Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More Questions Than Answers

Amidst the awful and not-so-awful questions posed at Tuesday night's presidential debate in Nashville was this extraordinarily broad one from Tom Brokaw:

The three -- health care, energy, and entitlement reform: Social Security and Medicare. In what order would you put them in terms of priorities?

The question did bring this implicit admission from John McCain that he expects to cut Social Security and Medicare: "My friends, we are not going to be able to provide the same benefit for present-day workers that we are going -- that present-day retirees have today." A moment later the Repub nominee would comment, apparently about nothing in particular "My friends, some of this $700 billion ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations."

Barack Obama's response, if incomplete, at least was clearer. His first priority (among the three raised) would be energy, he said, in part because of the threat to national security; the second, health care, which he noted "is making our businesses less competitive"; and the third, education.

Given that the format permitted no follow-up, the question proved to be a waste of time. We had one candidate apparently wanting to cut an extremely popular and successful government program, largely responsible for drastically cutting over the decades the rate of poverty among elderly people; the other candidate, skirting the issue of entitlement reform and substituting "education" as a priority.

The problem was hardly minimized with Brokaw's comment, offered as a postscript to this segment, "All right, gentlemen, I want to just remind you one more time about time. We're going to have a larger deficit than the federal government does if we don't get this under control here before too long." Recognition that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which John McCain has advocated making permanent, play a far larger role in the deficit would have been more accurate- but not the "balanced" perspective that the mainstream media is fond of peddling.

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