If you viewed the town hall debate yesterday, you might have thought that everyone in America was six years old, demanding more toys from their parents for Christmas. Question after question began with the assumption that the problem (too much government) was the solution.
The myth of a town hall debate is that real people get to ask unfiltered questions. At the beginning of the debate, Tom Brokaw proudly announced that he had the sole power to choose the questions that he was going to ask. I find it impossible to believe that Brokaw did not receive some questions that challenged the prevailing Washington and media orthodoxy that government should be at once Robin Hood, Santa Claus, and Superman.
Ramrod straight, with a big and clear voice, Obama was the slicker, more believable, and likeable pitchman for bigger government. McCain looked tired; with his head pitched forward, he reminded me of a subdued Don Rickles—the microphone caught McCain sucking in air after every sentence. With both Obama and McCain promising a grab-bag of goodies, the public was sure to gravitate to the new guy as one who might deliver more.
Here are some questions I would have liked to have heard:
Economy: If the current bailout fails and confidence is thus shattered, what will you propose? What mistakes did the Federal Reserve make that led to this crisis, and what will you do to ensure that they can’t make the same mistakes again? Why do you believe that it is a good idea to bailout, with the money of prudent taxpayers, homeowners who borrowed more than they could afford?
Healthcare: What has been the government’s role in diminishing supply, restricting innovation, and encouraging excessive demand for healthcare services? Follow-up to Senator Obama: You say you believe that healthcare is a right; who has the obligation to pay for this right? Specifically, if an individual doesn’t exercise, eats junk food all day, smokes and drinks, do other taxpayers have the obligation to pay for their healthcare?
Energy: In light of the terrible consequences of ethanol subsidies, why do you think that government should be picking winners and losers in alternative energy? Follow-up to Senator McCain: You believe that nuclear power is safe and that more nuclear power plants should be built; then why are private insurers unwilling to insure nuclear power for but a fraction of the potential damages in an accident?
Foreign policy: Do you believe in George Washington’s wisdom that the government should engage in peaceful commerce with all nations, but not engage in entangling foreign alliances? How can the American empire continued to be funded, and if you can’t fund it what will you do to begin to dismantle it?
The debate was a sham. Both candidates understood that real questions would never be posed to them by the moderator. The fact that none of these types of questions are even on the table for dialogue reveals how far away we are from real change.