After nearly four years, there are an endless number of questions a good moderator could ask President Barack Obama during Wednesday night’s first presidential debate in Denver, Colo. Considering tonight’s focus is domestic policy, here are seven questions (in no particular order) that moderator Jim Lehrer should ask:
1.) In a report issued in January 2009 by then-Chairwoman of your Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer, your incoming administration predicted that if your stimulus package was enacted, the unemployment rate wouldn’t go above 8 percent and would stand at 5.4 percent today. Instead, the unemployment went past 10 percent and now hovers over 8 percent. What happened? And considering how wrong your administration was in predicting the effects of the stimulus, why are you so confident that continuing your same economic policies will get us out of our economic rut instead of just continue to pile on debt?
2.) You have claimed that you want a long-term debt deal. To date, you have emphasized raising taxes on the rich as a solution to our long-term debt problem. But anyone who has looked at the long-term debt problem knows that raising taxes on the rich will do very little to solve it. To be blunt, America’s long-term debt crisis can’t be managed without fundamentally reforming America’s entitlement programs, particularly Medicare. Why haven’t you put a plan on paper to reform Medicare during your nearly four years in office? If you are serious about a debt deal, how would you reform Medicare? What specific changes would you make?
3.) In Bob Woodward’s new book, he confirms criticism that you have failed to build relationships in Congress and suggests this contributed to the failure of coming to a debt deal in 2011. In a similar way, the book details how you failed to build relationships with the business community that could have helped in promoting economic recovery. Do you think your personality is ill-suited to the presidency? Do you disdain having to deal with Congress?
4.) You have spoken of tax fairness, urging “millionaires and billionaires” to pay their “fair share.” At what tax rates for “millionaires and billionaires” does it go from being fair to unfair? How did you determine that?
5.) Your administration has continued the war on drugs. The feds have even cracked down on medical marijuana in states that allow it. You have admitted to drug use in your teens and twenties, specifically marijuana and a “little blow.” To paraphrase a question by libertarian activist Penn Jillette, if you had been arrested for marijuana and cocaine under the laws you now condone and enforce, how differently do you think your life would have turned out? Do you think you would be on this stage today?
6.) Did you read the health care bill before you signed it? How many people in your administration read it?
7.) You have spoken despairingly about “millionaire and billionaires,” uniquely singling them out as nefarious actors trying to avoid contributing their “fair share.” In your famous “you didn’t build that” speech, you suggested that entrepreneurs owe much to the government for the success of their businesses. In your autobiography, you wrote that you felt like a “spy behind enemy lines” during a stint in the private sector after college. Why are you so hostile to successful entrepreneurs and businessmen, at least in your rhetoric? And which group do you think does more for American society: community organizers or entrepreneurs?