How Trump, other GOP candidates would tackle income inequality

From Donald Trump to the those trailing him in the polls, plans to strengthen the American middle class and reduce inequality have become major talking points for GOP presidential hopefuls. 

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks from the area with security after speaking at a rally organized by Tea Party Patriots in on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 9, 2015.

Donald Trump, front-runner in the GOP presidential candidate race, has plans to make the wealthy pay. He wants to eliminate tax breaks for the rich, raise taxes on the wealthy, and lower CEO pay.

“… You see these guys making enormous amounts of money, and it’s a total and complete joke,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

The billionaire’s details on how he plans to accomplish his economic goals are a little vague. He admitted lowering CEO pay would be difficult with cronyism and other factors at work. But, the populist economic approach and many of his other views have been resonating with voters, as Trump sits at 33 percent of the votes according to a September Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

Other Republican candidates are following Trump, with many taking swings at inequality in their public approach to economic issues. Here are a few highlights: 

Chris Christie

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been lamenting income inequality and blaming it on the federal government since May. During an appearance in New Hampshire, a strategic state for presidential candidates, he blamed President Obama for the state of the middle class.

“The Fed’s easy money policies and the president’s anti-growth policies have made the rich even richer and made our middle class work longer and harder for less pay and less promise for the future,” Christie said.

Christie furthered his critique in August, according to The Washington Post, and offered an additional explanation: “Here’s the problem: Middle-class wages are stagnant for 15 years, and in fact they’re behind the rate of inflation.”

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz (R., Texas) also has decried income inequality. While simultaneously criticizing Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s economic plans and indicating that under their policies, income inequality has increased, Cruz addressed inequality as a major issue. 

“Today the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,” Cruz told Fox News following Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.

Jeb Bush

In March, former Florida governor Jeb Bush unveiled his “Right to Rise”  campaign plan, which is also the name of his presidential super PAC, during a visit to the Detroit Economic Club in March.  He pledged to address income inequality, poverty, and education to aid American economic mobility.

“The opportunity gap is the defining issue of our time. More Americans are stuck at their income levels than ever before… This should alarm you. It has alarmed me,” he said.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton attacked the slogan at an appearance in July, saying, “I don’t think you can credibly say that everybody has a ‘right to rise’ and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on.”

Mr. Bush, like many politicians on both sides, has also focused on the risk of having extra-large banks playing an outsized role in the US economy. 

“We have more banks with more concentrated assets in the United States, and the systematic risk is perhaps greater now…” said Bush at an event in Berlin in June.

Rand Paul

Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also expressed concerns with banks getting too big and the pontential impact on income inequality. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Paul spoke about introducing a wall that separates commercial and investment banking. 

In August, however, Paul also said on Fox News, “The thing is, income inequality is due to some people working harder and selling more things, so if people voluntarily buy more of your stuff, you’ll have more money.”

Scott Walker

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, has been largely dismissive of income inequality and continues to stick with messages of self-reliance.

“In America the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us, but in America, the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually,” he said during his Iowa Freedom Summit speech in January.

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