Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Don't let the news cycle dominate presidential debates

Watching most of the presidential primary debates, it's striking how much the question topics have been oriented around issues currently in the weekly news cycle. This is probably an attempt to be 'relevant' to marginal viewers, but its effect is to severely limit the scope of questioning. Presidents oversee a vast federal bureaucracy, and it seems to me that at the very least every federal department should warrant a debate question. I'd like to see some questions about off-base topics, such as:
  • Space policy and asteroid defense: "What is your view on devoting 1% of the federal budget to NASA--a penny for NASA?"
  • Supply-side healthcare issues: "Have the US federal dietary guidelines done anything to improve health?"
  • Climate change adaptation: "Climate change affects some places more than others. Should US disaster relief policy subsidize development and rebuilding in higher-risk locations, such as coastal areas and forest fire zones?"
  • Housing: "The mortgage interest rate deduction disproportionately benefits wealthy people, increasing inequality. What is your position on this policy?" 
  • Foreign aid: "Polls consistently show the public wildly overestimates the share of the federal budget that goes to foreign aid. As a president accountable to the people, what is the proper size and role of the US foreign aid budget?"
  • Alcohol: "Alcohol consumption has a large social cost, and is a major contributor to road fatalities, property damage, and criminal activity, including sexual violence. If accompanied by offsetting tax cuts, would you support raising taxes on alcohol?
  • Drones: "What is your view on the new FAA drone regulations, and do you worry they might stifle this nascent industry, undermining the US' role as a leader in technological innovation?"
  • Nuclear waste: The US spent billions researching and developing a proposed long-term nuclear waste storage repository in Nevada, only to see it cancelled under President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid. What is your plan to ensure the safe long-term storage of nuclear waste?"
I could go on and on...

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