Republican Candidates Unite Behind Pro-Growth Tax Message

Grover Norquist: GOP contenders in 'same zone' on tax reform

December 9, 2015

Republican presidential candidates have united behind a tax reform agenda that would grow the U.S. economy, Grover Norquist said Tuesday, despite differences among the various campaigns’ plans.

Ahead of an Americans for Tax Reform event at which five policy advisers to 2016 GOP candidates outlined their tax plans, Norquist, the organization’s founder, said that there is "consensus" among Republicans in the House, Senate, and on the presidential debate stage when it comes to enacting tax reform.

"I think it’s the strength of the Republican Party that there’s so much agreement between each of the candidates and House leadership, Senate leadership, and the relevant committees, and among back-benchers," Norquist said.

Tuesday’s event in Washington, D.C., saw policy advisers for Jeb Bush, Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) speak about the tax plans of each of their candidates.

While the candidates have developed different ways to reform the tax code—Bush, Kasich, and Rubio want to simplify it, while Cruz and Paul want to abolish it and create a flat tax—all argued that any of the plans on the GOP side would better serve the American economy, particularly middle-class income earners, than those of Democrats.

"The left really has given up on higher economic growth, but we know what that means. That means fewer opportunities for the next generation, it means declining real median incomes, and this is very troubling," Danny Heil, Bush’s economic adviser, said, noting the low labor participation rate and the high corporate tax rate.

"We all have fairly good plans, and I think any one of these plans would be better than what we have now."

Steve Moore, a policy adviser for Paul, called ours the "worst possible tax system" imaginable and said conservatives needed to come up with a better system to spur growth.

Hillary Clinton would continue the tax policies of President Obama if she won the presidency in 2016, Kasich’s policy adviser, Kerry Knott, suggested at the event, which was also hosted by the Conservative Reform Network.

"I don’t know what our country would look like after eight years of Obama and eight years of a Hillary Clinton presidency. We need to win," Knott stated.

Knott spoke more critically than the other advisers of the Cruz and Paul plans to create a flat tax, indicating his uncertainty that the GOP could "unify the party" around such proposals. He also called businessman Donald Trump’s tax plan "a fantasy" that would be impossible to enact. Trump’s campaign was not represented at the event.

In response to pushback on the flat tax proposal, Cruz’s adviser Harold Furchtgott-Roth noted that all Republican contenders have developed pro-growth tax plans, and said that the current system isn’t working, an idea on which all advisers at the event agreed.

"The current system is broken, and I think that all the campaigns recognize that," Furchtgott-Roth said. "I don’t think that the Clinton campaign begins to recognize that. I think they embrace the current system."

Furchtgott-Roth also spoke extensively about the country’s mistrust in the IRS following its targeting of conservative groups to justify Cruz’s plan to abolish the government agency.

"If you find out you're being audited by the IRS, 30 years ago you would have thought that was just a random event. I don’t think too many of us would think that’s a random event today," Furchtgott-Roth said.

"It’s not just that [ex-IRS official] Lois Lerner and her colleagues are escaping punishment, it’s not just that the IRS head doesn’t care, it’s not just that the Department of Justice doesn’t care to prosecute. It’s that ordinary Americans you see here and around the country no longer have faith in this institution of government."

Furchtgott-Roth also argued that economic conditions are worse than they were under the Carter administration.

"We’ll be in a comparison debate in the 2016 election. And if you look at what Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is proposing, it’s a race to spend us into oblivion. It’s unbelievable what they’re proposing," Knott, the Kasich adviser, said. "The tax plans that they will come up with, I think, will make ours sound a little more reasonable."