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We're already seeings lots of people making suggestions about what questions Barack Obama and Mitt Romney should be debating Wednesday night. Everybody has a list. Among them is Mattea Kramer is senior research analyst at National Priorities Project. She writes Tough Talk for America: A Guide to the Presidential Debates You Won’t Hear:

1. Immediate deficit reduction will wipe out any hope of economic recovery: These days, it’s fashionable for any candidate to talk about how quickly he’ll reduce the federal budget deficit, which will total around $1.2 trillion in fiscal year 2012. And you’re going to hear talk about the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan and more like it on Wednesday. But the hard truth of the matter is that deep deficit reduction anytime soon will be a genuine disaster. [...]

Mattea Kramer

2. Taxes are at their lowest point in more than half a century, preventing investment in and the maintenance of America’s most basic resources: Hard to believe? It’s nonetheless a fact. By now, it’s a tradition for candidates to compete on just how much further they’d lower taxes and whether they’ll lower them for everyone or just everyone but the richest of the rich. That’s a super debate to listen to, if you’re into fairy tales. It’s not as thrilling if you consider that Americans now enjoy the lightest tax burden in more than five decades, and it happens to come with a hefty price tag on an item labeled “the future.” [...]

3. Neither the status quo nor a voucher system will protect Medicare (or any other kind of health care) in the long run: When it comes to Medicare, Mitt Romney has proposed a premium-support program that would allow seniors the option of buying private insurance. President Obama wants to keep Medicare more or less as it is for retirees. Meanwhile, the ceaseless rise in healthcare costs is eating up the wages of regular Americans and the federal budget. Health care now accounts for a staggering 24 percent of all federal spending, up from 7 percent less than forty years ago. Governor Romney’s plan would shift more of those costs onto retirees, according to David Cutler, a health economist at Harvard, while President Obama says the federal government will continue to pick up the tab. Neither of them addresses the underlying problem. [...]

4. The U.S. military is outrageously expensive and yet poorly tailored to the actual threats to U.S. national security: Candidates from both parties pledge to protect the Pentagon from cuts, or even, in the case of the Romney team, to increase the already staggering military budget. But in a country desperate for infrastructure, education, and other funding, funneling endless resources to the Pentagon actually weakens “national security.” Defense spending is already mind-numbingly large: if all U.S. military and security spending were its own country, it would have the nineteenth largest economy in the world, ahead of Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Switzerland. [...]

5. The U.S. education system is what made this country prosperous in the twentieth century—but no longer: Perhaps no issue is more urgent than this, yet for all the talk of teachers unions and testing, real education programs, ideas that will matter, are nonexistent this election season. During the last century, the best education system in the world allowed this country to grow briskly and lift standards of living. Now, from kindergarten to college, public education is chronically underfunded. Scarcely 2 percent of the federal budget goes to education, and dwindling public investment means students pay higher tuitions and fall ever deeper into debt.

Kramer has produced a good list. But you may notice one tough-talk item that's not there. Climate change. Which is that? Domestic policy? Foreign policy? Why is it that we don't have a debate on planetary policy? Because most Americans, including many liberals, glaze over at the mere mention of climate change? Because the problems are supposedly unsolvable, so why discuss them when it can be pretended that they will go away if they are ignored?

Moderator Jim Lehrer has a big opportunity here. He could start off the questioning with the smaller issues and work his way up to climate change once Obama and Romney get warmed up. Or he could bring a bucket of ice cubes into the room and set them down on the table in front of him and not ask the question until they are all melted under the Kleig lights. Or he could start out with the hard stuff right off the bat.

Personally, I don't care which. But. Ask. The. Damn. Question.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003Time for people to drop out:

Okay. Time to winnow the Democratic Primary field.

Dean is good to go. He raised about $15 million for the quarter, and has solid poll numbers across the board.

Clark is good to go. He has the buzz, a great deal of momentum, several strong poll showings, and the power of the Clinton fundraising machine behind him. He's in good shape.

Gephardt is good to go. Fundraising is not great, but he's still holding his own in the Iowa, and will likely win the Feb. 2 primary in Missouri. And he's got strong labor backing which should make him competitive elsewhere.

Edwards is good to go. He's got cash (though fundraising appears to be tailing off), and is surging in South Carolina.

Kerry is on the bubble. He's showing anemic poll numbers, but he still has the money and institutional backing to make a comeback. But he's got to show -- something. I don't know what, but he's falling behind.

Lieberman should drop out. He's showing uniformly plummeting poll numbers. He claimed victory at the NY debate because he wasn't booed. He doesn't have a lot of cash. He's become a sort of joke amongst the party faithful.

Graham should drop out. He seems like a good guy, and his 9-11 criticisms were important, even if they were ignored. But he has no money, no poll presence, no charisma, and no buzz.

Braun, Kucinich and Sharpton should stick around. They help pull the party to the left, which I think is a good thing. And if nothing else, they can make our more "centrist" candidates look even more moderate than might otherwise be the case.
So let's see .... that's only two of the seven "serious" candidates that are really out of the running and should drop down. That's not really whittling the field down much. Which is perhaps a testament to the strength of our field this year.

Tweet of the Day:

Ross Perot is on C-SPAN to give Mitt preview of what his life will be like after November
@JC_Christian via web

Monday's Kagro in the Morning features a double dose of polling roundups with Greg Dworkin & Steve Singiser. Mitt Romney fuels the fire again, saying President Obama "misunderstands" American values. Like stealing pension funds and telling supporters their hometown pride cookies look like crap! Perfect time to read Steven Pearlstein's "I am a job creator: A manifesto for the entitled." And don't forget to sign up with Stitcher to help support Daily Kos Radio!

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