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The presidential debate should be a chance to discuss real policy differences.


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Michael Tanner

Do you agree or disagree with your running mate’s plan for Medicare reform? You have said that you haven’t “gone through [the Ryan plan] piece by piece and said, ‘Oh, here’s a place where there’s a difference.’ I can’t imagine any two people, even in the same party, who have exactly the same positions on all issues.” That’s reasonable. After all, you are the presidential candidate, not Congressman Ryan. So what exactly is your plan for Medicare?  

Speaking of Medicare, you have spent much of this campaign attacking President Obama for making cuts to the program. You have a point when you note that the president would use $716 billion in Medicare cuts over 10 years to help fund Obamacare. But you also seem to imply that you would undo those cuts. In fact, you seem to suggest that your Medicare plan would not require either current or future Medicare recipients to either pay more or receive less than retirees do today. Given Medicare’s impending insolvency, is that really possible?

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On taxes, you suggest that under your tax reform, upper income taxpayers won’t really pay less in taxes. Why not? If taxes really are discouraging business investment and job creation, why not cut them for everyone, including those most likely to invest or to create jobs? Also with respect to tax reform, you say you will offset any reduction in rates by eliminating deductions and loopholes. However, the biggest deductions, such as the mortgage deduction, the tax exclusion for employer-provided insurance, and the deduction for state and local taxes are quite popular. Even if you are not willing to name a specific deduction you would eliminate, are you prepared to say that every current deduction is on the table? 

Both sides keep telling us that this is one of the most important elections of our lifetime. Given the problems facing our country, that is likely true. It would be nice, then, if instead of campaign clichés, bromides, and games of “gotcha,” the debate featured serious answers to serious questions. Don’t hold your breath.

— Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.



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