Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

MacGuineas: Make Candidates Debate the Debt

Apr 27, 2012 | Budgets & Projections

Today, we are launching DebateTheDebt.org, a site where you can sign a petition calling for a real debate devoted to the debt. In that vein, CRFB president Maya MacGuineas reiterated the call to have one of the three presidential debates focus exclusively on the debt in an op-ed at CNN.com. She joined CRFB co-chair Bill Frenzel in calling for presidential candidates to discuss real, specific plans for dealing with our debt situation.

Noting the challenge of navigating between the fiscal cliff that is looming and the mountain of debt that is projected to skyrocket, MacGuineas said that it is as important as ever to discuss fiscal issues in a manner where candidates have to be as specific as possible. She rightly stated that "candidates should not even apply for the job of running the country if they aren't willing to share the details of their approach for fixing the debt."

On the question of how this debate would work specifically, MacGuineas said:

At the debate, each candidate would present a detailed plan of his preferred approach for reducing the deficit. Any plan should save at least $4-6 trillion over the next decade -- the amount most experts have pegged as the minimum needed to stabilize the debt -- or at the very least, a candidate should explain why his plan achieves any less...

In the debate, the candidates would be led through a discussion of their proposals on defense, domestic spending cuts, reforms to Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs, and taxes, and make the case for their specific proposals.

The plans could be scored by outside experts ahead of time so that fuzzy math wouldn't even enter the discussion. No avoiding the question, no magic asterisks, no talking about the fun parts, like lower tax rates or new investments, without the real work of detailing how they would pay for them. Voters would see beneath the hoods and assess the trade-offs of the different approaches.

The fall presidential debates represent the best opportunity for getting the candidates to discuss getting control of the debt in a meaningful way.

Support the effort for getting a presidential debt debate at DebateTheDebt.org, encourage your friends to do so and be a part of the discussion on Twitter using #DebateTheDebt.