As the writer says below, similar questions can and should be asked of Republican candidates, but what we have here is interesting nevertheless.
Here are the writers questions for Republican candidates.
We know all the candidates are spewing nonsense at us. However, the Democrats seem to have set a course that many people falsely find appealing and which could fundamentally change America. Shouldn’t we ask the hard question and demand facts from all?
In their previous debate, the Democratic presidential candidates talked up their plans to address income inequality, break up the big banks, create millions of new jobs and oppose free-trade deals. But they weren’t challenged to back up their prescriptions with real data, say how they would pay for expensive new programs, or explain how they could get Congress to cooperate.
So just as I did ahead of the Nov. 10 Republican debate, I’m offering some suggestions for questions — essentially a take-home test — for the three Democrats when they face one another on Saturday night. To make the debates more informative and substantive, I proposed that the candidates see the questions in advance. Here’s the open-book exam for the Democrats:
Bernie Sanders: You say inequality is the great moral issue of our time. While it’s clear inequality has increased, it’s less clear that it’s the cause of the problems you cite, such as stagnant wages and slow growth. Can you point to statistical evidence that connects inequality to these problems? And doesn’t some inequality spur hard work and innovation?
Hillary Clinton: You say you would attack inequality by making the wealthy “pay their fair share.” But the top 20 percent of wage earners already pay 84 percent of federal income taxes. The bottom 40 percent on average pay no income tax; instead, they get refunds through various tax credits. What do you consider a fair share then? What should the top income-tax rate, now 39.6 percent, be?
Martin O’Malley: You want to break up the big banks. To do that, you would reinstate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking but was repealed in 1999. Yet none of the financial institutions that failed, or nearly did, in the 2008 financial crisis — Countrywide, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Wachovia and AIG — were financial supermarkets. All would have gotten into just as much trouble if the Glass-Steagall law had been on the books. So why is restoring that law necessary?
Sanders: You say another way to address inequality would be to stop corporations from moving profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying taxes. How, exactly, would you do that? And if, as most economists say, inequality is due largely to technology advances, why not give more priority to updating worker skills and improving education, over redistributionist tax policies?
Clinton: You have come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal because, you say, it would harm American workers and wages. But the agreement says low-wage countries can’t get access to the U.S. market without first allowing labor unions and collective bargaining, which over time would erode their advantages. Why would you oppose the TPP if it both forces Asian countries to raise their labor standards and opens their markets to U.S. companies?
O’Malley: You said that 70 percent of Americans are earning the same or less than they were 12 years ago. But according to the best data available — the Labor Department’s quarterly census of employment and wages — average weekly wages for non-supervisory workers have actually risen an inflation-adjusted 42 percent since 1975. And if you adjust the data using the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, wages for most workers hit a new high this year. What is your 70 percent figure based on?
Sanders: You support corn-based ethanol as one way to reduce greenhouse gases and fight climate change. But various studies show that making corn ethanol uses up as much energy as it produces, and also drives up food prices. Congress has allowed ethanol tax credits to expire and the Environmental Protection Agency has cooled to corn-based ethanol. So what reason is there, beyond courting votes in Iowa, to support ethanol production?
Clinton: In the last debate, you said you know how to find common ground, even when dealing with Republicans who never had a good word to say about you. On what major issue — tax reform, Obamacare, student debt, immigration, criminal justice reform — could you find common ground with a Republican candidate? Please describe what such a compromise might look like.
O’Malley: You say special interests and wealthy financiers have corrupted politics. To make elections fairer, you propose giving a refundable tax credit to those who contribute $25 to a congressional candidate. But only 6 percent of taxpayers check the box on their federal income-tax forms to contribute $3 to the presidential election, even though it doesn’t affect what they owe or what they’re due. Doesn’t your proposal ignore the fact that Americans have never liked the idea of publicly financed elections?
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