I watched all three hours of last night’s Republican Party presidential debate, under the assumption that there would be lots of talk about jobs and the economy. Silly me.
Per the transcript, the term “interest rates” never came up, despite today’s pending Fed action. The word “jobs” was only spoken 26 times by the candidates, and one of those was when Carly Fiorina name-dropped Steve Jobs. Perhaps even more remarkable for a Republican debate, the phrase “small business” was uttered just once (by Scott Walker).
Even the word “economy” was only said 10 times by the candidates, four of which were when Marco Rubio and Chris Christie discussed “destroying” the economy by legislatively addressing climate change.
To be sure, a lot of the blame for this paucity of economic talk was on CNN’s moderation, but few of the candidates seemed eager to discuss such issues.
At least there was some discussion over how to tax hedge fund and private equity fund managers, in terms of the share of profits they receive from investing other people’s money (i.e., carried interest).
Donald Trump reaffirmed his support of reclassifying carried interest as ordinary income (it’s currently taxed at lower capital gains rates), which is something Jeb Bush also included in his recently-published tax plan. When asked if he also agreed with the change, John Kasich said: “I don’t at this point in terms of changing the incentives for investment and risk-taking.”
The carried interest tax question also was asked directly of both Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee, but they side-stepped it by instead endorsing a flat tax and fair tax, respectively.
CNN did not ask Bush about his far more wide-reaching plan to remove the deduction for borrowing costs (i.e., debt interest payments), which would affect everyone from leveraged buyout titans to small business owners taking out things like equipment loans. On that last point, I reached out yesterday to a Bush spokesperson to see if he planned any exceptions or minimum thresholds to his deduction elimination, but I never heard back.