What We Hope to Hear from Tonight's Debate

The Republican presidential contenders will be at it again tonight in yet another debate, but for those who are already suffering from debate fatigue, this evening's affair at Dartmouth University in the first primary state of New Hampshire promises to be different. First of all, the questions will focus on the economy, meaning that voters should hear more from the candidates on the two intertwined issues that polls indicate matter most to them - the economy/jobs and deficits/national debt. Secondly, the candidates will be sitting together around a table as opposed to standing apart at separate podiums. Hopefully, this will lead to more substantive discussion rather than attacks and sound bites.

The campaign season offers an excellent opportunity to initiate a much-needed public discourse on America's economic future and the optimal fiscal policies to aid the recovery in the short-term and advance U.S. growth and competitiveness in the longer-run. The debt crisis in Europe and the recent debt limit drama in the U.S. underscore how fiscal issues can impact the economy. It is imperative that candidates provide concrete economic proposals that include how they will finance their priorities. They must also demonstrate a sound understanding of our fiscal challenges and offer detailed solutions. In order to draw out and clarify the candidate's positions, CRFB suggests several questions for them to answer.

  • How would you balance aiding the economic recovery in the short-term and addressing the unsustainable national debt trajectory in the medium and long-term?
  • What are your priorities for the nation and how do you plan to pay for them?
  • What is your plan for the extension or expiration of the 2001/2003/2010 tax cuts, and how would you go about comprehensive tax reform?
  • How would you recommend the special joint committee reach its goal of $1.5 trillion in savings?
  • How would you craft a plan to reach at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction in order to stabilize the debt and put our country on a stronger financial footing?
  • How would you address unsustainable cost growth in Medicare and Medicaid?
  • How would you look to fix Social Security's financing gap?
  • How would you meet and build upon the savings enacted in the recently passed discretionary caps?
  • How would you reform the budget process to better promote effective and responsible budgeting?

With Congress having just passed another stopgap measure to fund the federal government, and with the Super Committee still trying to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings (and hopefully more), the candidates should clearly articulate what they hope to see from the Super Committee and how to fix our broken budget and appropriations process (click here to read what we hope to see from the Super Committee). Furthermore, with jobs on the minds of so many voters, candidates should detail how they plan to pay for any jobs package they propose, tax cuts they offer, or any other proposal that impacts the federal budget.

This debate will be sponsored by Bloomberg Television and The Washington Post, with additional sponsorship from WBIN-TV and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. It will be broadcast on Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio and also can be viewed live online at http://www.bloomberg.com/presidential-election-2012?cmpid=ec01 and http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics.

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