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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Five Questions For First Presidential Debate

Aaron Liu |
September 26, 2012 | 8:21 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Obama and Romney will go head-to-head at the University of Denver on Wednesday. (Creative Commons)
Obama and Romney will go head-to-head at the University of Denver on Wednesday. (Creative Commons)
Next Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will go head-to-head at the University of Denver for the first of three presidential debates. The topic? Domestic issues.

Neon Tommy has compiled a list of questions we'd like to see both candidates consider:

1) Can you please talk about gun control?

Take a look at this list compiled by The Telegraph of mass shootings since Columbine. Then factor in the fact that many of the gunmen -- James Holmes, Wade Michael Page, and Jared Lee Loughner included -- bought their guns legally. Then consider the fact that Congress hasn't passed a gun control laws since the previous millennium. 

Neither candidate wants to talk about gun control, so much so that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lambasted both of them for their "deafening silence" on the issue. So lets force them to talk about it during the debates. Why does Romney oppose a federal assault weapons ban when he signed an assault weapons ban as governor of Massachusetts? Can Obama tell voters he's serious about gun control when the only gun law he's signed has essentially expanded gun rights? If gun control isn't an effective policy to reduce gun violence, what is?

2) In today's society, are "all men created equal?"

As the middle class shrinks, the divide between the rich and poor has grown larger. On one hand, CEO pay has bounced back to pre-global financial crisis levels. Wealth is now the best predictor for one's chances at going to college. Meanwhile, extreme poverty reached its highest level since the 1970s in 2011. The poor in urban communities have to toil with food deserts

So do we live in a society where everyone gets a fair chance, or has inequality stifled the ideal that the founding fathers once envisioned? And how do we attack disparities between different social classes? (For Romney) should we?

3) What are you willing to put on the line for the environment?

It's easy to recycle, or to turn off your computer at night to reduce your carbon footprint. It's harder to shut down factories and facilities that employ workers and serve as the lifeblood for many communities in the name of reducing carbon emissions. It's even harder to do anything about the environment when lawmakers insist global warming doesn't exist. 

In March, the OECD warned that countries needed to act now or face dire consequences. They noted that the US has already reduced tax incentives for fossil fuel businesses. Yet a stark difference pervades between Obama and Romney on how they view the government's role on regulating the environment -- a difference that could change US policy under a Romney win. We need them to discuss the issue head-to-head next Wednesday so voters can see this difference. 

4) Where are the jobs?

The unemployment rate dropped down to 8.1 percent in August. Good news for a president who insists his recovery plan will succeed in the long-term, yet the lower numbers point less to a recovering economy and more towards workers simply leaving the labor force. In fact, 368,000 people actually gave up looking for a job in August -- U-6 unemployment (which factors in those who have left the labor force along with those who want to work full-time but only work part-time) sits at 14.7 percent.

Yet elsewhere, the economy has displayed signs of recovery. Housing prices and consumer confidence both rose in September, leading some to speculate that lower unemployment numbers are just around the corner. 

Will Obama's policies work in the long run? Should Romney undo them? Can the president still win on "hope" that the economy will work out for the future, or should voters take into account that he still has yet to deliver on sizable job creation? Was it ever realistic to assume Obama would fix the economy during his first term?

5) What won't you compromise on?

Both Obama and Romney have had a history of compromising with the other side. Obama extended the Bush tax cuts in 2010 and in January caved on requiring religious institutions to provide contraception coverage. After facing backlash for his healthcare proposal, Obama renounced his support for the "public option" -- government-run insurance -- a move which upset many in his own party. 

Meanwhile, the other portion of the healthcare bill -- the individual mandate -- was dreamed up by Romney, who later derided federal replica of his law as a "tax." In fact, Romney has had a history of switching positions for political advantage on issues ranging from healthcare to the act of flip-flopping itself.

President's must eventually compromise on issues in order to effectively govern, but they also need a spine as well if they want to keep their promises with the American voter. We should use these debates to see whether their willingness to engage in bi-partisanship falls short or extends too far. 


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the 2012 election here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Aaron Liu here. Follow him on Twitter.



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