Tomorrow is the first official GOP primary debate in Cleveland, Ohio, and only the Top 10 contenders will share the main stage. Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the CATO Institute, has put together a great list of questions in the National Review and hopefully the debate moderators will take note.
What is the purpose of government? Is government a tool to achieve your goals, or are there limits to what it can and should try to do? For instance, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee see government as arbitrating, teaching, or enforcing moral values. Ben Carson and Donald Trump want government to create jobs. Nearly all the candidates see themselves as fighting for or protecting the middle class. But how do these goals comport with constitutional or philosophical limitations on government?
Can you cut the size and cost of government without offending anyone or cutting programs that have popular support? GOP candidates talk about balancing the budget and reducing our ruinous $18.2 trillion national debt, but they seldom say how. Too often they simply pretend that you can balance the budget through economic growth or by trimming “fraud, waste, and abuse.” At the Voters First Forum this Monday, only Rick Perry used the words “cutting spending.” A few other candidates, including Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker, gingerly discussed the possibility of entitlement reform. But by and large, the acknowledgment of the need for spending restraint has been missing from the campaign trail. Some of the candidates, like Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, have actually come out against entitlement reform, and most of the candidates have been far more comfortable talking about areas where they would increase spending, such as defense or farm programs.
Are you pro-business, pro-jobs, or pro-market? No doubt most Republicans are much more attuned to the needs of the business community than most Democrats. But as Milton Friedman once said, “Business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.” Too many businesses favor corporate welfare, regulations that impede their competitors, and bailouts if they fail. TARP, the Export-Import Bank, and Donald Trump’s use of eminent domain to seize private property for his own use are classic examples. Nor does a free market always protect jobs or wages, especially in the short term. After all, in a free market, companies can lay people off, move overseas, or hire immigrant labor. Yet, in the long run, free markets will lead to both more freedom and more prosperity than any measure of government intervention. What are the candidates’ priorities?
What other questions do you think moderators should ask candidates in the Fox News debate tomorrow?