America’s Real Questions

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.

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7 Responses to America’s Real Questions

  1. Velvet says:

    “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?”

    You got that right. I have yet to hear one single person, politician or otherwise, blame the Federal Reserve for cheapening (is that a word?) our dollar. And I also have yet to hear anyone when citing “greed” to say “greed of homebuyers. They blame the greed of Wall Street…and yet, I don’t see that at all. How was Wall Street greedy? Their business objectives are to invest in products that pay off. They may have been greedy in their personal bonus structures that they awarded to themselves, but greedy for buying mortgage backed securities when all other investment houses were doing it too? I’m not so sure.

    I did like how Palin phrased it: “never again will we be taken advantage of.” It was a nice, politically correct way of saying that the homebuyers were greedy and stupid too.

  2. Velvet,

    When that kind of question, about the Fed, can be asked in a debate, we will be near the bottom of this cycle. Unfortunately we are at least years from when it will asked.

    Indeed, the greed of the homebuyers and the greed on Wall Street are coming from the same “sea of mental garbage” and are are no different. Of course those who are greedy want to be the innocent victim and blame others.

  3. E says:

    The truth is plain to see. Any candidate that speaks candidly and truthfully about the situation is going to lose big. The obvious example is “Do my pants make me look fat?” Ron Paul: “It’s not the pants; you’re just fat.” Likewise, the question could be posed, “do you think I was stupid stupid stupid for taking a loan I couldn’t afford with no money down?” Therefore, we know what we’re getting.

    I think it’s poetic justice though, that the current administration in the White House, which predicated its fundamental philosophy on smaller government, has been promoting the largest socialist policy the US has ever seen — that the US Government will in effect buy mortgage debt and hold it (to say nothing of injecting a governmental actor into the marketplace). “Hey… who owns those houses in PG County?” “Why, el governmento de Los Estados Unidos Communista.”

  4. E says:

    Alright, the last post was a bit of an exaggeration, but it underscores that I do not like one bit where we have gone with this thing. First, we get all the liabilities off these banks balance sheets, and nobody is talking about what to do with all the swaps out there… all those undercapitalized contracts sold back and forth to each institution which are getting this damn bailout. I mean, after AIG got its hands on $85BB of walking-around money, they paid it all out on CDS’s they owed…. which went to the likes of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. So really, what the hell is the government doing? “Oh, we just saved the banking system by helping idiots who undercapitalized their assurance contracts get back in the game.”

  5. igli1969 says:

    In what time and place has there not been an incestuous relationship between whatever form of governement existed and the wealthy class? The problem gets exacerbated as the government is allowed, by greedy people (read: voters, in the current instance), to get ever larger. And, as Dr B pointed out in the comment about the gov’t picking winners and losers, the power to tax is the power to destroy. And since, as many have noted, if voting could make a difference, the government wouldn’t allow it. The system cannot be reformed from within, any more than one can expect a con man to voluntarily return the proceeds of a scam to the suckers.

    Get ready for a wild ride.

    Chris C.

  6. James D. says:

    The problem of gov’t/wealthy incest also lies in having access to the pulpit. The bailout as passed allows for debt instruments of less than 100 million dollars to not be required to payback the Treasury. So what will happen? All that debt will get chopped up into 99 million dollar tranches, and the taxpayers will get the shaft (again). Plus, the bailout requires the securities to be priced according to a model, not the market value. Doesn’t that sound like a major part of what got us here, derivative securities bought on leverage and priced to model instead of market? Indeed, the man Paulson is going to have run this scheme is an expert in valuing mortgage security derivatives, not the mortgages themselves. Sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse to me. Who wrote this mess? The banker’s lobbyists, who else. Nobody asked anyone with any real sense to write it, say the Academy of Economists whose letter Professor Brownstein posted. I’ll go dollars to donuts anyone reading and posting on this blog could have constructed a better plan than what got passed. But those in gov’t would not have listened.

  7. E,

    Not to mention the $400,000 junket that AIG throw itself after the bailout was received.

    Chris,

    Some are advocating not voting at all, while others advocate voting for any third party as away of cutting into the perceived “legitimacy” of the two major parties.

    Jim,

    Mish Shedlock colorfully observes that “You Cannot Patch A Busted Dam With Water.”

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