Candidate Debates Need Sharper Focus On The Economy

Posted: Sep 23, 2015 6:05 PM
Candidate Debates Need Sharper Focus On The Economy

Is there anyone else out there who is as frustrated as I am that the presidential candidates are not debating the issues Americans worry about most?

With few exceptions, the last GOP debate seemed to be about issues that do not even make the top-10 list of the voters' deepest concerns -- or even make the list at all.

A self-absorbed, egotistical Donald Trump is repeatedly telling voters how successful he is, but I have yet to hear him lay out a detailed plan to get the mediocre Obama economy running on all cylinders.

Instead, we are subjected to Trump's insulting, infantile remarks about Carly Fiorina's face -- for which he refuses to apologize.

After last week's debate, GOP pollster David Winston was just as frustrated that the Republican debate didn't focus on the economy, which is far and away the No. 1 issue in every voter poll.

"Whenever the candidates are not talking about jobs and the economy, they're off on the wrong topic," Winston said.

James Pethokoukis, an economics scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, went through the transcript of Wednesday's debate to count the subjects that came up for discussion.

There were 10 references to the Middle East; four that dealt with the middle class; 23 about defunding Planned Parenthood; seven on building a 2,000-mile concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexican border; and only five touching on the economy.

What were the messages the voters drew from the GOP debate? That Republicans don't have much to say about their chief concerns, Pethokoukis said.

"What should be the core Republican themes -- growth and upward mobility -- didn't get much play," he said.

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, was similarly concerned that the subject matter in the GOP debates will deeply damage its position in the 2016 election.

"I shook my head, thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, we've spent 20 minutes talking about birthright citizenship,'" Wehner told The Washington Post.

But the absence of any real discussion of the anemic economic recovery under the Democrats -- the longest since the Great Depression -- was due to CNN moderator Jake Tapper, who should know better.

Every poll taken under this presidency that asks what are "your biggest worries" about our country shows that 40 percent of Americans say the economy, jobs and declining incomes. But the liberal news media have been playing down the economy's ill health or ignoring it altogether.

"It's a product of the questions that were asked," Wehner said. "Marco Rubio would love to talk about college affordability and student debt. And Jeb Bush, I don't know that there's any issue he'd rather talk about than social mobility."

Bush unveiled a sweeping economic reform agenda last week to boost the economy's sluggish growth rate to 4 percent or higher. But his plan received little, if any, national media attention, while the nightly news networks focused on Trump's feuds with Fiorina and Bush.

"Jeb's whole campaign is all about economic growth. ... He rolls out the most significant piece of his plan to get us rolling at 4 percent, and it's ignored. That's unfortunate," says Professor Edward Lazear, a prominent senior fellow in economic policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

It is hard to overstate how disastrous the economy has been under the Obama Democrats in terms of sagging incomes and weak job creation.

The U.S. Census Bureau released sobering economic data last week that said real median household incomes have been flat or falling for the majority of Americans every year since the recession. For example, the report said that last year's median income level was 6.5 percent lower than it was in 2007.

"Five years after the recession was officially declared over, the typical American household was still shambling along without a real raise," The Washington Post reported. "For most in America, real income isn't budging."

You didn't hear that on the national network news this week, did you? I wonder why?

Wages remain flat and business investment has been slow to barely budging over the course of Obama's presidency. And the economy isn't going to get much better in the seventh and eighth years of this failed administration.

The International Monetary Fund is now forecasting that U.S. economic growth (GDP) will increase by a sluggish 2.5 percent this year. That means fewer jobs, which are not keeping pace with the nation's population growth.

It also means workers won't be getting raises anytime soon with so much slack in the labor market. The so-called "shadow unemployed" -- millions of discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job -- are not counted by the government as unemployed. That's how the administration has been able to lower the unemployment rate without producing very many jobs.

The Republicans need to start pounding the economy into the consciousness of America's voters, explaining why new homes sales have tumbled this month because prices are rising faster than incomes.

And they are going to effectively start doing that only by demanding that the economy has to be a major share of the issues under discussion in future debates.

Or better yet, start holding debates that focus entirely on economic issues, which would allow candidates the time to explain how their plans will put tens of millions of long-unemployed Americans back to work at higher salaries.

And also explain how Barack Obama and the Democrats have been blocking our country's economic progress and smothering the American Dream.