Questions I Wish They'd Ask At Republican Debates

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Another Republican debate is over, and we still have no more answers than we did the day before. Okay, we know what they don't want and don't like: Anything to do with Barack Obama's health care plan, financial regulation, no matter how mild, and taxing the rich. We get that. But what is it they do want to do to deal with this jobs crisis?

Michele Bachmann has a nearly-unintelligible jobs plan that she just "unveiled" on her website. Here's her summary:

“My solutions are simple. We need to cut government spending, legalize America’s God-given natural resources, and stop taxing investment and productivity,” Bachmann said. “In other words, we need to do what growing economies do.”

I'll leave it to you, dear readers, to parse certain phrases like "legalize...God-given natural resources". Whatever. After all, this is the woman who told a guy with no teeth, or at least, very few teeth, that he should rely on charity for his dental care.

At some point in Tuesday night's debate, there was an attempt on the part of the moderators to pin Mitt Romney down on the looming crisis in the Eurozone; specifically, Greece, and get him to articulate what his plan would be for what is happening there. It's an important question, and one every single one of these so-called candidates ought to answer. The clip is at the top. Here's a piece of the transcript:

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

Governor Romney, it's 2013, and the European debt crisis has worsened. Countries are defaulting. Europe's largest banks are on the verge of bankruptcy. Contagion has spread to the U.S. And the global financial system is on the brink.

What would you do differently than what President Bush, Henry Paulson, and Ben Bernanke did in 2008?

ROMNEY: Well, you're talking about a scenario that's obviously very difficult to imagine. And --

GOLDMAN: But it's not a hypothetical, because more than half --

ROMNEY: It is. I'm afraid it is a hypothetical.

GOLDMAN: Governor, it's not --

ROMNEY: Do you want to explain why it's not a hypothetical?

GOLDMAN: Yes.

ROMNEY: OK.

GOLDMAN: Because more than half the country believes that a financial meltdown is likely in the next several years, and the U.S. banks have at least $700 billion in exposure to Europe. So it's a very real threat, and voters want to know what you would do differently.

ROMNEY: It's still a hypothetical as to what's going to precisely happen in the future. I'm not very good at being omniscient, but I can tell you this, that I am not going to have to call up Timothy Geithner and say, how does the economy work? Because I spent my life in the economy.

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Of course, he didn't answer the question, which led the Bloomberg panel to gnaw on their frustration that they asked a real-life question and got a bunch of "hypothetical" bluster in return. Here's a rough transcript of that exchange:

You know, one of the things that I really believe this debate showed -- you really got a glimpse into a number of candidates -- how they articulate their economic policies. I thought it was particularly interesting with governor rick perry. He kept coming back to energy policy. Energy is the way to create jobs. One thing it did not seem like any of them could really necessarily address is how to create jobs immediately. That was one of the reasons we had to come back at the end and ask them to address exactly what is going to happen now that the president was a jobs bill has been stalled. We begin the debate by talking about dysfunction. Where does that leave us? We are still in gridlock.

>> The only thing I saw was this or hypothetical. I believe that one point he said the word hypothetical four times. What was it like to have a hypothetical moments with governor mitt romney?

>> I don't think it was a hypothetical moment. That is how he posed the question to him. We know we talked about this issue every hour of every day on bloomberg television. The stress of contagion from europe is very real. It is something that any of these presidential candidates, should they win, is going to have to deal with.

All of that leads me to the questions I wish they'd ask these candidates, but never do. Here's a partial list of mine. Given that they have the benefit of hindsight and can certainly point and sneer at what President Obama did (or didn't) do, they should have to be quite specific about what they would have done at that time, with the constraints they had. Not broad, sweeping declarations, but very, very specific steps.

  • What specific steps would you have taken in early 2009 to stop jobs from bleeding away and keep the economy from collapsing into a full-blown depression?
  • If you were President today, dealing with a shaky economy, a divided Congress, and people in the streets protesting the lack of jobs, stability or hope, what would you do to jump-start job creation? Remember the part about the divided Congress, please. You must guide your legislation through two houses of Congress, each controlled by different parties.
  • If you were President in early 2009 and were faced with the collapse of the auto industry in this country following massive bank failures when you allowed them to fail and the markets to sort themselves out, what would you have done to prevent the economy from toppling altogether? Be specific, including how you would handle the hundreds of thousands of job losses and failures of small businesses which rely upon the auto industry, including dealerships, parts dealers, parts manufacturers and other related industries.
  • It's 2011, and the national debt has tripled in the last ten years, partly due to the economy and partly due to the failure of banks, the auto industry, and related manufacturing businesses tied to that industry. You're facing a crucial debt ceiling vote which is being opposed by the far right wing of your own party, which also controls the House of Representatives. What would you have done to placate those members who opposed raising the debt ceiling at all, and how would you have negotiated a deal to get US debt under control in the future, while dealing with an unemployment rate of 17% due to all of the bank failures and related business failures mentioned before.

Those are a start. I can think of dozens more, like whether they really believe people should rely on charity when they've lost their job, their retirements and their homes. Whether they really believe college students should come out of school with debt the size of a mortgage. Lots more. But I'll start with these.

And I want specifics. How about you?

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