Tonight 10 candidates will stand on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, kicking off the first Republican presidential debate. A recent Gallup poll revealed the top five questions Americans want to hear during the debate. We agree! Most of these key issues Americans care about relate directly or indirectly to the issue of spending. Here are some of the questions Americans want to hear, and our points to consider when listening to the candidates answer tonight.
How do you propose to fix the economy?
A sound economy requires responsible budgeting. Just as a millionaire can find himself bankrupt after unrestrained spending sprees, economic growth cannot be guaranteed if spending is out of control. Spending across all levels of government now totals 40% of our GDP, and much of it is done by accruing debt. Interest payments on the debt are set to quadruple over the next decade.
All-too-recent experiences in Greece and Puerto Rico show that eventually, out-of-control spending can cause severe harm to the economy and citizens. While the United States is in much better shape, of course, we know this situation is never guaranteed. Big entitlement programs face insolvency within just a few years — or in the case of Social Security Disability, just a few months.
Similarly, the nation’s roads and bridges continue to be inefficiently funded through an outdated and wasteful federal system. Instead of looking to reform how current funds are spent or letting better-equipped states and localities take on some responsibility, politicians haggle over gimmicks and taxes, and a fiscally sound long-term solution remains elusive.
There are countless ways — from the F-35 to the “Affordable” Care Act — that politicians on both sides are wasting our money. The American people care about the economy, and they want a President who will make things better, not worse. A crucial part of that is getting spending under control.
What do you propose to do about jobs?
Most candidates want to foster “job creation,” but voters should look closely at the specifics of how they plan to do so. Fiscal conservatives should be skeptical of government spending to “create” jobs in the first place; After all, as Bastiat postulated in his “broken window fallacy,” government-created jobs erroneously reallocate resources into the public sector and away from the most effective means in the private sector.
Research has suggested that stimulus packages are wildly ineffective and government employees are drastically overpaid. According to economists, stimulus bills are not actually effective at even creating jobs in a macro sense. In reality, public jobs hinder private sector employment rate growth and do nothing for overall unemployment.
In a grander sense, of course, getting spending and debt under control can be a key factor in getting job growth and a better economy. Original simulation research from the Institute shows that implementing better debt controls would have resulted in employment growth of millions of jobs.
How do you propose to deal with people’s record-low confidence in Congress and the elected representatives they send to Washington?
There are many reasons Americans don’t trust Congress, and many are good ones. Much like someone telling a boyfriend or girlfriend what they want to hear to regain their trust, candidates might use flowery language of “freedom” and “the American dream” — but people should look for real answers beyond the catchphrases.
Representatives have been using budget gimmicks to pursue their interests. The budget rules were set in place so that Congress does not recklessly spend too much taxpayer’s money, but whether through the war budget or by new slush funds altogether, politicians clearly are looking for ways out of keeping their promises..
Congress has butted heads over who gets to spend more taxpayer dollars, and come October, they’ll face a government shutdown and likely have to pass a continuing resolution that keeps things as they were in the past year. So much for doing their jobs.
The American people are right to raise an eyebrow at all the broken promises and demand better next time around — whoever is in office. We’re not sure exactly where the conversations tonight will go, but we, like millions of Americans, want real answers to the important questions facing our country.