With less than two weeks to go before the 2012 presidential election, the campaign's statistics speak for themselves:
- Three debates
- Hundreds of speeches
- Ten of thousands of advertisements
- Hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign donations
- Nonstop television coverage
Given the tabloidization of American politics and the immense saturation of political media (including this blog) it is hard to believe that two men vying for the position of Leader-of-the-Free-World could possibly avoid sharing their policy prescriptions on some of the most important issues facing the nation they aspire to lead - right? Wrong.
It is true that the candidates have spent countless minutes of primetime television sparring over healthcare, tax policy, economic growth and their visions for America's future. However, some of the most urgent problems facing an America belatedly adjusting to the new realities of globalization, economic realignment, environmental reckoning and democratic communications have been largely left untouched.
Here are six questions that the presidential candidates should be judged on, but will likely never speak about before assuming the Oval Office.
1) Entitlement Reform - How do you plan to keep Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid solvent in the midst of rising poverty rates and an aging population? Can you maintain the social safety net and tackle the deficit? If asked to prioritize, which would you choose?
2) Changing Labor Markets - How can America compete in the age of globalization without taking part in the "Race to the Bottom"?
3) Foreign Policy - How will America adjust from being the world's unchallenged superpower to the new reality of being a leader among several indispensable nations including China, the European Union, Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey and others?
4) Environmental Policy - Do you believe that our carbon emissions contribute to climate change? If so, what are your policies to reduce carbon emissions? If not, what are you basing your political policy on?
5) The Wealth Gap - Are you concerned that the gap between rich and poor continues to widen in America and much of the developing world? If so, what are you plans to reduce poverty in America? Can we realistically help other nations reduce their poverty gaps as well?
6) The Deficit - Please give us the details of your plan to tackle America's structural deficit.
The fact that these issues have been left largely unaddressed is not just an indictment of an extremely shallow political campaign. It is a reflection of a citizenry that cares more about Mitt Romney's tax rate and Barack Obama's affection for capitalism than it does about issues that will shape the future our country and the world.
As a populous we have been happy to pretend that taxing the wealthy (if you're a Democrat) or cutting taxes on the wealthy (if you're a Republican) is the silver bullet that will revive our economy; we choose to bury our heads in the sand rather than have an honest discussion about reforming entitlements; we accept and embrace the same tired foreign policy platitudes that candidates have been issuing since the collapse of the Berlin Wall; we pretend that the poor don't exist and that global warming is a non-issue.
Politicians will only change the tenor and content of their campaigns when voters demand it. This sad but evident truth means that improving our political discourse rests in the hands of the American people. Hopefully we will rise to the occasion in 2016.
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