Gene Marks: If not Trump, what about these guys?

Trump, Trump, Trump.

He’s managed to dominate the headlines and control the news. He’s the leading Republican candidate in most polls and many experts are forecasting him to win the nomination. But that’s still a little premature. Trump is formidable and in a strong position. But he’s fractured his party. He’s a loose cannon. Florida, Ohio and Illinois are not guaranteed wins. And who knows what could happen between now and what could very well be a brokered Republican convention in Cleveland come August?

Many of my friends and clients have been paying a little too much attention to the front-runner and not enough to his opponents. As a business owner, you need to know the anti-Trumps and how they’ll affect your company. If he doesn’t receive the nomination, or suddenly flies off the rails, who would be the next best choice for small business from the Republican field?

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is Trump’s main opponent for now. From a business perspective, his biggest initiative is to “abolish” the IRS and establish a broad-based flat tax system with a single low rate of 10 percent and eliminates taxes on the first $36,000 of income for a family of four. He also wants to end estate taxes, lower the capital gains rate to 10 percent and replace the current corporate tax rate to a 16 percent “business transfer tax” on capital income and labor payments. Cruz believes this would significantly increase the country’s GDP, wages and create millions of additional jobs. Opponents are concerned that his flat tax proposal would be more of a benefit to the rich and that abolishing the IRS is reaching too far. Nonetheless, the idea is certainly attractive to many business owners who have been contending with a too-complex and costly tax system over the past few decades.

Like many business owners, Cruz is a staunch opponent of Obamacare and wants to open insurance markets across state lines, expand Health Savings Accounts, and delink health insurance from employment. Over-regulation has been an enormous complaint in the business community during the Obama administration and Cruz supports the REINS Act which holds Congress accountable to vote on any major cost-inducing regulation. He also wants to end Environmental Protection Agency regulations that burden small businesses and farmers.

If your business depends on the gun and construction industries or the military or would benefit from the opportunities that would be opened up by the contested Keystone Pipeline then Cruz could be your man. He supports a business owner’s right to religious freedom, is against an online sales tax and opposes net neutrality.

Marco Rubio

Rubio doesn’t go so far as to propose a single flat tax system ala Cruz. But he does want to simplify the code down to three rates: 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent (for single filers making more than $150,000), eliminate the “marriage penalty”, retool the Earned Income Tax Credit and augment credits for childcare. Like Cruz, Rubio also wants to end estate taxes but also eliminate capital gains taxes, make permanent the deduction for capital equipment and cut the business tax rate to 25 percent.

Rubio also opposes Obamacare and supports repeal of the legislation. And like Cruz (and his other opponents), his proposals to fix healthcare remain unspecific, like supporting “consumer-centered reforms that lower costs and provide flexibility to businesses.” Rubio wants to establish a better balance between workers and employers – he supports having a secret ballot for workers during union election, prohibiting unions from siphoning off worker dues for political activities, and removing union-imposed obstacles to workers receiving pay increases and bonuses.

If you’re in the gun industry, you’ll like Rubio’s second amendment support. If you’re in the energy industry, you’ll like his support of the Keystone Pipeline and his intention to fight cap-and-trade, a carbon tax, and new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. But if you’re a farmer, you’ll really like him. Rubio also wants to undo the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. Rule, and he will fight recent carbon mandates and the extensive application of the Endangered Species Act. Rubio also supports trade agreements to boost exports for American farmers and ranchers.

John Kasich

Kasich is really the dark horse of the election, trailing  in the both the polls and the delegate count at the time I write this. But who knows? A big win in Ohio and a Trump misstep could launch him back into contention.

And Kasich does have one big advantage over both Cruz and Rubio: he’s run a state. And he’s run it pretty well. Kasich’s record as governor of Ohio is impressive. Since taking over in 2011, he grew the state’s “rainy day” savings account from 89 cents to $2 billion and reduced the size of state government bureaucracy to its lowest levels in more than 30 years. He also enacted $5 billion in tax cuts, including eliminating the death tax, cutting the state income tax 16 percent, eliminating the income tax for many small businesses and providing targeted tax relief to low-and middle-income workers. He’s running on this record and says he would do the same in Washington.

Kasich’s tax policies are not too dissimilar to his opponents. Like Rubio, he wants to establish just three tax brackets with the highest only being 28 percent. He favors a 25 percent corporate tax rate. He wants to only slightly reduce the capital gains rate to 15 percent. But he does support abolishing estate taxes.
Kasich, like the others, wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with (according to his website) “patient-centered care, choices, market competition, decentralized decision-making, higher quality, respect for individuals and an end to Obamacare’s big government interference.”

So what does all this mean for a business owner like me?

It means that if Trump does fall out of the race and is replaced by any one of the above three candidates you can expect (putting social and foreign policy issues aside – and taking the huge leap that there would be congressional support) more pro-business policies than the current administration. You would see lower taxes and less regulations for certain industries. There would be support for free trade (although Cruz is the only one of the three to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership). And a lot of healthcare uncertainty. In the end, their policies are pretty darn similar, aren’t they?

After all the research, analysis and comparisons, this decision will still come down to the same thing as all the other decisions we wind up making as business owners: faith. Will this guy do what he says he will do? Do we believe him? The data and the promises only go so far, whether voting for president or evaluating a new business partner.

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