The web site e21 (Economic Policies for the 21st Century) has collected a number of questions from several sources which tomorrow night’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, should ask the candidates. They really are very good. Here are a few samples.
On Social Security: For the past two years Social Security’s payroll tax has been reduced and the program given over $200 billion in subsidies from the general government fund to compensate for the uncollected taxes. This policy ended decades of bipartisan commitment to FDR’s original vision that Social Security would be a self-financing system of earned benefits, supported entirely by separate payroll taxes paid by workers. Explain why you supported or opposed turning Social Security into a general-fund-subsidized system. Do you think that Social Security benefits will retain their historical political support now that they substantially exceed what today’s workers and beneficiaries have paid for?
In order to expand its regulatory powers, the EPA has declared that carbon dioxide is poisonous. People produce carbon dioxide when they breathe out, and plants require carbon dioxide to grow. If the EPA ruling is enforced, it will cost thousands, maybe millions of jobs. Do you think carbon dioxide is poisonous? How will you enforce or modify the EPA ruling?
Do you believe the federal government has too much or too little control over American families and communities? If you think it is too much what one or two major reforms would you advocate that might change that balance?
James C. Capretta:
Mr. President, you held a fiscal responsibility summit in February 2009 during which you pledged that your administration would make the tough choices and yet, during your term, the fiscal outlook has deteriorated rapidly. The Congressional Budget Office now projects that U.S. debt will reach 90 percent of GDP under your policies. Why didn’t your administration tackle these tough issues, especially during the two-years when your party had sizeable majorities in Congress?
After previous deep recessions, the economy and labor market had strong recoveries. Why is growth so meager and unemployment so high this time?
What makes economies grow and incomes rise? And where do government spending and taxes fit in your view?
The questions are generally at a high level, and focus on the issues that badly need to be debated. Let’s hope we get more questions along these lines, and fewer like “Why don’t you stop making war on women?”