If they devoted an entire debate to America's dissolving manufacturing base.
Or how we're being played for suckers on trade.
Or how we're going to pay for baby boomers' retirement -- and the $80 trillion we owe them. And where the federal government's accumulated operating debt of $9 trillion is going to go.
It wouldn't necessarily be great for ratings, but such a debate might focus the country on these critical issues like never before.
And on the Democratic side, it would be interesting to hear a 90-minute discussion by the candidates on illegal immigration and amnesty. It's truly amazing that illegal immigration, one of the top issues on the minds of voters, has been almost completely absent from Democratic debates. Why are moderators giving Democrats a pass on this issue?
But for all the candidates on both sides, it would be nice to focus on one major issue for an entire debate. Allowing candidates to jump around from topic to topic the way they do lets them issue superficial and often meaningless sound bites and campaign slogans, and to escape accountability for what they would actually do as president.
As a result, that helps obscure newsworthy developments in some of these major issues.
Here, for instance, are a few interesting little tidbits about the health of the country that you might have missed while listening to some of the jabber that passes for great thoughts at most presidential debates:
- The U.S. trade deficit continues sucking dollars out of the economy and into our trading partners' economies, particularly China's: The trade deficit was $63 billion in November alone; last year, the trade deficit with China alone was $240 billion.
Is that sustainable? If not, what should be done about it? And is the communist government in China playing fair, or are its currency manipulation and subsidies of state-owned businesses cheating America?
- Speaking of being played for suckers by our trading partners, some 150 countries today levy value-added taxes, or VATs, on goods. But get this: They rebate the taxes on goods their companies ship here, and levy it on our goods going over there. The result is a double whammy on American manufacturers.
- Speaking of manufacturing, Americans -- the hardest-working, most productive workers on Earth -- are getting their clock cleaned by unfair foreign competition (see American trade policies). The result: Our manufacturing base is shrinking like a cheap pair of jeans. This country lost 31,000 manufacturing jobs in December alone -- and a total of 212,000 in 2007.
And consider this little gem: America has now dipped below 14 million manufacturing jobs for the first time since 1950.
When are we going to talk about that in any meaningful and sustained way? Republican candidates briefly talked jobs in Michigan, but have yet to explain what their vision is for how we're going to replace all those good-paying positions. Retraining? Retraining to do what -- to press each other's pants that are made overseas?
You know, it would be nice if the presidential candidates and those who are in a privileged position to ask them questions would start focusing intently on these issues.
Please, spare us the chronic updates on Heath Ledger and Britney Spears, and tell us how we're going to get this country back on track.