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5 Questions for the Candidates

Tough questions for the US Presidential debates...

I HATE to break it to Ben Affleck, writes Martin Hutchinson at Money Morning, but he is wrong about the election. With just 34 days left until voters head to the polls, the election 2012 race is still completely up for grabs. 

Even still, in a recent interview with the AP, Affleck lumped Romney comfortably in with the likes of such memorable losers as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and Bob Dole. 

However, a recent a poll released by Rasmussen yesterday would seem to suggest this contest is far from over. According to the survey, President Obama only leads Mitt Romney by a razor slim advantage of 48% to 47%, well within the margin of error.

That makes tonight's presidential debates in Denver all the more critical for both candidates-especially since they will be devoted primarily to the economy and domestic policy. 

Of course, here at Money Morning we have our own ideas on how the economy ought to be run, and a few questions of our own for each of tonight's debaters. But we'll bet most of the tough questions will be completely missed by the media, who have an altogether-too-exalted an idea of the candidates' competence. 

With that in mind, here are five questions that should get asked at tonight's debate-but won't. 

Five Questions About the Economy That Beg To Be Answered

1. Mr. President, Governor, study after study has shown that the healthcare system in this country is absorbing a larger and larger share of our Gross Domestic Product, and will bankrupt us all by 2050. Yet neither of you has any reliable plans to deal with this.

Mr. President, your Obamacare makes matters worse. Governor, your Romneycare in Massachusetts has also run wildly over budget and your Vice President's plan loads most medical cost increases onto individuals who get sick. 

Other countries cope with medical cost inflation better than us; which of their schemes should we adopt?  

2. Wall Street has failed to reform itself; its new game of "algorithmic trading" looks likely to crash the stock market altogether at some point.

Mr. President, your signature Dodd-Frank legislation has loaded the banks with bureaucracy, while doing literally nothing to make the financial system safer. Governor, you want to repeal most of the President's legislation, but not replace it with anything that might solve the problem. 

Since a Tobin Tax, at a low rate, would make the worst "fast trading" unprofitable and thus reduce the problem, why aren't either of you recommending it? Are you both that hopelessly dependent on Wall Street's campaign financing?

3. Mr. President, your only solution to the budget deficits is to raise taxes on the wealthy, yet you surely must know there simply aren't enough "rich people" to begin to make a dent in it.

Governor, you plan to cut taxes by 20%, which unless you believe in a truly Santa Claus-sized supply-side effect, will make the problem worse. 

What are your real plans to solve the deficit problem? - or are you both planning to run four more trillion-Dollar deficits in the next Presidential term, hope that Ben Bernanke finances them, and leave the problem to your successor? 

4. Speaking of Ben Bernanke, are you both aware of the horrendous effect keeping interest rates far below inflation year after year has on America's savers and the middle class?

Governor, you have promised to replace Bernanke, but your financial advisor, Glenn Hubbard, has said Ben's policies make sense. Mr. President, you seem unaware of the problems your Fed Chairman is causing. 

What are you going to do when all our capital has fled overseas, and our people are reduced to Bangladeshi living standards because there is no longer any capital to support their labor? 

5. Home prices are beginning to recover. But Ben Bernanke is propping up the housing bond market at the rate of $40 billion a month, and you are supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose ridiculous purpose is to provide government guarantees to home loans, something that the supposedly socialist countries of Western Europe don't do. 

Don't you both think the government has more important things to do with its money than provide gigantic subsidies to the homebuilding industry? This subsidy has already caused one gigantic financial crash and will cause another one if left in place. 

How would you phase out these subsidies without crashing the housing market?

Of course, there are other questions with which we could badger the candidates, even without turning to foreign or social policies. Agricultural subsidies would be one, and another would be lobbying, which has multiplied 30-fold in the last 40 years. 

Nevertheless, these questions would be enough to make both candidates squirm - and perhaps give some accidentally honest answers as to how they would go about addressing our most difficult economic problems.

As for Ben Affleck, I think he ought to at least watch the debates before he declares the winner.

By the way, if you have a tough question for the candidates tonight we'd love to hear it. You can post them below.

After all, isn't it time they finally told us the truth? 

On that final matter, let's just say I'm not holding my breath. 

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Now a contributing editor to both the Money Map Report and Money Morning, the much-respected free daily advisory service, Martin Hutchinson is an investment banker with more than 25 years’ experience. A graduate of Cambridge and Harvard universities, he moved from working on Wall Street and in the City, as well as in Spain and South Korea, to helping the governments of Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia establish their Treasury bond markets in the late '90s. Business and Economics Editor at United Press International from 2000-4, and a BreakingViews editor since 2006, Hutchinson is also author of the closely-followed Bear's Lair column at the Prudent Bear website.

See full archive of Martin Hutchinson.

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