How can the moderators at tonight’s GOP debate avoid the thrashing handed out to the CNBC crew? First and foremost, ask the right questions – questions about the economy that will allow the candidates to lay out their plans for the future of the country. Each brings individual perspectives and backgrounds; each has proposed policies that should stimulate intelligent discussion. Here are eight questions, tailored to the candidates’ campaigns that should spark a lively conversation.
For Donald Trump: You have often suggested that China has stolen American jobs by undervaluing their currency and not abiding by trade rules. In a Trump presidency, you have promised to eliminate those practices by slapping hefty tariffs on Chinese imports. Doing so would undoubtedly raise the prices Americans would pay for clothing, toys and appliances. Walmart, for instance, claims to have saved American consumers billions of dollars on apparel and other goods they have imported from China. How would you explain to the country that higher prices are in their best interests?
For Ben Carson: It is well known that a very high percent of a person’s lifetime medical costs are incurred in their last year. Should this reality lead to changes in how we treat the elderly or the terminally ill, given that fast-rising health outlays will put increasing pressure on the nation’s fiscal outlook?
For Marco Rubio: You have spoken often, and from personal experience, about the financial challenges facing young families who struggle to pay off student loans. How can we make it easier for students to pay off their debts, and how can we shrink the trillion-plus dollars of outstanding student loans without placing an undue burden on taxpayers?
For Carly Fiorina: No one on this stage understands the labor needs of our thriving tech industry better than you do. Could you please give your opinion of the H1B visa program, and whether we need to import engineers and other highly trained individuals to help provide workers to Silicon Valley? Are tech giants that want the visa numbers increased simply trying to lower labor costs, as some have charged? Or do we really face a shortage of specialists in key occupations?
For Jeb Bush: Your tax plan would free an estimated 15 million Americans from paying income taxes. That would swell the number not paying income taxes to about half the population – up from roughly 40 percent now to some 81 million Americans. How do you convince the half the country that is paying all the income taxes that their burden is fair?
For Rand Paul: You have repeatedly called for an audit of the Federal Reserve. Since the Fed is actually audited each year, what other information are you looking for? You have gone so far as to say “The Fed’s out to get us?” What does that mean exactly? What do you expect or hope to find out about our central bank?
For John Kasich: You have talked about the enormous waste in healthcare spending, and about reforming Obamacare. What three changes would be critical in a redo of our healthcare plan? How would those changes improve the care given to Americans? What are some private sector “fixes” that you might adopt to make the system more responsive and efficient?
For Ted Cruz: You have led the fight against the Export-Import Bank, saying it is an example of crony capitalism. Since taxpayers actually receive money from the Ex-Im Bank – it being one of the few agencies that are money-makers -- what exactly is your objection? Ex-Im assists small companies trying to do business overseas, and also helps large corporations like GE that tend to pay top-dollar salaries and benefits. What’s wrong with providing both large and small companies the same type of assistance that other countries give our rivals around the globe?
Hopefully, such questions will focus the candidates’ energies on making their case before the American people, and distract them from grinding each other into birdseed. We understand that for some, the temptation may prove too great. Sadly, that’s what makes for good ratings, if not for a constructive primary season.