The eight Republican presidential hopefuls fielding questions in Ames, Iowa Thursday night will take turns blasting President Obama for a jobless recovery, the massive deficit, stock market turmoil and a health care reform law they claim is a federal takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. But what are their plans for creating jobs while shrinking the deficit?
Here are seven questions that Fox News’s Bret Baier, the moderator of the second major GOP presidential debate of the year, ought to be asking:
1. Every poll says the American people rank the state of the economy and the lack of jobs as the nation’s number one problem. There are 6.8 million fewer jobs today than there were in January 2008 – the peak of the last business cycle. Two million or nearly 30 per cent of those lost jobs were in construction. Given the huge inventory of unsold homes, declining commercial and residential real estate values, and declining federal help for infrastructure, what can be done to help create jobs for America’s unemployed construction workers?
2. The president has called for an infrastructure bank to help finance the nation’s unmet need for roads, bridges, and sewers. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a ‘D’ grade and said it will require $1.2 trillion in additional investment over the next five years to bring it up to par. Should we make that investment? If so, how should it be financed?
3. You’ve all said you’d make the tough calls to bring health care costs under control, especially in taxpayer-financed programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The health care sector has added 1 million new jobs since the recession began. How do we hold down government spending on health care and add new jobs to a sector that will be responsible for taking care of the nation’s elderly, whose ranks will grow by 16 million to 56 million over the next decade?
4. Governments across the U.S. have eliminated nearly 1 million jobs in the past year. If you exclude temporary Census jobs, nearly all of them – 400,000 – have been local policemen, firemen and teachers since state and local governments must have balanced budgets. Each of you supports a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution. Should the federal workforce shrink in a similar fashion whenever the economy goes into recession?
5. You have vowed to repeal health care reform legislation, which will be put on your desk if Republicans gain control of the Senate and retain control of the House. Do you have an alternative plan to insure the 30 million uninsured Americans who would have received subsidized coverage under that law?
6. There is general agreement that a more efficient tax system – tax reform – will create jobs by lowering income tax rates for both individuals and corporations, and that it can either be made revenue-neutral or even raise additional revenue by eliminating some unnecessary or inefficient deductions and subsidies in the code. As part of tax reform as it will apply to individuals, do you think the home mortgage deduction, the health insurance exclusion, and charitable deductions – the three largest individual deductions – should be eliminated or reduced in exchange for lower overall rates?
7. Regarding tax reform that will apply to businesses, do you think special tax breaks and subsidies should be eliminated or reduced in favour of lower overall rates for all businesses? Can you identify some tax breaks that you think should be eliminated, such as those that go to ethanol producers?