Election 2012: Five Tough Questions That Need to be Asked at Tonight's Debate

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I hate to break it to Ben Affleck, but he is wrong about the election. With just 34 days left until voters head to the polls, the election 2012 race is still completely up for grabs.

Even still, in a recent interview with the AP, Affleck lumped Romney comfortably in with the likes of such memorable losers as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and Bob Dole.

However, a recent a poll released by Rasmussen yesterday would seem to suggest this contest is far from over.

According to the survey, President Obama only leads Mitt Romney by a razor slim advantage of 48% to 47%–well within the margin of error.

That makes tonight's presidential debates in Denver all the more critical for both candidates-especially since they will be devoted primarily to the economy and domestic policy.

Of course, here at Money Morning we have our own ideas on how the economy ought to be run, and a few questions of our own for each of tonight's debaters.

But we'll bet most of the tough questions will be completely missed by the media, who have an altogether-too-exalted an idea of the candidates' competence.

With that in mind, here are five questions that should get asked at tonight's debate-but won't.

Five Questions About the Economy That Beg To Be Answered

  1. Mr. President, Governor, study after study has shown that the healthcare system in this country is absorbing a larger and larger share of our Gross Domestic Product, and will bankrupt us all by 2050. Yet neither of you has any reliable plans to deal with this.
  2. Mr. President, your Obamacare makes matters worse. Governor, your Romneycare in Massachusetts has also run wildly over budget and your Vice President's plan loads most medical cost increases onto individuals who get sick.

    Other countries cope with medical cost inflation better than us; which of their schemes should we adopt?

  1. Wall Street has failed to reform itself; its new game of "algorithmic trading" looks likely to crash the stock market altogether at some point.
  2. Mr. President, your signature Dodd-Frank legislation has loaded the banks with bureaucracy, while doing literally nothing to make the financial system safer. Governor, you want to repeal most of the President's legislation, but not replace it with anything that might solve the problem.

    Since a Tobin Tax, at a low rate, would make the worst "fast trading" unprofitable and thus reduce the problem, why aren't either of you recommending it? Are you both that hopelessly dependent on Wall Street's campaign financing?

  3. Mr. President, your only solution to the budget deficits is to raise taxes on the wealthy, yet you surely must know there simply aren't enough "rich people" to begin to make a dent in it.
  4. Governor, you plan to cut taxes by 20%, which unless you believe in a truly Santa Claus-sized supply-side effect, will make the problem worse.

    What are your real plans to solve the deficit problem? – or are you both planning to run four more trillion-dollar deficits in the next Presidential term, hope that Ben Bernanke finances them, and leave the problem to your successor?

  5. Speaking of Ben Bernanke, are you both aware of the horrendous effect keeping interest rates far below inflation year after year has on America's savers and the middle class?
  6. Governor, you have promised to replace Bernanke, but your financial advisor, Glenn Hubbard, has said Ben's policies make sense. Mr. President, you seem unaware of the problems your Fed Chairman is causing.

    What are you going to do when all our capital has fled overseas, and our people are reduced to Bangladeshi living standards because there is no longer any capital to support their labor?

  7. Home prices are beginning to recover. But Ben Bernanke is propping up the housing bond market at the rate of $40 billion a month, and you are supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose ridiculous purpose is to provide government guarantees to home loans, something that the supposedly socialist countries of Western Europe don't do.

    Don't you both think the government has more important things to do with its money than provide gigantic subsidies to the homebuilding industry? This subsidy has already caused one gigantic financial crash and will cause another one if left in place.

    How would you phase out these subsidies without crashing the housing market?

Of course, there are other questions with which we could badger the candidates, even without turning to foreign or social policies. Agricultural subsidies would be one, and another would be lobbying, which has multiplied 30-fold in the last 40 years.

Nevertheless, these questions would be enough to make both candidates squirm – and perhaps give some accidentally honest answers as to how they would go about addressing our most difficult economic problems.

As for Ben Affleck, I think he ought to at least watch the debates before he declares the winner.

By the way, if you have a tough question for the candidates tonight we'd love to hear it. You can post them below.

After all, isn't it time they finally told us the truth?

On that final matter, let's just say I'm not holding my breath.

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Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. Barbara | October 3, 2012

    President, tell us more about what you plan to do after the election, when you "have more flexibility"…

  2. Susan | October 3, 2012

    If we can give so much money to countries like Egypt then why can't we spend money on healthcare for Americans. Aren't Americans important anymore. I do not like the question about the rising cost of healthcare. Has it risen anymore than college tuition has? Or the salaries and bonuses given to AIG executives? I do not think America wants to follow any other country and their poor healthcare systems. We want quality healthcare not just stingy given healthcare. I still believe it is worth it to be excellent in this country and I hate the new attitudes of let them die because they are terminal and their death is imminent. This is not what American values are about. We have to be responsible for the weak and we don't want to be like Hitler's philosophy and let them just die if they don't fit into our category of what is normal.

  3. Merritt Birky | October 3, 2012

    Mr. Romney, why should the American people support you for the Commander in Chief job in which you will request the electorate to sacrifice their young men and women to defend this country in time of war, etc. when you are unwilling to even pay your share of taxes to support these troops?

  4. Martin | October 3, 2012

    Do you agree, Mr President, Governor, that the USA would now be in a happier situation if most of the time, most politicians just sat around and played cards?

  5. Marcel Thevoz | October 3, 2012

    What a great series of questions, vital and defining questions that should be asked…. As an
    Independant I would definitively make my choice on the basis of how the candidates
    would answer them…
    Thank you to rise above the fry in a spectacular and intelligent way.

    marcel

  6. ruth zecchini | October 3, 2012

    I want to know why Mitt Romney hasn't been creating jobs these past 7 years he's been running for president if he is so good at it? Why wait for the presidency to do that? We need the jobs now!

  7. Jorge Roshkov | October 3, 2012

    I would simply ask:
    1) When did the USA become the "regime organiser" of the world viz: Iraq, Libya, now Syria, and potentially Iran when its 'at home' regime is becoming increasingly tyrannical
    2) Never having been 'Attacked in a military operation on home soil", WHY is the country being bankrupted in an UNCONSTITUTIONAL drive in "preemptive" military action against foreign and FAR REMOVED nations?

  8. John Wylie | October 3, 2012

    If you really want to get your answers asked in the debate, try to post them here: If we get enough support maybe some real tough questions will be asked:

  9. LAKE LYTAL JR | October 3, 2012

    Obama, recognizing that the average life expectantcy has increased significantly since Medicare was enacted are you willing to proportionately raise the eligibility age for social security and Medicare? Romney, does you economic plan differ in any way from George W Bush's? If so, what are the differences?

  10. Buddie David | October 3, 2012

    Why are we giving foreign aid to countries that attack us, kill our troops never pay us back, and hardly ever say thank you? Most americans are tried of borrowing money to give to foreign countries. As a wise man once said it takes a fool to borrow money and give it away.

  11. dave | October 3, 2012

    i for one don't buy the housing melt down was caused de regulating (i seen the movie too).the real cause in my view. is the trade deficeit.when the only thing made in america is a ham sadwhich.you get ham sandwhich wages.you move a machinist from a closed factory to goverment pay roll mowing lawns, or building maintence were the workers productivity.thats wats been happing the last 30 years.now the goverment ,federal ,local is not hiring unemployment staggers at 8%.and no is talking about the trade imbalance.

  12. Lee Borio | October 3, 2012

    My friend you are a genius, sadly the candidates don't have much appetite for speaking clearly about these urgent issues. I feel offended and lose respect for politicians on both parties when they speak about important issues in terms that only a VERY STUPID person could accept as a satisfactory answer. I'll keep a copy of these questions around to see if anybody in the media has the courage to ask any of them in the terms you are expressing here. In my opinion if we (the U.S.) don't find a solution to these particular 5 issues we are doomed, they are so important that even each one by itself is an unsustainable burden for the continuation of our way of life as a society, WE HAVE TO CHANGE.

  13. Publius | October 3, 2012

    Your questions are arrogant, insulting, and contain numerous incorrect premises. In there current form, they are not worth asking – especially in a Presidential debate.

  14. Tom French | October 3, 2012

    Why are there 2 Consumer price indexes, one excludes energy and food probably 2 of the biggest expenses in most peoples budget? Who instituted this policy and why??

  15. Craig | October 3, 2012

    Education, entitlements, the list is endless. Our gov has done such a poor job for so many years both Dems and Reps leave themselves open to hard questions. I really wish Martin or Shah could join the debate panel.
    Now that would be interesting!

  16. McRae Dixon | October 3, 2012

    We are slowly losing our freedoms…One "scary" new rule placed by Obama was inacted in Dec. of 2011 is that he can send the military into our homes and arrest us without telling us why and place us in jail for an unlimited time with out a trial…This reminds me of what Hitler did in Germany…
    This should be rescinded and Obama should apologize to all America…He commented that he signed this into law but is not going to use it…THEN WHY SIGN IT INTO LAW—WHAT A LIE…
    He certainly should be asked this question during the debate (this debate or a later one).

  17. Laurel Howard | October 3, 2012

    I'm still squirming! Great questions… I feel like I need to open up the "blue book" and write out my final exam response. It is a great shame that these questions will not be asked or answered in the next month.

  18. richard kamenar | October 3, 2012

    Social security would not be in such terrible financial trouble if the government did not "borrow" from it every year. Is any of this "borrowed" money ever going to be paid back and is this "borrowing" ever going to stop?

  19. Lyle J. Ratner | October 3, 2012

    Why has there been no programs to help finance the real growth engine, SMALL BUSINES ?

  20. Michael Mattis | October 3, 2012

    I would like the moderator to ask our President to lead everyone in saying "The Pledge of Alligance to The Flag"! If he declines he is dismissed from the debate!

  21. Robert Mutters | October 3, 2012

    Ultra low interest rates are causing insurance companies to raise their premiums on health, fire, auto, long term care insurance to offset their decline in investment earnings. At the same time these ultra low interest earnings are causing more and more companies to abandon defined benefit pension plans in favor of 401K plans. This shift transfers the cost of low investment returns to the retiree. This combination of rising insurance costs and reduced pension benefits will impact retiree spending and be a drag on the economy much longer than the so called housing crisis. How will you deal with this problem?????

  22. Tom Paquin | October 3, 2012

    Thomas Jefferson once said; "In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down by the chains of the constitution."

    My question of each candidate is: What would be your commitment to reducing the size and scope of the Federal Government to the limits clearly and explicitly outlined by the constitution?

  23. James D. Smith | October 3, 2012

    Great questions. I wish you were running the debate.

  24. Richard | October 3, 2012

    Which one of the candidates will uphold the Consitution of the US

  25. Beverly Dandridge | October 3, 2012

    Ask them where they stand on our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms? Isn't anyone concerned about the U.N. efforts to ban guns, championed by the President and Hillary Clinton?

    Where is a question about stopping illegal immigration and the theft of American jobs by illegals?

    How about a question asking what is the problem with a 10% flat tax?

    Also should ask why we don't bring business back to the U.S. by eliminating corporate taxes?

    I know the answers to these questions, but the general public doesn't even realize how critical these issues are.

  26. Bob Harms | October 3, 2012

    My Question for the two is this.

    Mister President and Govenor how are you going to reduce the excessive goverment spending and thus reduce the notion of this being an entitlement socity?

  27. Joe Wenzel | October 3, 2012

    Many private companies are eliminating defined benefit plans in favor of defined contribution type plans. Why has the government not even talked about making this switch for members Congress ?
    Also, it would be good to know what the co-pays are for health benefits for members of Congress. Has Congress considered HSA type plans for its' own members ?

  28. John Gore | October 3, 2012

    1…Mr.President, If you are not hiding something from the voters , Why won't you authorize any of your files open to the public to show you are on the up and up…..

    2…Why are we sending Billions of dollars in aid to the countries who would like to destroy the United States of Ameica…Not only that but are allowing those whom we are fighting to train and are promoting terrism around the world…..??????????

  29. Geoff Thomas | October 3, 2012

    The figures show that something in the ball park of 10% of Americans own 90% of it, wouldn't they be the best ones to pay more taxes? particularly as amongst their numbers lurk all the bankers who put the poor people out of work.

  30. Charles S. Wertalik | October 3, 2012

    Sorry, Martin, I don't agree with part of your third question about taxes. Romney's proposed 20% tax cut would result in a BIG increase in tax revenue due to increased ability of companies to hire more workers. The resulting increase in income tax on the new hires would pour more $$ into the Treasury; it's been alrerady proven during the Reagan administration.

  31. Richard Schafer | October 3, 2012

    Who is the candidate that is going to raise Medicare payment to over $400.00 by 2014?

  32. dave huxtable | October 3, 2012

    What makes the government think they can borrow thiere way out of debt? It never worked for me.

  33. david | October 3, 2012

    Mr. President, Have you stopped cheating on your wife and has she forgiven you for the 19 year old boy?

  34. J. Moszynski | October 3, 2012

    Why on God's green earth does nobody talk about the illegal deal the Federal Reserve is. Nothing Federal, dubious reserves. The solution to the debt crisis is to dump the Fed. and go back to the Constitution that allows ONLY the CONGRESS to coin money and declare the value thereof? Huh?

  35. Doris Kelsey | October 3, 2012

    The debate is over and they both lost. Climate change is the issue of the century and neither are addressing it. What are five different directions it needs to be fought from?

  36. Ventura Leite | October 4, 2012

    Martin
    The five questios are undoubtely objective and though ones.
    But none of them adressed the basis of the present crisis.
    Global economy has to be dealt with in a different aproach, or the american present problems will not fade away. The global trade imbalances are just unsustainable! They are not in the interest of the global trade increase on the long run.
    So, what to to do in the short term?
    What shall USA do to put rationality in the world trade which benefited american companies, but not the american economy and job creation?
    Energy independence and energy efficiency are central and decisive, but not enough.
    what else?
    Regards

  37. Arthur Robey | October 4, 2012

    My President and Governor,
    Have either of you inwardly digested and understood the implications of "Limits to Growth" report?
    How do you anticipate ameliorating the back end of the Standard Run.

  38. G.C. Mandrake | October 4, 2012

    Mr. President, Governor, which do you prefer; default on our debt now, or hyperinflation and default later?

  39. Meg Jowett | October 7, 2012

    Your comment about the Tobin tax piqued my interest. It would raise revenue to solve some of the world's biggest problems and is a great idea. I know there was discussion about a tax on stock market transactions of 1/100th of a cent per 100 shares traded to reduce the deficit. That would be a great idea too, and could be applied to the debt. A 1 cent fee for every email could also create a pool of capital to knock out the debt and fund entitlements until they can be run out. There are lots of possibilities. We just have to clear the view – the view that seems to be entrenched in the same arguments…. unrelenting and tedious.

  40. Frank Palumbo | October 10, 2012

    I had sent a "Report" to distinguished members in Washington The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Cardinal Egan, Senator Christopher Dodd, Hillary Rodham Clinton,Judith Resnik Professors at Yale University, Frank Michelman Harvard University, Burt Neuborne New York University. Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury; Referring to Title 12 Banks and Banking, Chapter 28 Emergency Mortgage Relief Act of 1975.
    The magnitude of the present crisis in 2009 requires hundreds of billions of dollars in order to provide relief to the homeowner and the holder of the mortgage. The enactment of this statute will have an immediate impact on the heart of the problem which contributed to the financial crisis. Why did the president violate his oath of office by not enacting this important act to stop the foreclosures and prevent the closing of over 60 banks? The cost of money was the problem to the ARM's not that they bought homes that they could not afford. FD Palumbo

  41. Kurt M. | October 14, 2012

    Why would you ask a question about the president "replacing" the Federal Reserve chairman,Ben Bernanke?You know,or at least I hope you do,that the president has NO power over the Fed chairman,it even says so in the Federal Reserves bylaws.The Federal Reserve IS NOT a federal agency,it is a private bank that creates money out of thin air at interest for the government.
    Most of the system is nothing more than a fraud in itself anyway,just like most local,state and federal taxes are nothing more than legalized extortion schemes…

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