: Pricing the Proposals

(Dollar Figures in Millions)


  • Four candidates highlighted specific spending reductions.
  • The largest savings would come from repealing the Affordable Care Act ($477 billion over five years), proposed in the debate by Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. They each also discussed replacing the Act. Fiorina specifically proposed establishing high risk pools, which could cost $8 billion per year.
  • John Kasich said he would seek to slow the annual growth in Medicare spending from seven to five percent (annual savings of $34 billion over its first years of implementation).
  • Ted Cruz unveiled a plan to reduce spending by $500 billion over ten years. NTU Foundation was able to quantify savings of $25 billion over five years. Savings could be higher, but the timeline for winding down and eliminating the Departments he specified is unclear, as well as which programs within those Departments would be retained.
  • Rand Paul cited three different plans he’s worked on to balance the budget, including an option to reduce spending by one percent per year.
  • Combined, the candidates offered ten quantifiable proposals to increase spending. Highlights:
  • A “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens that could increase entitlement spending by $18 billion per year (Jeb Bush).
  • Increasing the military with new annual spending: Kasich ($27 billion), Rubio ($43 billion), and Fiorina ($52 billion).
  • Donald Trump repeated his proposal to build a wall across the entire southern border, minimum cost of $12 billion. He also called for an unspecified increase in spending on infrastructure.

A detailed line-by-line analysis is available as a pdf.

Generally speaking, in their second debate, the Democrats did not offer very many new specific spending-related proposals beyond those they presented in the first debate, which NTUF analyzed here. A full analysis from Saturday night will be forthcoming on

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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