Health Care: Repeal Obama health care law. Raise eligibility age for Medicare benefits, limit benefits for the wealthy and give people the choice of receiving federal aid to help purchase their own insurance instead of getting the direct benefits of the current system. Proposes turning Medicaid over to the states with no-strings federal support. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured people in the nation. Signed a law that would allow Texas — subject to federal approval — to band together with other states and take over the role of providing health care coverage for the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
Immigration: Opposes U.S.-Mexico border fence, which he calls "idiocy," instead wants more border agents. Supports continued U.S. citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants can get in-state tuition at Texas universities if they meet other residency requirements. Neither employers nor state agencies required to run job applicants through a federal database to determine their legal status. Illegal immigrants have access to services for drug treatment, mental health and children with special health care needs.
Social Security: Proposes raising retirement age for full benefits and restricting increases in benefits for the wealthy. Previously branded Social Security a "disease" inflicted by Franklin Roosevelt, now says system should be saved for future generations while younger workers are given the option of building private accounts instead of paying taxes into the entitlement.
Taxes: Let taxpayers choose between current system and 20 percent flat tax on income. Under the flat-tax option, mortgage interest and charitable contributions would continue to be deductible. For each individual or dependent, $12,500 in income would be exempt. Flat-tax plan would eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits, inheritances, dividends and long-term capital gains. Also proposes to cut corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.
Terrorism: Said it was "unprincipled" for Republicans to vote for creation of the Homeland Security Department. Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists
Wars: Criticized Obama for announcing withdrawal of troops from Iraq by end of this year and from Afghanistan next year but has not said how many troops should remain or for how long.
Abortion: Opposes abortion rights. Previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court. But says Roe vs. Wade is law of the land until that happens and should not be challenged by federal legislation seeking to overturn abortion rights affirmed by that court decision. Would not sign pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development. "So I would live within the law, within the Constitution as I understand it, without creating a constitutional crisis. But I do believe Roe v. Wade should be reversed to allow states to make that decision."
Debt: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system's collapse, criticized the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler and said any such aid should not single out specific companies. Cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, down from today's recession-swollen 25 percent. Stayed silent during debt-ceiling negotiations, only announcing his opposition to the final deal shortly before lawmakers cast their votes. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment. Proposes 10 percent cut in federal workforce, elimination of $1.6 billion in Amtrak subsidies and cuts of $600 million in support for the public arts and broadcasting.
Economy: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes repeal of the law (Dodd-Frank) toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes changing, but not repealing, the (Sarbanes-Oxley) law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals, to ease the accountability burden on smaller businesses. "We don't want to tell the world that Republicans are against all regulation. No, regulation is necessary to make a free market work. But it has to be updated and modern."
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