How I’d Moderate a Presidential Debate on Economic Policy

Just a quick political vent here. I’ve got fairly strong views about economic policy, but even those with whom I don’t agree recognize a lot of our contemporary political debate on the subject is detached from reality. Here’s a quick outline of how I’d structure a sane debate on economic policy.

1) Remind everyone in the room what the federal government spends money on. I’d give anything to have the image on the right flashed on screen during the presidential debates. The bulk of what the federal government spends on is defense + transferring money from future to current retirees + pay for the health insurance of the elderly and the poor.

2) Unemployment: Differentiate short term vs. long term. Next up would be a discussion of our most pressing economic problem today: high unemployment. What is the candidate going to do to address our short term problems?

3) How would you lower healthcare costs? Future deficits are driven by rising healthcare costs. What’s your plan to lower healthcare costs across the system?

4) What’s Your Plan for Economic Growth? Ok, now we can talk long term. What’s your plan to stimulate economic growth? This is where we’d talk about tax policy, to the extent the candidates believed it was a key growth driver. This is also where candidates would address climate change.

5) Making the Economy Work for Everyone. For the last 30 years, the economic growth we’ve seen has mostly lined the pockets of the most wealthy among us. Yes, life has gotten better for most people, but gains have been highly unequal. Does your long term growth plan address this? Would the benefits of that growth be shared broadly? If not, what other policies would you introduce to create a shared prosperity?


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