Fraser Forum

Free-market reform plan gains little traction in Republican race

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 Donald Trump continues to be the Republican Party’s top presidential candidate according to polls of Republican primary voters. The latest CBS News poll shows that 27 per cent of Republican primary voters support Trump, ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (21 per cent). Jeb Bush (pictured above) is floundering at 6 per cent support behind several other candidates.

Pundits attribute Trump’s performance, as well as Carson’s strong showing to-date, to voter anger against “establishment” political figures, along with a rise of populist sentiment. Against this background, the efforts of Bush to put forward well-articulated, “free-market friendly” programs to address critical economic and social issues facing the United States are apparently falling on deaf ears.

Most recently, Bush proposed a comprehensive reform of Obamacare that incorporates features that most free-market oriented economists would support. In broad terms, it calls for a much smaller role for government and a much bigger role for individual choice. Specifically, it calls for, among other things, eliminating the individual and employer mandate to purchase insurance, and a uniform tax credit to be received by everyone of the same age, regardless of income. The Bush plan would also allow for larger Health Savings Accounts and would allow individual states to set their own policies regarding the risk-rating systems used by insurers. This follows Bush’s issuance of a detailed tax reform plan that emphasizes “supply-side” reforms to the current mess that is the U.S. tax code.

For those who believe in free-market solutions to most economic and social problems, the apparent lack of support for Bush’s emerging campaign platform—even among Republican voters—may be discouraging. It augurs poorly for the future of public policy, even if there is a change in the party in power in the White House. More specifically, it suggests a continuation of a policy framework in which individual groups are pitted against each other politically so that resource allocation decisions and economic rewards are determined by politics rather than markets.

This is not good for the U.S. economy, nor, by extension, the Canadian economy, which relies so critically on U.S. economic growth for growth of its export markets.


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