Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 62, remains the financial heavyweight of the Republican presidential field, with more than $100 million raised for his Super-PAC and $11 million for his campaign as of midyear. But he is no longer the consensus front-runner, having fallen behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson nationally, and others in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
He still benefits from significant institutional support from Republican officeholders, business leaders and policy advisers. He aimed to deepen those advantages with the recent release of his tax-cut plan, which went beyond anything his brother George W. Bush proposed.
In the name of every American's "right to rise," he called for reducing the top personal income tax rate to 28 percent; slashing the top rate on corporate profits and capital gains to 20 percent; and eliminating the estate tax. As Democrats accused him of seeking to reward the wealthy, he pointed to middle-class benefits in his plan that would eliminate federal tax liability for families of four making $40,000 or less. To complaints that he would balloon the deficit, he cited a "dynamic" boost to economic activity that could help achieve his goal of 4 percent annual growth.
Bush sat down with me to discuss his campaign at the Parlor City Pub in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: Let's talk about economics. Start by stipulating that presidents don't control everything in the economy; a lot of factors involved. But I wonder how you process the recent evidence. We had 12 years of Reagan and your dad, eight years of Clinton, eight years of your brother, and now seven years of Obama. What should a reasonable person conclude from the fact that the Democrats in those 15 years saw more jobs created than the Republicans in 20?
BUSH: First of all, I think you have to factor in that policies have long-term impacts. So the tax reform of the 1980s created an environment that President Clinton took advantage of. The PAYGO budget compromise, where there was an increase in taxes, but there was, more importantly, a rule that every dollar of additional spending required a cut in spending, was very effective in restraining government during the Clinton era, as well.
Presidents and Congress have an impact particularly on tax policy to shape economic growth or the lack of it. The results can occur for a short period of time or a long period of time. The tech bubble created enormous economic activity. You think about all the capital gains revenue that came when people were selling stocks, and so then the crash created the opposite effect.